Artist and Educator Dan Gerdeman on Inspiring Himself and His Students

Dan Gerdeman at the 2023 Columbus Arts Festival

By Michelle Tavenner, program director at the McConnell Arts Center

Dan Gerdeman is a local artist and Hilliard Davidson High School teacher. His upcoming exhibition, Visual Healing, with fellow artist Cyrus Fire, opens July 13 at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center this summer.

Michelle: When did you first recognize your affinity for the arts?
Dan: I grew up one block from my small town library the North Baltimore Public Library. While very young I discovered the 700s section of the library and that ignited my imagination. It was full of books about movies, music, art, art instruction, cartoons and comics. It was my second home in the heat of summer and the cool of winter. I found inspiration from the imagery and tried to emulate it as much as I could. I loved making stuff from an early age as my dad always had creative projects going.

Michelle: Where do you find inspiration to create?
Dan: I find a lot of inspiration from reading and listening to conversations. My family is my biggest inspiration. Once my wife and I had kids, my art output became prolific.

Michelle: As a teacher, how have you found success in inspiring young artists? What do you see is a challenge for these students as they grow and develop their work?
Dan: I have found success in encouraging students to be original and to work hard to communicate important ideas. For my entire career I have preached to students that my goal was to help them to “see profoundly.” The biggest challenges that kids face in their work is so much information coming their way nonstop. In art class they have a chance to make physical stuff with their hands, to create. I believe that provides a peace and grounding that is hard to find in this digital age.

Michelle: How has your style and/or preferred mediums changed over time?
Dan: I left college as a printmaker and sometime painter. But I found over time that painting was my passion. I did some cartoony work while young, but never realized it was my true voice until years later.

Michelle: If you could ask any artist about their inspiration behind a specific work, who and which work would that be and why?
Dan: If I could talk to Andrew Wyeth about painting dry grass while he painted Christina’s World, it would reveal something that I think I already know, but I’d still want to see him do it. Seeing that painting live at MoMA in New York was utterly fantastic and emotional.

Michelle: I’ve heard you are a fisherman. Where is your favorite place for a good catch?
Dan: I love fly fishing in Colorado and small streams around Ohio and to fish for perch on Lake Erie. Being in the woods or on the water resets me.

Michelle: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Dan: The Columbus art scene is full of such a diverse and giving group of people with great ideas and styles. Age is not a hindrance. Young and old create a super chill, welcoming community.

See Visual Healing July 13 – Aug. 24, 2023 at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center, 777 Evening St. in Worthington. Follow Dan Gerdeman on Instagram and here.

This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.



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