Visiting Professional Artist Series

Photo courtesy of Google

Needle felted pet portrait by Dani Ives, featured on

LHS is filled with many talented students in STEM, arts, and music, many of whom desire to pursue careers in such fields. Some art-oriented seniors take Art Teacher Tom Sena’s Senior Portfolio Preparation class. Those who do were in for a treat; they were given the chance to talk with a professional artist over Skype.

It is the class’ third year of its “Visiting Professional Artist Series.” In the past few years, students were able to interview and analyze the works of a variety of artists, and this year appears to be no different than the previous ones. They kicked off the school year with Dani Ives, who makes mainly animal portraits out of wool. The ex-zoologist pulls inspiration from her old line of work. Ives has been in her current career for about two years now.

Once an artist is scheduled to speak with the students, such as Ives was, the class takes time to study the work of the artist. Sena explained the reasoning for his choice to familiarize students with the artist’s work prior to the chat: “It allows the students to formulate ideas prior to interviewing and allows them to analyze more in depth.”

Sena was not the only one who found it a good idea to analyze Ives’ work, and certainly was not the only one to enjoy it. Senior Crista Esposito proudly discussed one of her projects. “I loved her art style. I based my first portfolio piece on her portfolio pieces,” Esposito announced.

Sena also mentioned something of the sort. “[Ives] definitely made a connection with quite a few of them,” he gushed,  pride evident in his voice. “In fact, three of them are now experimenting with techniques that they heard about from her,” added Sena.

The program was a roaring success this time around; Ives made that much clear. Her point of view was that it was an incredible experience. She seemed to have been a bit unsure of how it would go; however, she afterwards admitted, “It was a lot of fun. I get to be a teacher in an informal study, so I was very happy to chat with students. It was a different experience for me to chat with up-and-coming art students. It’s different for me to be a role model for art students because I feel so new to the art world myself. It’s exciting.”

She was not new to teaching; however, this type of teaching was very new to her. “[Live chats] are weird,” Ives stated. “You don’t know if you conveyed what you wanted to.”

The students were not the only ones who benefited from the experience. Throughout the correspondence between Ives and Sena, the art teacher encouraged Ives to try and go out of her comfort zone and focus some art pieces on human anatomy. In a discussion about this new direction for her art, Ives determined that without Sena’s push, she never would have given it a try, but now that she has, she is excited for how it is going for her. “I tried it, and it turned out great… I can definitely thank [Sena] for the encouragement,” said Ives. She started off with a portrait of her eye, and she plans to continue onto bigger pieces.

Beyond Ives’ presentation, the class has two more artists lined up for the year, one of whom is Hamilton Glass, a mural painter from Virginia. The other they hope to speak with is Jacob Crabb. Crabb is a photo realist sculptor whose home base is currently Currey Hills, England. He works for Madame Tussaud’s. They hope soon to have artists come in person rather than through video conferencing. Either way, Ives’ presentation went well, and the up-and-coming visits look promising. The program itself is an overall success, and Fine Arts Teacher and Art Department Chairperson Vincent Lentini fondly concurred, stating, ”If Mr. Sena wasn’t so passionate and dedicated, none of this would be possible.”