Teacher returns to Lawrence roots, helps students create ‘incredible’ art in pandemic

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Todd Poteet graduated from Lawrence High School in 1989 and accomplished what so many dreamers only dream of. He moved to New York and attended the Pratt Institute, a top-tier art school. Then he dived into an art-immersed career and launched a graphic and illustration company, working alongside his wife Kathryn, also an LHS grad.

He taught at Pratt and LaGuardia High School and eventually founded a small art school in upstate New York. After 26 years of managing that program, he retired, yet his biggest career challenge was still to come.

Poteet returned to Kansas in 2019 with his family for an art teaching position at LHS. Less than a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic transformed education.

“It has been the largest challenge of my career,” Poteet explained to the Times in an email. “Yet … many innovations and positive teaching developments have come from having to problem-solve teaching visual arts (which is mostly hands-on training) via a computer screen … Teachers teach for the love of students, when the students are replaced by a computer screen it takes its physical and emotional toll on teachers.”

The biggest difference Poteet said he’s observed is how students perceive themselves and relate to others.

“Much of the art has to do with being alone and often spaces that would contain people in their art are shown as empty,” he said. 

Scale, too, has changed. Poteet said most work during a typical school year would measure 18-by-24 inches or larger. With students creating work they can carry between homes and cars or fit within home spaces, a lot of work is on an 8 ½-by-11-inch scale, which hampers what students are able to create, he said.

“Yet, through these limitations have been born some incredible pieces of art.”

Poteet shared some of his students’ work from drawing and painting courses at LHS. The artists range from ninth to 12th grades. Their work below follows explanations from Poteet.

Spacial constraints


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