20Q: Catching up with Craig High School art teacher Lori Barry


Anthony Wahl

Editor's Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area's arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person's artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.

Lori Barry

Born in Janesville, Lori Leete Barry is the fourth child of former Janesville School District teachers Shirley and Sam Leete. A 1975 graduate of Parker High School, she followed in her parents' footsteps and has taught art in the district (currently at Craig High School) for 24 years.

Barry attended the UW-Madison, attaining her bachelor's degree in art before marrying her high school boyfriend, David Barry. She went on to earn her master's degree in art curriculum and instruction from National Louis University in Chicago.

Both Janesville natives, the Barrys decided to settle down in their hometown and raise a family of four children. Lori worked as a homemaker for 11 years while her husband began his law practice, later returning to teach.

1. Explain what first drew your interest to art: My father, who was a watercolor artist and a social studies teacher at Craig, and my older brother Bill, who became an art professor, were both instrumental in opening my eyes to art. Artists were creating all around me as a child.

2. What was the first piece you created? Did it go on your refrigerator? My first memory of creating something I loved was a cat made out of toilet paper rolls covered with fake fur. Not sure where it ended up, but it served the purpose of sparking a need to forever be creating.

3. Did you have a mentor? My desire to think about teaching art came from my junior high school teacher Marie Hinderocker. She had a flair for being upbeat, personable and so cool, right down to her flared skirts and wooden clogs.

4. Earth tones or pastels? I tend to take color to bold extremes. I love playing with a complementary pallet, picking a complementary combo and then using any colors I desire—with one or the other of the complements blended in—to create beautiful harmony in the painting.

5. What is your favorite food? Restaurant? My favorite restaurant is Pier 290 in Williams Bay, and my favorite food is grilled salmon. If you go on a warmer night, you can get a lakeside 'table, watch a sunset and enjoy their outdoor fire pits.

6. What can students learn about life through art? It was my focus in my master's degree, and the reason the arts can never be lost in a student's education. The arts are developing minds to be creative thinkers. It is separate from other studies in its capabilities to touch on an individual's unique thoughts and give wings to what it is to be human.

7. People would be surprised to know that I: Once wanted to run away and sing in a band.

8. Is there such a thing as “bad art,” or is it just misunderstood? Misunderstood. I suppose because art is a reflection of the human experience/condition.

9. Did you learn anything from Bob Ross on “The Joy of Painting?” I think this show escaped me. I have seen it but prefer to be creating and not (going) step-by-step.

10. Liquid soap or bar soap? My soap of preference is a liquid dish soap that has a de-greaser agent to keep brushes clean and soft. In the classroom, we use an orange pump soap that can even help get oil paint out of cloths with hot water and a good scrub.

11. What is your favorite art museum in the area? The world? My favorite local museum is the Chazen Art Museum on the UW-Madison campus. Since the building's addition a few years ago, the collection is amazing and free to the public for viewing. My favorite in this country, which I was able to see with my oldest son, is the Getty Center in L.A. Perched high above the city on a rocky cliff, we were transported to it by tram. It is an art lover's dream come true.

12. What has been your proudest moment as an art teacher? I find it hard to name one moment. I've been blessed with 24 years of teaching with endless moments of pride. I have pride in my students' accomplishments, which are only a reflection of their effort and hard work.

13. Do you have a green thumb? I keep houseplants alive forever until they split and have babies. I have geraniums that live from year to year indoors. I guess you could say I have a hard time killing a living thing.

14. What is most important for an artist, talent or passion? I would say passion. You need to give something of yourself to create a real piece of art. Developing skills and visual understanding, elements and principles of design, are all key building blocks for sound art practices.

15. Have you ever stretched the truth to spare an art student's feelings? We have classroom critiques where everyone is expected to share their work and participate in the discussion. We only approach what is working well and offer students suggestions to consider into their work. This takes place in the middle of the creative process and empowers the students to see their work from the viewer's perspective. We always find something positive in all the work. We all need encouragement.

16. At the grocery store, what item always goes into your cart whether you need it or not? Candles.

17. If you could own one famous art piece, which would it be? Hard question. Gustav Klimt, “The Kiss” from 1907.

18. What is the best/worst thing about teaching art? The best is daily interaction with students. The worst is arthritic hands.

19. You're given $500 to spend on art supplies. What do you get? Higher quality paints.

20. What likely caused the clay pot I made in sixth grade to explode in my teacher's kiln? It was most likely air pockets in the clay wall of your pot. Solution: Knead your clay more and have sound connections between all parts.

Know someone involved in the local arts/entertainment community you think would be a great subject for 20Q? Email kicks Editor Greg Little at glittle@gazettextra.com.

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