Art Teacher Rich Erickson retires after 30 years at Pingree.
Every time I walk by the Art Room, I feel a magnetic pull that draws me inside. The door is open, and music escapes into the hall. Rich Erickson, affectionately known as Mr. E, or "Mystery," sees me and greets me with his enthusiastic "Hi!"
Mr. E creates space. I step across the threshold and enter the spiritual safe haven of the Art Room. The mood is energetic, peaceful, playful, and calming. A group of students sit around the table, focused and present, while Mr. E leads me around the room, introducing me to the students, praising their work and sharing at least five bad jokes. Then, when a few students arrive late to class, he sprays them with water or silly string, and seamlessly transitions back to art and world politics.
The Art Room itself is a museum, a well-curated collection of ideas and inspiration, artwork and words to live by. Students, artists, athletes and academics alike, listen to music, share stories, and work on class sculpting projects with names like "Being Chased by a Bear" and "Climbing Mt. Everest."
Students, teachers, and staff move freely in and out of the room throughout the day. Mr. E holds space for everyone. Some of us retreat to the Art Room for a half-hour for some art, news, sports talk, and comic relief. A former student made a year-long pilgrimage to the Art Room for therapy and healing after surviving a life-threatening car accident. Countless Pingree students make the journey of self-discovery in Mr. E's Art Room.
By the end of a typical day, Mr. E is helping a student with an art portfolio, searching for glue guns for an engineering project, guiding student editors with the next issue of the student literary art magazine, Pegasus, making posters for the next Coffeehouse event. All the while, you'll be listening to music ranging from Bob Marley to Van Morrison to today's top hits, and watching hilarious YouTube videos in the moments between.
Being a teenager is a one of the most vulnerable and yet empowering times in our lives. The Art Room is a refuge from the acute sensitivity, acne, and awkwardness of adolescence. It's a place to laugh and relax, temporarily free of all the drama, stress, and ambition of high school life.
A master artist, listener, and conversationalist, Mr. E is a walking fountain of ideas, philosophies and knowledge. His germination of ideas has given birth to something that spreads farther than the physical space of the Art Room itself. Many of Mr. E's former students are now artists, writers, musicians, architects, athletes, and art educators, recreating the "space" in their own studios and classrooms, and above all, in their personal lives. Through his childlike curious wonder, relentless sense of humor, and clear wisdom and kindness, we've learned how to live a balanced, full life.
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Join us as we celebrate Rich Erickson and his 30 years of inspired teaching at Pingree, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Click here to learn more and submit a tribute to Mr. E.