Art Teacher Katelin Dowd shares love of art in the classroom

Born and raised in Michigan, the fishing state, Katelin Dowd moved to Virginia in July of 2021 with her partner who is in the Navy.  She is still fairly new to the area and learning to adapt as she moves along. She is not a fan of saltwater and prefers swimming in Lake Michigan, saying, “We are truly spoiled with the Great Lakes. It is like our own Caribbean.”  Miss Dowd said it is true that “Michiganders” are not phased by the ocean because the Great Lakes look like the ocean, but are completely safe to swim in without the worry of sharks.  She values family first, including her three siblings, two sisters and one brother, and her Irish Setter, Gunner, who will be turning two years old in December.

Ms. Dowd’s Dog, Gunner (Courtesy of Katelin Dowd)

Along with enjoying the outdoors, she loves the smell of campfires. Some of her other favorites include succulents, watching Marvel movies, painting, and celebrating during Christmas time. As a new teacher at Menchville High School, she teaches Introductory to Art: Art Foundations. “My time here at Menchville may be short-lived because of the Navy, “she said, “however, I’m glad it’s the school I landed at. Monarchs have given the most support I have felt from a school.”

How long have you been teaching?
This will be my fourth year teaching. All have been at the high school level.

When did you truly find your passion for art?
I have an older sister who is about 7 years older. She did sports and so my younger sister and I would always be coloring in a coloring book. We got them all the time growing up. Besides that and coloring on the walls as a toddler, I have always felt in tune with drawing and coloring. It is definitely not something you are born with, but if you keep at it, practicing, it’s amazing what one can do. I was told it is rare that all siblings have artistic talent, but ours did. My parents are creative minds as well. It was important to them that we found a way to express ourselves in our own way. Art became that for me.

What type of art do you prefer?
I am an oil/acrylic painter and a 2-D Drawing artist, for the most part, that’s my niche. However, I am in tune with all media because in college I just kept wanting to know more of how things were made. I am the annoying student with all the questions of “Why” or “How”. I kept taking diverse art courses so that I was prepared to bring to my students a toolbox that was full.

What made you want to come to Menchville to teach?

To be honest, it was Bobby Surry. I applied to Newport News for any art teacher position that was open. The day of the interview, Mr. Surry called me about an hour before the interview to talk to me personally. He wanted a step in before any other principal snatched me away. He fought for me, and he fought to bring the best to Menchville for the students, at least he believed I was the best. Not often do you get a boss that is an advocate for you before they even know you.  As soon as he mentioned how much of a family Menchville was, that was exactly what I have been searching for.

Do you have a favorite artist or piece of work? If so, what is it and why is it your favorite?

One of my favorite artists is Frederic Edwin Church. I had the chance of seeing his work in person and it blows me away with his technique in oil painting. I could stand there and feel the breeze or the mist from the waterfalls he painted and the crisp air. It has a sense of peace standing in front of his paintings.

However, my favorites are ones that move me to feel empathy. My favorite so far I have shown students is Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.). It is 175 lbs of candy piled in a corner representing the partner of an artist who developed AIDS. People visiting the museum took a piece of candy as they walked by, it represented the withering away of someone that is dying. Standing by it can be an ordinary pile of sweets for all to enjoy. It’s the story that matters to me most. Would you take a piece of candy if you knew the story first? By the end, the pile was gone and his partner did pass away as well. Sad, but moving.

Oil Painting by One of Ms. Dowd’s Favorite Artists, Frederic Edwin Church (Courtesy of Katelin Dowd)
Image by Gonzalez-Torres, Another One of Ms. Dowd’s Favorite Artists (Courtesy of Katelin Dowd)

Do you do your own art in your free time?

I try to do my art in my free time, but I’m going to be honest, teaching is my #1 and it is hard to do anything else. I have a two-year-old puppy at home that needs constant exercise.  I constantly am making examples for projects which can count as my own artwork. The summertime is when I can focus on me the most.  I made my sister these canvases for her birthday. They are her favorite crystals and minerals.  That is my main path of creating: making things for others.

Canvases Dedicated to Ms. Dowd’s Sister (Courtesy of Katelin Dowd)

What aspect of art do you use the most?
In general, we do all forms of art in classes 3-D, 2-D, and lots of discussions. Personally, I enjoy 2 -D most, but 3-D get’s students more excited when their hands and bodies are active.

Are there any examples of your work that you have hung up in your classroom or up on the walls? If so, which piece(s) did you choose and why?
I do not have my own work up on the walls as they are hard to hang on cinder blocks. But I do have a website I use for professional purposes. ( )

What is your preferred teaching method?
I do such a variety of methods in art class. Switching it up keeps students on their toes. We will get into service-learning, but for now, I’m focused on getting to know the humans in my classroom so we can make this year great.

Do you enjoy working with kids?
OF COURSE! You cannot do this job unless you do. It is challenging… no doubt about it. All students come from different backgrounds and experiences.I get to hear their story and where they come from. I’m a country girl from Northern Michigan. Moving here to Virginia has proven I’m a lifelong learner taking bits and pieces of people I teach with me wherever I go.