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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Sheila Johnson – Teaching the ‘Art’ of Art


After she was married and had children, Sheila Johnson began attending college at Henderson State University in order to gain her Bachelor’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Art and Spanish. “I thought teaching would be a good career to have while raising my children. I could have the same holidays and breaks as they did. I went to work as a teacher’s aide and had not thought about teaching, but I fell in love with the kids,” explained Johnson. After graduating with her degree, Johnson went to teach both art and Spanish in Umpire and her hometown of Wickes, before moving to Mena High School where she taught art for 23 years. In 2014, she moved back south to Cossatot River School District where she now teaches art at both Wickes Elementary, and Vandervoort Elementary.

Johnson believes that not every artist has natural talent, but that art is a skill that can be taught and developed. Though she was not born with an innate artistic ability, she has become a great artist. “I always tell my students that art isn’t everything, but everything is art. Anyone can learn to do art, just like in math you start with one plus one, not calculus, and it is the same with art. You start at the bottom and develop. Most think that if they are not naturally talented they can’t do it, but they can learn. I took classes at Rich Mountain Community College and found that I enjoyed art, and art teachers were needed at the time,” Johnson explained.

Johnson has two children, Jerry Johnson and Jana Richardson, and six grandchildren. “Having grandchildren, I now do a lot of running to baseball and softball games,” said Johnson with a laugh. “I enjoy them very much. My daughter, Jana, is my principal at Vandervoort Elementary School, which is great. I have been very blessed with good jobs and amazing people to work with, Mena was a very good place to work and very supportive, as were Wickes and Umpire. Moving back to Wickes has also allowed me to be close to my 90 year old mother. I was nervous to move to elementary students but I spend half of the day at Wickes and half of the day at Vandervoort and it has been good.”

From April 17 until June 1 of 2016, Johnson will have an art show displaying her work at the Mena Art Gallery in downtown Mena. Johnson is honoring all of her previous students by allowing them to add a puzzle piece to her show. “I wanted to showcase my students because I learned so much from them. They are an awesome bunch. The puzzle pieces are available to purchase at Union Bank for $5 and they can be decorated in any way the student wants to. I would like them back by March 1, 2016 so that I can have the time to display them,” explained Johnson. Some of the personal art on display at the gallery will be available for purchase.

“Kids are awesome. Everyone acts like the younger generation is a mess but they are a great group of kids that have value and integrity. Art is in everything we use every day, even though we don’t think about it, a lot of kids are good at art and they can excel in that area, when they can’t in others,” Johnson said.

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