Teacher sculpts her own place in art world

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By Sara Miller

A wise man once said, “A teacher affects eternity; she can never tell where her influence stops.” In the case of Ann Simpson, beloved art teacher at Evergreen Middle School, this is definitely true. Simpson has guided her students through the creation of award-winning pieces of art and taught them a deeper appreciation for other cultures, quirky objects or the human figure — all the while maintaining a professional art career of her own in her free time.

For this reason, it is only fitting that Simpson was honored at the Jeffco Juried Teachers Exhibition at the Arvada Center last month. Now in its seventh year, this juried show provides an opportunity for Jefferson County teachers to display their artistic talents in any medium.
Simpson was encouraged by another Jeffco art teacher to enter the show.
“I usually don’t enter because it’s one more deadline that I have to remember, one more thing I have to squeeze into my busy schedule after teaching all day,” says Simpson.
This year was different, and Simpson entered three pieces — one watercolor painting and two bronze sculptures. During Jeffco’s spring break, Simpson was informed that all three of her pieces had been accepted into the show.
“From what they told me, it is virtually unheard of that you have three pieces placed in this show. I was very flattered about that,” says Simpson.
The artwork for the show was selected by Chris Herron, the registrar and collections manager from the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts, and artist Debra Sanders from the Arvada Center. After selection, the show was judged by Eron Johnson, the owner of Eron Johnson Antiques in Denver. Only one award is given, the Jeff Quintana Award, named after a high school teacher who made a big difference in Johnson’s life.
“(Johnson) says that without the influence of this teacher, he probably wouldn’t have stayed in school and wouldn’t be where he is today. (Johnson’s) way of paying it forward is giving this award,” says Simpson.
Simpson received a generous award package, including a trip to Santa Fe and Taos, N.M., with dinners and private tours of several art museums, and a gift certificate to Meininger Art Supply, Denver’s premiere art store.
The piece for which Simpson was honored is a sculpture titled “No Worries.” It is a stylized figure of a seated female cast in bronze. “(Johnson) liked it because of the texture in the piece. He said it still looked like clay — like he could touch it and it still moved,” says Simpson. Simpson also believes that having multiple pieces in the show helped her win the award.
“I think (Johnson) realized that I had other pieces in the show. He could see that this wasn’t just one successful piece, but it came from a body of work,” says Simpson.
Simpson, who was raised in Colorado, made her own art a priority in 1990 when she moved back to her home state after career adventures in Europe, Phoenix and New Jersey. She took up watercolor painting and later expanded into pastels. In 1998, Simpson began exploring sculpting as a medium. She regularly enjoys the company of sculptors known as the “Warehouse Gang,” sponsored by Tom Ware of Evergreen, who meet weekly to work on their craft.
Simpson’s art has been featured in the Art for the Mountain Community Sculpture Walk, and she regularly participates in the Evergreen Open Door Studios.
“During the school year, my students’ work takes top priority. I try to cram all of my personal artwork into Thursday nights with the Warehouse Gang and during the summer,” says Simpson.
This philosophy appears to be working, because just as Eron Johnson’s teacher inspired him to strive for more, Simpson’s students have been duly inspired. A collaborative student art installation titled “Twittering and Tweeting” was recently selected by Cindy Stevenson, Jeffco schools superintendent, to be on permanent display at Jeffco schools’ main office in Golden.
For more information on Simpson’s art, visit www.ann