Faculty Spotlight: Jennifer Hereth
Jennifer Hereth first became interested in art at the age of 5 or 6 and jokes that her father regrets buying her a large box of 100 Crayola crayons with the sharpener.
"I had a great deal of imagination and a great deal of wild dreams at night," she said. "I wanted to see my world actualized."
Hereth, whose mother also was an artist, earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she ended up teaching in Foundations and the Painting and Drawing Department for 17 years. While there, she was in charge of its Early College Program; was co-director of Oxbow, the summer school in Saugatuck, Mich.; was director of the Mexico Program in San Miguel de Allende; and led 11 study trips around the world, including to Egypt.
"I loved teaching at a college connected to the museum and would often meet my students in the Art Institute after lunch to fill up our coffers with real painting surfaces," she said. "I loved helping students to figure out what role art was going to play in their lives and how to organize themselves to be long-term artists for those who wished. On the study trips, I loved helping students learn to be culturally-sensitive travelers and Americans in the world. At Oxbow, I loved setting up an artist retreat for intensive artmaking, which is rare in an artist's life."
Hereth began working at College of DuPage in 1994, where her love of teaching continues. She believes in the words of Clarrissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian therapist and poet, who said, "Before you ever pick up a pencil, or a bow, you are already an artist."
"I do believe everyone is an artist and as the teacher, I have the great privilege and joy of helping each student discover what it is!" she said. "I love to teach college because I believe it opens up worlds to all students, whether you become an artist or not. I love to teach at COD because my students work very hard to prioritize education in very busy lives and are very kind and giving people."
Among the many projects she has helped to spearhead at COD is IArtistsinfluence, which supports three charities, undertakes many community projects, is 100 percent volunteer and includes more than 100 COD art students.
"IArtists New Orleans donates paintings to families in the 9th ward of New Orleans when they move back in their homes, even now when it's been more than five years after Katrina. We have not forgotten! The families get to pick out what painting they want, and so far over 100 paintings have been donated for this project," she explained.
"IArtists Take Flight Leadership Aviation is amazing. Out of student Jackie Withers' murals of Tuskegee Airmen, now underprivileged teens are getting their pilot's licenses through Jackie's persistence with scholarship funds through corporations and our support. Unbelievable! IArtists Teenage Archetype Cards is a therapeutic tool developed by my art classes and is now being used by over 400 therapists across the globe."
Through all of her work with students, Hereth hopes they develop a sense of belonging to their culture.
"I hope they know they are artists, can enjoy as many ways as that manifests itself in their lives, and that they have learned about our culture's art history and feel empowered by being in the know," she said. "I hope they know that community is very important in the arts, for support and for sharing one's joys and accomplishments.
"I love to teach because I love to enable people to actualize their visions, their dreams, just as I did as a child. I hope they see the art of life is the most beautiful art of all -- like in a child's imagination."
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