Q&A with Lori Witte ’13, a Working Artist

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 Lori Witte
 Lori Witte '13
08.09.13 — Lori Witte’s favorite quote is from Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk: "Creativity is as important as literacy."

Witte, who graduated from Augustana in May, has taken on the responsibility of teaching creativity in her hometown by creating a series of community art classes in Luverne, Minn. She took time to share with Augie some of her current work.

Q. You’re a recent grad. How did you find your job?

A. This is the second summer that I have worked for the Luverne Community Education. I found my job by listening to the needs of my community (and my 11- year-old daughter, Meghan, who wanted to take a clay class). When I spoke to Karen Willers (the director of the Luverne Community Education) I found out that there was a need for a summer art teacher to teach a clay class. Students wanted to learn how to throw on the wheel. I am still trying to find the place where I can make the greatest difference for those students who want to be creative. I am daring to dream of a summer art program/camp for students (adult and youth) and my "Play with Clay Classes" may just be the beginning. A few years ago the Luverne Public Schools decided to not replace the elementary art teacher when she retired. I decided that I didn't want to work within the system. I want to work outside the box. Many of the students that I taught in my "Play with Clay Class" are honor students and fill their schedules with AP and college courses or are music majors and are unable to take art classes during the school year.

Q. What is it like to have your own art classroom?

A. I am not working in a conventional classroom so I don't have my own physical classroom except for a few weeks in the summer. However, the community created by my students in my classroom celebrates their successes and helps encourage each other when they fall short. When I saw the ribbons that my younger students earned – Open Class and 4-H, judged 50 percent on knowledge and 50 percent on craftsmanship – at the Rock County Fair, I couldn't have been prouder – one red, three blues and a reserve grand champion ribbon. The 11-year-old who earned the reserve grand champion ribbon wrote a paper describing her adventure in my "Play with Clay Class” because she was away at Bible camp during the week of the fair. As I found myself reading her paper, I heard my own words repeated back to me. It was invigorating to know that she had taken what I had taught her to heart. She had written things like, "If your clay isn't centered, you are going to fight with it every step of the way." What a metaphor for life.

Q. How did Augustana help you get where you are in your career?

A. Augustana has taught me to create the change that I want in my community and that the fastest way to my dream job is to create it myself.

Q. What art are you working on now? What are your main sources of inspiration?

A. In addition to my pottery I am currently working on an oil painting of a pedestrian bridge and the skyline of Minneapolis. My inspiration for this painting comes from my personal struggle to allow my college student (my daughter, Lauren) to cross over from being a high school student to a young independent college student. Inspiration can be found anywhere, but it is most meaningful when you have a personal emotional connection.