As a sibling rivalry progressed over a few years for art teacher Jason Filbeck, he eventually couldn’t take it anymore. His brother was older and very analytical. He could draw any picture that was given to him exactly as it looked, which Filbeck always believed made him a good artist. So Filbeck began to draw more since he couldn’t let his brother beat him at something. It was not until junior high that he realized he was good at drawing as well.
In class, he stresses that students need to be able to draw what they see, but a good artist can go beyond just that. His goal for his beginning classes is for the student to draw what they see accurately. As the student progresses, he wants them to be able to put their own voice into it to show what they are trying to portray.
“The upper level classes are more fun because the projects are more in-depth,” Filbeck said. “It is where I can give the students a challenge and see what they come up with.”
He believes that East has a great art department and faculty. Finkelston and Filbeck have been working together for a few years now so they have become pretty good friends. This friendship was “put to the test” when they competed against each other in a chicken nugget eating contest during a pep assembly. Although Finkelston beat Filbeck, they still get along. Filbeck considers this a “bad memory” and believes that had the competition been set up differently, he would have won.
Looking back, Filbeck remembers a “weird” parade that the faculty had to put on one year for a Link Crew presentation. The six art teachers dressed up as the color wheel with orange being the color of choice for Filbeck. He says that it will be something he will always remember for being fun and random, a mood that always seems to fill the art rooms.
According to Filbeck, one thing that sets him aside from the other male teachers is that he is more aggressive and “in your face.”
“It is usually as a joke and I use it as a front but I am definitely more of the bossy type even though they know I am being facetious,” Filbeck said.
Filbeck likes the idea of being well-rounded and different which comes into play since he teaches art and is a football and wresting coach. When Filbeck is not dealing with his “hectic” life as an art teacher, coach and parent, with an almost two-year-old son, he likes the refresh his skills by drawing any chance he gets. Artists’ styles develop as they grow, and he is trying to also improve.
“The people I work with are fun and easy to get along so we share stories and ideas,” Filbeck said. “And the students here are eager to work and are excited to be in the classes they are in. The environment overall works really well.”
Art teacher James Meara first became inspired to pursue art when he drew with his twin brother John and older brother Brendan. In high school, Meara became very serious with art. That was when he decided that he wanted to make art for a living and began thinking about teaching.
Last year at East was Meara’s first year as a teacher. Here, he teaches classes ranging from Commercial Art to Print Making to Art Foundations.
“I really like all the classes I teach,” Meara said. “[Introduction to Art] is really fun because you get to do a bunch of different projects and use all different kinds of mediums.”
He is still impressed by the work ethic of his students and how serious each is about their artwork.
“We all really respect each other and it is a great environment,” Meara said. “I could not ask for anything better.”
Meara enjoys how he can draw ideas from teachers: they are all really close and interact just like the other departments in the school.
“Especially with just starting teaching, I have this support where they can all help me and discuss ideas or projects,” Meara said.
Meara looks forward to lunch every day because that is when the other male art teachers and him get together. One of his favorite memories was when Filbeck played a joke on him and took all of the computer mouses out of his commercial art room.
“The joke was really funny because those are our only tools for that class,” Meara said. “I definitely got him back by surrounding his computer and desk with Christmas wrapping paper.”
He believes that art is a great arena where you can communicate thoughts and ideas.
“It is really powerful and affects everyone in a different way,” Meara said. “If you make an art piece for some particular reason, once you put it on the wall, it is no longer yours and it open to any interpretation.”
He finds this open variety to be very valuable in artwork. He tries to explain this to his students as well as pursue this more as a teacher.
“I really want my students to have experience working with different mediums because they are at the beginning of their art making careers and should see what each of them do and the ideas with each,” Meara said.
Drawing and creating art are what pulled art teacher Adam Finkelston into art. His mother really encouraged him to keep up with it. Finkelston teaches everything from IB art classes to Introduction to Art. He enjoys his advanced classes because they are really varied. There are people doing many different ideas but there are also people doing things that he is not especially comfortable with. In his fourth years working at East, Finkelston has no plans for leaving anytime soon, and he says he could not ask for a better place to work.
“The community supports the arts here and we have great enrollment and colleagues who all really get along and help each other out,” Finkelston said.
To Finkelston, art is a combination of all the different kinds of knowledge a person can have. It is a visual expression of what a person knows and what a person feels so it incorporates all the areas of knowledge. He stresses that one has to understand social studies and people’s responses. Also, you have to understand mathematics in creating a composition. He believes that art shows what people know and what they care about so artists can express these ideas visually.
“Art leaves loose ends so you are not being distracted by what you should do or be this way,” Finkelston said. “You are saying, ‘This is a possibility.”
Finkelston’s favorite memories of East include the time of the year when his students start to get into college and the excitement that accompanies it.
“Teaching is all about helping people fulfill their dreams and that may sound corny, but it’s true,” Finkelston said. “It’s about doing the things you want to do and living your life and being who you are.”
He is trying to show his photographs in galleries and exhibitions, as well as work on his master’s in photography at UMKC. It was a core belief of his going into teaching that he wanted to be a practitioner.
“When I got to college, I thought it was amazing how the level of education that I received was from people who were practicing art, as opposed to teachers that I had had that were teachers first and artists second,” Finkelston said.
He tries to make a point of doing his own work and try to “practice what he preaches.” All of his artwork has an element of mystery to it and he likes the idea of what you see is not what you get. Finkelston sees two sides to things and a mysterious aspect to everything. He thinks that art is just like people; complex and multi-faceted.
He believes that art takes a lot of ambition and personal drive. Finkelston also wants his students to realize all the visual skill that goes into all the items that are around us. The fact that everything is made by the idea of a human being and “not a guy in a white room doodling with a beret.”