Mark Messenger, an in-house ceramics professor at Diablo Valley College, wants to welcome students into a caring space and want them to see the correlation between creating art and problem solving.
âIt’s inspiring to support students. There are always projects and each individual has a unique approach. And it’s really satisfying to watch the students develop their own solutions and style. This is “problem solving” within parameters and is the essence of any studio or laboratory experience, but there is more, “he said.
Messenger explained the link between art and problem solving: âThe first step in solving a problem is to define it. Usually this is done by a trainer or a boss, but each individual can also set their own parameters. This is the ability to formulate a beautiful question, unique in every area. It’s not limited to studios or laboratories, but it often happens there. “
His teaching is influenced by artists and scientific greats such as Da Vinci, Einstein, Fromm, Tesla and Jobs, to name a few.
âThey (the students) discover both personal and collective potential for progress. A potential that is made possible through creative, ethical âproblem formulationâ. What I like best about teaching is promoting an environment in which this is possible, âhe said.
Messenger emphasized how the benefits of acquiring this problem-solving skill can be useful in and out of an art studio: âThis is called STEAM and has an equal emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Unfortunately there is also a shortened version, STEM is currently being discussed here at DVC. Fortunately, the latest studies and articles clearly point to the shortcomings of this simplification. A MINT focus without considering the arts and humanities equally is dangerous. History is full of examples of effectively destructive technocrats, from the mythical Daedalus to the terribly concrete Albert Speers of the Third Reich. I don’t think that’s our community goal. One can only hope that this incompatibility is obvious. “
Messenger occupies a rare place in art. He is a satirist who conveys a political message with his sculptures. He is motivated by his frustration with the lack of leadership and transparency in government and the over-expansion of funds in multiple wars abroad with no endgame.
Messenger enjoys working with students at every stage of their learning, from beginners to seasoned craftsmen who already make dinnerware sets.
âOn Fridays there is my Art 151 class, which is interesting because I meet students here who may never have studied art. It gives people the opportunity to show themselves from the technical side of ceramic art. They study different eras and then produce it at the same time, âhe said. âAnd it really matters because this may be the only time this student has ever seen art. Then it’s my responsibility to make sure they have a good experience. “
Students in Messenger classes can testify to their positive experiences.
Natalie Francine, art student in her third semester at DVC, said: âMark Messenger has been very supportive as a lecturer, no matter in which direction your semester is going. I can do what I want. “
Randy Stansberry, painter and long-term student at DVC, said, âMark Messenger is very organized, knowledgeable, friendly and a good art teacher who is willing to teach. Once, a few years ago, when my fiance had died, I emailed him saying I would be off for a week. When I returned, he stopped teaching and hugged me, which was a positive thing for me considering that this was my first semester that I took classes with him. “
Adam Swanson, a longtime student of Messenger, said: âMark is a gifted teacher and potter. His explanations are clear. He’s a very good teacher for beginners because he doesn’t criticize or have an agenda. He has a passion for clay, firing, pots and sculpture, which has remained unbroken even after years in this field. He’s not burned out or getting a paycheck, but he loves creating, molding, casting and teaching, a very unusual combination. “
Speaking of his work as an art teacher, Messenger said, âIt never gets boring. I always look forward to teaching and seeing what my students do, there is always something interesting to work with. I’ve heard that it’s your fault if you’re bored and I’m never bored. There’s a lot of work to do, but that’s only part of the overall package. “
Speaking of which, he never gets bored: on his days off, he can be found in art galleries, looking for ideas in art books or newspapers, or simply being inspired by putting his hands deep in clay and seeing what is about to be born.
Traveling is also a big part of his life. âI’ve taken several sabbaticals that are just work. I’ve been to Greece, Ecuador, and it’s always special because I can just sketch and work from morning to night, âhe said.
As for the future, Messenger is currently working on a contribution to the conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. (NCECA)
âNCECA is an annual show that is internationally known on both the east and west coasts – this year in Portland. I started my new work called ‘Cliffhanger’ in February. I don’t know if I’ll finish it in time. “
“It’s like that moment in a movie or in life when the person stands and falls on the edge of a cliff and their hands are in contact with someone who is pulling them up, and it’s a matter of life or death and – those hands are what what I am describing. It’s not that these are all good or bad people, that would be easy. I mean, I teach. I am sleeping. I work onmy sculptures. You just keep working. That’s all you can do. “