Q: Hi Jeri, we’re so excited to welcome you to the AGGV!
Jeri Engen (JE): Thank you! I am very happy to join the AGGV community and be part of the Learning and Engagement team. It is a very exciting time to join the Gallery.
Q: How do you see your role as Educator, School and Family Programs taking shape here?
JE: This role provides an opportunity for me to work with colleagues, volunteers and community members as we build a strategic plan that builds upon the great legacy of vibrant programming already established at the AGGV. My goal is to play a role in making learning very visible at Gallery for all ages, responding to the wonderful exhibitions and collections held within its spaces.
Q: You must have so many ideas… Are there any exciting projects coming up in the near future?
JE: I am already working with the AGGV Studio team to create after-school, adult and weekend programming. Moving forward, programming will include students spending time in the Gallery each week looking at the art! This will allow students to not only create their own individual and unique responses to the art, but also develop their critical thinking skills and understanding of the world around them through art. This unique opportunity is what sets AGGV Studio apart in our community and makes us a leader in art education. Another project I am very excited about is creating a School Tour program. The goal is to have students in the Gallery by next fall! I am looking forward to working with local schools and educators in our community this winter to develop this enriching experience.
Q: What’s on the horizon for Family Sundays?
JE: I hope to build upon the popularity of our Family Sunday program by creating spaces for intergenerational learning every weekend through hands-on art-making activities as we move forward into the new year.
Q: Tell us a bit about what steered you towards Art Education.
JE: I did not set out to work in art education. In fact, I began my career as a Commercial Art Director for a very large international advertising agency. During those years, my very favorite part was conceptualizing ideas and then collaborating with artists in film, illustration and photography to bring those concepts to life. I fell into Art Education when I became a mother. I really wanted my children to grow up with a love for the arts, and so I co-chaired an Art Docent program at their school in Seattle, along with creating an Artist in Residence program there. The Artist in Residence program had two goals, to show teachers that art could play an integral role in all learning and give children the opportunity to create school-wide collaborative art installations through a three month intensive art experience with a local contemporary working artist. I’m quite proud of the work I did during those eleven years and I took that experience, and when we moved back to Vancouver, opened my own private children’s art studio, which has served the communities I have lived in for the past thirteen years. During this time I also began to create art programming for local community art organizations and galleries in Vancouver before joining the School Program team at the Vancouver Art Gallery, developing tours, workshops and teacher resources for their exhibitions.
Q: How will you bring this experience into your work at the AGGV and the broader arts community?
JE: After moving to Victoria, I have had the privilege to collaborate with the educational teams both here at AGGV and the Royal BC Museum, along with working as BC Program Coordinator for the national Flash Forward Incubator program with the Magenta Foundation. I feel all of this will serve me well in my new role at AGGV. Through collaboration with my peers, artists and members of the community, I look forward to building upon and conceptualizing new ways to create enriching art experiences for not only children but people of all ages.
Q: What inspires you and the work you do?
JE: I tell this story a lot, but it is an experience that has set the foundation for everything I do. Growing up, my Aunt had a small framed print of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World hanging in her farmhouse staircase in southern Illinois. I was fascinated by it and made imaginative stories about what was happening in that picture every time I visited my cousins in the summertime. While going to art school in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to go on a short learning stint in New York City. I went to MOMA during my free time and turned the corner and to my surprise, saw Wyeth’s painting hanging on the wall. Seeing Christina’s World in person was incredibly moving. It literally took my breath away and brought me to tears. I could not get over the scale, the color, the marks of the artist! I will never forget that moment. My hope is that everyone has a similar experience and connection to a work of art in their lifetime. I always remember this particular moment and the influence it has had on me when creating art experiences for the public.
Jeri Engen was born in New Orleans and raised in the US south where she studied Fine Art at Georgia Southern University. Jeri began her career as an Art Director in commercial advertising before pursuing her passion of Art Education in Washington. Shortly after moving to North Vancouver, she opened Kudzu Studio, a process-based fine art studio offering children, teens, and adults alike a variety of opportunities to engage in meaningful and exciting art experiences. Now, primarily based in Victoria, Kudzu Studio is still going strong. Jeri has been an Art Educator with the Royal BC Museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the North Vancouver Community Arts Council as well as a Youth Coordinator for the Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver, and BC Education Coordinator for the Flash Forward Incubator program at The Magenta Foundation in Toronto Ontario.
“What I want you to know most about me is that I understand you entrust to me what you hold most precious, your children. So I work very hard to create a nurturing environment in everything I do where creativity and imagination can blossom.”
Feature Image: Photograph of Jeri Engen by Jordan Ettinger