Teacher Feature: Coach Jeff Hall

Helen Li, Staff Writer

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Coach Jeff Hall, art teacher at Maggie Walker, helps hangs students’ artwork around the building.

Srishti Sanya
Coach Jeff Hall, art teacher at Maggie Walker, helps hangs students’ artwork around the building.

HL: For students who don’t take art here at Maggie Walker- like me- we don’t know your artistic style. I was hoping that you could talk about your artistic style and goals as an artist.
JH: I actually have on my Facebook page, you’re going to have to go back and friend me up, but I just did the “5 Day Art Challenge.” And I basically went through and kind of hit where I’ve gone through these 22 odd years and college. And I was shocked! You forget what you made years ago. I have though, been going through a transition, going back to some of my earlier work which deals with codes, you know, code-breaking and that sort of thing. I had a show two years ago, or a year-and-a-half ago called “Decode RVA,” which was great fun. Basically, the whole show was a bunch of clues that acted as an interactive scavenger hunt for people all over the city of Richmond. The key unlocked a painting in my show. So I’m really interested in contemporary digital culture and its effect on the arts because what does it mean when images are so cheap and free and readily available? How do you have value in a world where you’re not giving anything more than a two second glance when you’re scrolling through? My main goal, actually, is to continue making art that is meaningful to me. One of the things I like about this job is that it affords me the opportunity to make the work that I want to make, without needing to sell it [laughs] in order to make a living.

HL: So, you talk a lot about technology, what role do you think technology should play in our classrooms?
JH: In the art classroom, I have two approaches. First, I have what I do in my more traditional art classrooms which is I use it for instruction. We use it for discussion. We use it to do things like build podcasts for galleries, gallery tours. So if we go up to the National Gallery we’ll build a podcast and the kids will research the pieces ahead of time. And they can go through and take each other’s tour of the show. So not really using it to make art, as much as to make the learning that we are doing relevant and real-world, in particular for things like Art History, which can seem really detached from the real world. The class, my Digital Art class is all about making art using the computer as your tool. So that is Photoshop®, Illustrator®, you know, video and all of those things.

HL: What do you hope to teach your students besides these art skills?
JH: So I think having a creative element in your life, be it drawing or painting, video or music, sculpture, whatever, even cooking. I believe that everyone is creative, I really do. I went to college to be a physics major. But I had one art teacher, my one art class in my senior year, the only art class I ever took. It was my senior year at Midlothian High School. I had a teacher who changed my life- I always tell him. So I went to UofR to be a physics major and got my minor. And so I want to create! I believe that the arts add, in this crazy world that we live in, in particular the world that you guys live in, that the arts allow for an application of all the other things that we learn from all of our classes.

Like, what am I going to do with math and Russian? Oh. I can make art about those things! And they overlap.

Meaning is one, in their life. The second is problem-solving: creative problem-solving. Most of the problems that we face as a society and culture, the solutions are not going to be found in a step-by-step linear fashion. You are going to have to attack the problem from a lot of different directions and in ways that you wouldn’t normally think about attacking them. And one of the things that I hope we teach our students is understanding that there are a lot of solutions to every problem and there’s not always a right answer. At this school, this frustrates the heck out of people because they want a right answer. In art, it’s not clear cut. You know, there’s a good answer, there might be a better answer. But there’s thousands, maybe millions of answers. So being able to think through a problem creatively and come up with multiple solutions and choose the one that you think is going to be the best- that is something that I want my students to be able to have, because they can apply that anywhere in life.


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