At MICDS, we have long insisted that arts teachers also be practicing artists, supporting their work and the time and energy it requires. Though the dual occupation leaves little time for other activities, Upper School Fine Arts Teacher Patrick Huber and Upper School Fine & Performing Arts Department Chair Brad Heinemann said they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I have very little life outside of those two things,” Huber said, laughing. Heinemann agreed, explaining that having his sculpture studio at his home makes finding time to work a bit easier.
Recently, all the work outside of teaching has paid off for both: Huber was selected to design the set for a 17th-century opera at Yale University, and Heinemann was one of eight sculptors chosen out of 67 from across the country to have his work displayed in O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department’s Shape of Community sculpture series.
For Huber, a veteran of set design around St. Louis, working on the Yale opera represents a return to his roots. Instead of working solely with a computer-modeling software, Huber has begun sketching, using pencil and paper for the first time in years. It’s proof of a practice that he teaches architecture students at MICDS.
“It’s taking inspiration from the constraints,” Huber said. “You have to find a way for those restrictions to force a creative solution rather than being an excuse that prevents one.”
In the professional art world, there’s no checklist or how-to guide to follow. Each project requires its own attention and its own creative solution, Huber stresses.
Breaking students out of that linear thinking is one of Heinemann’s favorite parts of teaching and one of his biggest challenges—and why he created the sculpture curriculum at MICDS. Many of his sculpture students come to his class having only worked in two dimensions, so he teaches them to think about their work from all sides.
“In my sculpture classes, I try to teach students to work through a process, engage in problem solving and create a product,” Heinemann said. “We’re not going to be hanging it on the wall. You need to think 360 degrees. You need to think about how it looks from a different angle.”
Working in the round, as Heinemann calls it, is what drew him to sculpture in the first place—that and being around a father who was a professional sheet metal worker.
Huber fell into set design accidentally. While struggling in his studies at the University of Missouri, his then-girlfriend was working on fashion shows that needed a lighting designer. Huber stepped up, and that job led to another at City Players of St. Louis, which introduced him to Milton Zoth and eventually to his current job at MICDS.
By the time Huber went to Webster Conservatory for design, he was getting all A’s because he was doing something he loved. This leads to Huber’s most important lesson for his students: passion. Being a professional artist can be a bumpy road, and he doesn’t hide that. What he does is show his students that to excel at what you love, you have to be passionate, no matter the struggles.
“I can share with the students the trials and tribulations of a working designer in real time and then bring the passion of doing it,” Huber said. “They see authentic passion. You can’t fake that stuff.”