Brian Reedy’s wood-block prints fuse tradition with “geek culture,” and he teaches his students to do the same.
“Brian’s a big pop-culture guy,” said Miguel Balsera, 40. “He’s not just limited to that, but through that is how he connects with and how he hooks these kids.”
Reedy and Balsera worked together 15 years ago at the same elementary school. Balsera eventually became principal of Zelda Glazer Middle School, which hosts the Miami Arts Studio, and Reedy left to teach in a high school magnet program.
Then, a visual-arts teaching position opened up at Balsera’s school in 2014.
“I didn’t even consider anyone else,” Balsera said. “I immediately thought of Brian.”
Unlike Reedy’s previous teaching job, this one wasn’t for a magnet program, which selects its students through auditions.
Despite this, Reedy’s students have earned the school many accolades. Balsera said their work is “magnet-quality” under Reedy’s tutelage.
Reedy’s students’ work was set to be showcased Wednesday during the annual, open-to-the-public show in the school’s media center.
Helen Alpizar, one of Reedy’s seventh-graders, developed her talents enough for her work to go on display.
“I had never painted before, and he took my work to an art show. Now it’s in the gallery,” said Helen, 13.
The students’ work is not limited to that shown in the school media center: Some of it can be seen in art shows throughout South Florida.
“He gives us a lot of opportunities to showcase,” said seventh-grader Kayla Gutierrez, also 13. “He’ll go to a bunch of people to try to get our work into shows.”
In another recent example of his students’ talents, two of Reedy’s students were chosen — from among 10,000 other students across the country — to participate in the New York Scholastic Art Awards, Balsera said.
“It’s important to stress these aren’t even kids who auditioned,” Balsera said. “These are kids whose talent he’s developed because they just happen to live in the neighborhoods [nearby], which makes him very special.”
Although Reedy described his entrance into the academic field as a “happy accident” while attending graduate school at the University of Miami, he picked it up naturally, he said. Since Reedy’s days as an adjunct professor at University of Miami, he has taught at all grade levels.
“I found that I can do well and have fun, and to me, I think that’s what’s important in life,” said Reedy, 44.
Thanks to his shared interests with his students, from Japanese anime to American superheroes, Reedy said he particularly enjoys teaching middle school.
“I know it’s kind of a weird thing to say because it makes it sound like I’m immature, but it’s just such a fun age. That’s when everyone is discovering new things,” he said.
The students often discuss and take inspiration from their favorite shows and movies in class, like the anime One Piece, Star Wars and The Avengers — all subjects Reedy himself draws from.
Thanks to this, most of Reedy’s students described him as “chill.”
“The kids are all about the kind of work he produces and how he teaches them,” Balsera said. “It’s a neat rapport. It’s a neat vibe he has in his classroom.”
That vibe, to Reedy, comes from what he says is the “symbiotic relationship” of being both an artist and a teacher. When he sees his students’ excitement for their art, Reedy said it inspires him to work on his own projects.
“I think the best thing about being an artist is to have a creative outlet that you can share with others,” he said. “And I think the best thing about being a teacher is to help others realize that in themselves.”
Reedy does his best to help his students grow as artists. But, he said he wants to make sure they’re pursuing their passion when creating art, not trying to impress their teacher.
“There’s a fine line between helping and manipulating,” he said. “I don’t want to push any of them down a path if they don’t really enjoy it. There’s no point if they’re not having fun.”