Stop by the Museum on a Monday morning or Tuesday evening and you might hear classic rock tunes, as well as chatter and laughter echoing through the hallway. Step inside the classroom and you will find Scott Rispin connecting with his painting students: introducing new techniques and encouraging artistic choices. Rispin knows how to create a fun, enriching environment for his students, proven by a roster of returning students that enroll each semester. Learn more about Rispin’s courses for beginners and practicing artists in this short interview.

You teach at Penn State Behrend and lead painting workshops in local breweries across town. What is special about teaching at the Erie Art Museum?
It is a special environment teaching at the Art Museum, very different from teaching in the college setting. There are no credits to accumulate, no degrees to be earned. These students sign up, and make the effort every week because they have an active interest and desire to learn painting. I think most do so intending to continue painting for years to come, and many have returned for multiple sessions. As a result, I have been able to serve a greater role in the development of student’s work, and have forged many friendships as well. From a teacher’s perspective, it may even be ideal.

Describe your class atmosphere.
It is always very laid-back, friendly, and fun. Maybe that is a result of my personality: that’s the type of class I would want to be in. Beginning Acrylic Painting has structured projects and “lessons,” culminating in a final painting of the student’s choosing. This sets up the structure for the other painting classes I teach. Those students (in Painting in Acrylics and Open Paint) choose their own projects, and even the “style” and manner of painting they would like to investigate. Consequently, students can be working with a wide variety of painting styles and subject matter. This always makes for a very interesting, fun, and at the same time informative classroom experience. Working through individual student problems and concerns in a workshop type atmosphere is educational to the entire class. I love that students regularly enjoy, support and comment on each other’s work.

Do your students inspire you?
Actually yes, my students regularly inspire me. Of course, it is very rewarding to see someone apply what they are learning, and continue to improve and have their successes. It is inspiring to see their confidence grow, and choose greater challenges for themselves when it would be easy enough to be content with a little progress.The commitment to what they love, and the effort to continue it, to want to learn more about it is very inspiring to me. It helps to keep me from taking my own painting for granted, to keep pushing myself.

I suppose one of the most rewarding and happiest results of teaching at the Erie Art Museum over the past eight years is the number of “regulars” who have become friends not only of mine, but friends with each other. They often meet outside of painting class, talk about their paintings and other things of common interest.  It is a continual reminder of the ability of art to draw people together.

Beginning Acrylic Paint and Painting in Acrylic and Oils take place on Tuesday evenings in the winter semester. Open Paint, a class for all levels of painters, is held on Monday mornings. Winter classes begin the week of January 16th. More information on studio art classes, including times and prices, can be found on the class schedule page.