Russell spreads passion and influence to young artists

Have you ever wondered about the man inside of Room 41 and what lies beneath the cheeriness and humor he brings to the CHS campus? Art teacher Steven Russell, who has begun his second year teaching at CHS, is a seasoned art instructor, although there is much more to him than that.

Whether hosting art students or just students looking for a place to spend free time, Russell’s classroom always seems to be thriving with vibrant activity. In addition to the inspiration invoked by Russell’s creative artistic abilities, the room provides an upbeat atmosphere for a wide variety of people.

Senior Westley Sutton, who is taking two art classes this year and often visits the room during break and lunch, appreciates the diversity and relaxed environment it provides.

“I’m the type that would spend all day at school making art if I could, and there is no better place than Room 41,” Sutton says. “It’s like a melting pot of creativity, perspectives and ideas.”

In his time at CHS, Russell has already changed the campus art culture, having implemented a new tradition called The Chalk Fest last school year, which he hopes to continue doing in future years. He first learned the idea from one of his mentors who used the project with his advanced students as an incentive to continue coming to class and working hard after the completion of the Advanced Placement portfolio.

In regard to his own artistic experience, Russell began his art career young, learning to occupy himself with drawing at age 3.

Russell provides his artistic advice to freshman Maddie Schmidt.

Russell provides his artistic advice to freshman Maddie Schmidt.

“It was a great way for my mother to keep me occupied while she would clean the house,” Russell jokes.

While studying at California State University at Monterey Bay, Russell commenced teaching art classes by serving as an art instructor for various nonprofits in Monterey County.

“I [taught] kids how to draw, paint and make a mess,” the art teacher says.

Since then, Russell has taught at Watsonville Community School and Seaside High School, where he spent 12 years teaching before coming to teach at CHS. He has also sporadically taught classes at the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Russell explains that the CHS campus features a talented, ambitious group of artists, which couples nicely with the various resources the school has to offer to the art program.

“I’m able to do a little more variety of instruction [at CHS] because of the availability of resources for kids to use here,” comments the teacher, comparing his current experience to those he has encountered at other institutions.

There is no doubt that Russell’s fondness of his students is more than reciprocated, as junior and Art II/III student Anna Buzan makes clear: “His humor and artistic abilities make the class so much better.”

This art class has also made a significant impression on students just beginning to dabble with art, such as senior Andrew Barron, an Art I student who already appreciates the unique way in which Russell’s class allows him to practice personal expression.

“I am looking forward to getting to know him more as the year progresses,” Barron explains.

While he graduated from college with a sculpture major, Russell has recently transitioned to an emphasis on paintings, some of which he sells to private collectors. In addition to teaching and making his own art, Russell attends a graduate program through San Jose State University.

Although he juggles a wide variety of hobbies and interests, the artist expresses his passion for teaching, remarking fondly that it is the best part of his day.

“I like teaching kids how to express themselves visually, how to find their own kind of voice in their art-making,” Russell stresses.

Senior advanced art student Allie Staehle reiterates the positivity which Russell brings to the CHS art program and sums up the essence of Russell’s personality and compassion: “Mr. Russell…really cares about all of his students. He always welcomes you with a hug or asks you how you’re doing.”

-Melissa Pavloff