The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Fall-Winter 2020

Faculty Profile: Chris Kimball

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
Art Department Chair Chris Kimball has spent the last fourteen years teaching a variety of studio art classes and coaching football, basketball, and track and field.
In 2006, fresh out of college, Chris Kimball arrived at Fay. He joined Billy Claire and Jane McGinty in the Art Department and has spent the last fourteen years teaching a variety of studio art classes and age ranges. He currently serves as Arts Department Chair and coaches football, basketball, and track and field.
Chris describes himself as a “serial skill collector,” continuing to explore and expand his own artistic skills and capabilities with the goal of incorporating what he learns into the student experience. “Teaching needs to come from a place of interest; otherwise, you are just a messenger of information,” says Chris. Whether it is woodworking, ceramics, or printmaking, Chris finds himself going down “rabbit holes of exploration” that he returns to again and again. “I have to be an artist first,” he says, “and I love learning new skills and techniques.”
Chris lives in Harvard, Massachusetts, with his wife Jessica and eight-month-old son Bode. We recently sat down with Chris to reflect on his fourteen years at Fay and the teaching and coaching moments that he values the most.
When did you know that you wanted to be an art teacher?
I knew that I wanted to teach art from my junior year in high school. I had a ceramics teacher who made teaching art seem like such a rewarding and enriching career. She showed me that if you identify as a creative person and an artist first, then you will always have something to teach because you’re always learning something new. She was like the safety net underneath the acrobats and was always yelling at us to “jump!” –especially when we were trying something new. I try to do that for my students as well.
How do you approach teaching art to students who may not see themselves as artists?
One of the best things about art at Fay is that we offer so many opportunities in terms of media and projects. I always tell my students that if they’re not finding success with the current project, wait a little, because we’re going to get to something they’ll find interesting. This year, students are working in sketchbooks: while we may not be able to work in a communal art space this year, the silver lining is that students can work privately and take creative risks in their sketchbooks without having to display a piece until they’re proud of it.
How do you curate the art and artists that you introduce to students?
Recently, we've been re-examining some of the projects we do and the artists we teach. In addition to understanding the mechanics of art building and the theory behind it, I want our students to see and interact with pieces and artists from every corner of the art-making world. When the art world is pigeonholed by the seven or eight artists that we have deemed “masters,” that puts a wide and diverse world into a very small box. When I pick a project or artists, I try to identify elements that are contemporary and applicable to what students are living now. I make sure to include a diversity of artists: artists of color, women and men, artists from regions of the world that reflect our student population, and artists who employ a range of techniques.
You are also a three-season coach at Fay. How does that experience connect with your teaching?
I love participating in so many parts of the student experience at Fay: the classroom, athletics, and the dorms. It gives me a deeper understanding of who each student is. I think some of my biggest thrills at Fay have come from coaching, where I get to see hard work pay off in a way that is sometimes rare. At a track meet or in a football game, the results of hard work are so tangible.
Do you have a favorite project or unit?
I love projects where the parameters challenge a student to answer a question that reflects what they’re thinking. In Advanced Studio Art, we are focusing on social justice and looking at artists who convey a message. Students are studying the work of Kehinde Wiley, the artist who painted Obama’s portrait. They are taking a masterpiece of historical significance, changing the subject matter, adjusting the composition, and repurposing it to fit a message that they want to convey. When kids start to figure out that their talent is a forum to speak to other people, then I feel like my job is to not get in the way and do my best to support them in achieving their vision.

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