It could be their artistic prowess. It could be their teaching skills. It could be their ethical responsibility to use all of that for social and economic justice. Whatever the case may be, there’s a pair of local teachers and a pair of local artists I’d like to showcase.

The two local artists, Martha Wade and Reisha Williams, co-owners of Galleryna19, at 19 Harrison St., are celebrating their first anniversary on Friday, May 22, from 6 to 10 p.m. 

Though they are more visual artists than teachers, both have taken students under their wing in the past. Recently, Wade invited Columbia College graphic design student Donavahn Frierson to do an internship, and Williams hosted young author Jarrett J. Robinson’s book-signing party on April 25. At that event, she even taught me how to use my new Nikon D800 medium format digital camera. Their upcoming opening, called “The Collaboration of Sexy,” showcases their zany artistic vision.

“Poking fun at sexy with 5 x 8-foot collaborative paintings on canvas by two self-proclaimed ‘sexy’ women, we push ‘sexy’ beyond traditional stereotypes to encompass a new meaning — powerful, passionate, emotional, and intelligent,” Wade said. “The work is a vivid journey through power and beauty that represents a visual direction of our collaborative sense of the world today,” Williams said.

Without question, my favorite local teachers are Beye School’s Karen Fogg and Tye Johnson. More than a decade ago, I did an artist-in-residency on “human rights storytelling” with Ms. Fogg’s second-grade class. At that time, District 97 as well as DePaul University officials (where I was completing a master’s degree in the Teaching of Writing) were unsure whether 7-year-olds could grasp our goals. Ms. Fogg and I were not. The students were splendid, writing and illustrating their awesome human rights story, which made it onto the pages of Wednesday Journal.

This summer, she’s teaming up with fellow Beye School teacher Tye Johnson (who has been instructing her students on ways citizens can combat human trafficking) to offer an upcoming summer camp. 

“This summer, we’re offering Paper heART, a social justice and arts camp,” Johnson said. “During our six-week camp, beginning June 15, students will learn about different social injustices, to value themselves and others, and to express themselves artistically. Expressions will include paintings, dance, spoken word, poetry, photography, digital storytelling, and more. Workshops are led by experienced teachers and guest speakers from Zhou B Art Center, Hubbard Street Dance, Columbia Links (a high school journalist program that’s sponsoring a July 23 event at the Hemingway Birthplace home on their investigative report on human trafficking), and a variety of professionals will lead us in discussions and activities about being socially responsible.” 

Parents can sign up for a 2-week, 4-week, or 6-week session at:

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