Meet Mr. Dawson, Bayhill Art Instructor

We’d love for our readers to get to know our excellent faculty and staff here at Bayhill High School. Recently I interviewed, David Dawson, Bayhill Art Instructor and Facilities Manager.

Photo by www.tasinsabir.com
Mr. Dawson instructs Advanced Art student on working with stone.

What classes do you teach? My classes are Art Fundamentals, Advanced Art, Studio Art I, and Studio Art II. Plus, I get to co-teach Photography and Digital Media with Mr. Bystrom

How long have you been teaching? 9 years in the classroom and several summers teaching at Camp 510 and Park Day Summer Arts Camp.

Where did you grow up and how did you become interest in art? I had a pretty  itinerant childhood- mostly in Colorado (Aspen, Boulder, La Junta), but also New York City, Palo Alto, Seattle, Los Angeles.

Instead of  pursuing a formal arts education, I apprenticed with bronze sculptor Paul Braslow in Marin County for more than 10 years, and have kept a working practice as an artist my entire life.

Highlights of my art career before Bayhill  include major commissions for Strategic Decisions Group in Palo Alto and Jeremy’s clothing stores in the East Bay and San Francisco.   During the 1990’s my pursuit of art led me to become a Bay Area fashion maven.   I ran a store in Hayes Valley called Asphalt, featuring clothing by local designers. I produced underground fashion shows and did some design myself, including costuming for a performance by Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet troupe. I also did costuming and body painting for the stage performers in several Jane’s Addiction tours, and for performers at the Grand Opening of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

What is your teaching style?  I spend as much time as possible working one-on-one. This is vital, because every student has a different level of experience and aptitude with art and the instruction any one student needs may not be appropriate for the others. At the same time, I try to give students the space they need to make their own discoveries with the materials and techniques. That said, it’s very rare that a student in my class announces that a project is finished without being told to push it a little further.

What is your teaching philosophy?  Education should change the way people think about themselves and their personal limitations as much as it contributes to their knowledge of subjects.  When a student says “I can’t draw,” for example, he or she is defining a boundary for themselves that both constrains possibility, and makes effort pointless. Every success that breaks those boundaries of expectation opens the door to inspiration, and validates effort.

What do you like most about Bayhill? To me the best thing is the small class size, which allows me to tailor my approach to each student individually. At Bayhill I can take the time to understand my students, see what it is that I can provide that is suited best to the challenges and aptitudes they bring to the class, and adapt to their individual needs.

What are some of your hobbies and outside interests? I love going up behind the Chabot Space and Science Center to the Redwood Bowman’s Archery  Range. I’m no Katniss Everdeen, but it’s really fun. I also love remodeling and building projects, which I work on with my wife, who is an architect.

What is one thing people may not know about you? One of my first after-school jobs, when I was 10 or 11, was babysitting an orphaned grizzly bear cub.

Favorite quote ?“A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” Banksy.

Funniest teaching moment : I think the best moment was watching Cricket, who liked to project an aura of unassailable savoir faire, frantically diving under the table in abject panic after setting off the smoke detectors (incautious use of a soldering iron).  He was convinced he was about to get doused by the sprinklers.  

If you were stranded on a deserted island what three things would you want with you? A sharp axe, a good long rope, and a pregnant goat.

Advice to students ? Take control of what you do and how you do it.

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