Sharing her knowledge of art and working closely with students to address individual needs has been rewarding for Patricia Hart. The longtime Talented Art teacher is hanging up her Slidell High School sketch pad.

“This has been a good run. Teaching is a job for which I was well suited, one in which I learned as much as I taught,” she reflected.

She observed that students working on projects and experimenting with art kept her interests engaged, as well as their own. She could witness different reactions and methods as they worked to achieve their personal, artistic satisfaction. Sometimes students amazed her when they used a method that she would not have thought of, and this was the pleasure of teaching.

“If we provide materials, time and space for originality and creativity, amazing things will happen,” Hart said.

She believed in showing her students artists’ works, techniques and styles , and allowing them to develop their own. Judging by the annual exhibit at Counter Culture at 154 E. Hall Ave., her methods have worked well.

The first exhibit in April provided a venue for graduating seniors to share the product of a study that included research, deep thought, personal reflections and art products. Each of their works was exhibited along with personal statements about their art experiences and the reason for the subjects selected.

Ashton Vidrine described her path toward self-confidence, which has led her to know many talented friends. She chose the Saw-whet owl for her focus project.

Jordan Clark began Talented Art classes in seventh grade on a whim and has enjoyed all six years of it. After a study of mice and their habits, she presented whimsical images of them in human situations.

Although she began Talented Art classes in sixth grade, Mikala Perkins didn’t love art until 10th grade. She focused on skulls as once being the structure of living beings, and brought color and light to change their image from negative to positive.

Also among the senior exhibits was Sarah Radle’s works regarding the wolf, which is culturally interesting to her because of its significance to American Indians. She wanted to know about the boldness and beauty of the wolf. She shared a story in her write-up about not making it into the Talented Arts program on the first try because the testers did not believe the work in her portfolio was hers.

Finally, Messian Jane Burgos found inspiration in yuumei’s digital art, which led her to express her own feelings and experiences in art. She focused on bonsai trees.

In May, pieces of pottery, paintings and puppets were exhibited by Hart’s undergraduates, who were required to study an artist’s work and life and then create a puppet that visually captured that knowledge.

Focusing the lessons on the process as much as the product, Hart claims to have been influenced by her first year of teaching in Alaska, where the curriculum covered the depth and breadth of teaching art.

“I learned quite a bit besides curriculum in that year. I learned to buy the longest coat and the highest boots to accommodate Anchorage weather. I had morning duty two days a week where I had to carry a bullhorn to notify students if a moose was approaching,” she said.

She also learned about itinerant teaching, which covered extremes of rich to poor students on various grade levels and required her to understand seven languages spoken by the students.

“I learned quickly what student needs were and how to supply those needs,” she remarked.

Although she cherishes all of her teaching experiences, she feels it is time to retire to pursue other avenues of art. She will continue her yoga classes for cancer survivors at Slidell Memorial Hospital and hopes to find time for her own work with her loom, lapidary jewelry making, pottery, painting and gardening.

“I have even signed up for a Facebook page to keep in touch with past students,” she said.

Hart explains that she has been on a spiritual journey for years to get her beliefs aligned. She has concluded that life for everyone is too fast and hectic and realized her life depends on slowing things down and paying attention to life.

To her students, past and present, she says, “Just spend some time with a clover flower or a head of endive and you’ll find something original and worthy of your care and time to document.”

Kathleen DesHotel writes about the cultural arts in St. Tammany. To reach her, email kathleenfocused@gmail.com.