- Future Students
- Current Students
- The CLA Community
By Erin O’Shea Sneller
They say that practice makes perfect, and while nobody is perfect, being passionate about and dedicated to her daily art practice probably makes OSU Art Instructor Anna Fidler a better artist and a better teacher. As a single Mom, a university instructor and a successful working artist with an in-home studio not far from campus, the boundaries of Fidler’s personal and professional life may be muddled, but her quietly calm and happy demeanor gives a sense that she’s found a balance. So what’s her secret?
“Some people have a meditation practice, instead, I have my art practice,” Fidler says.
“Before I come to work, I always set aside one hour, after my 10-year-old daughter goes to school and before I come to campus to work in my studio. That, for me is really like a meditation, and it gets me thinking about art, which is a good thing in an art classroom. So when I go to teach, I’m already in the mindset. And similarly often when I’m done at the end of the day of teaching, I will go into the studio for another hour and completely focus on my art, so it’s kind of a continuation from the morning,” Fidler said.
For Fidler, this daily practice is her love, it’s her passion, it’s a source of income, and a small business. But it’s also what she chooses to do daily to care for herself. Not a day that goes by that she doesn’t work in her studio, and she spends even more time working there on the weekends.
Fidler teaches foundations courses in art and painting in the School of Visual, Design and Performing Arts. She is originally from Michigan, where she attended the Interlochen Arts Academy and Western Michigan University. After moving to Oregon and receiving a Master in Fine Arts from Portland State University, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to teaching and practicing art. But full-time teaching positions in art are challenging to come by. When a full-time position opened at OSU, she didn’t know much about the university or Corvallis, but colleagues in the Portland art scene encouraged her to apply, and she was happy to accept it when offered. As it turns out, Anna Fidler is a great fit with OSU and Corvallis.
“I still love to visit the city, but Corvallis is beautiful, it’s a great place to raise a child, and I have more time to work in my studio because it’s a quieter place,” she said.
While trips to visit larger cities had to be put on hold during the pandemic, Fidler now has trips to several cities lined up for later this year, and is optimistic she’ll be able to travel. In addition, an upcoming residency will take her to Los Angeles next year.
The two part residency will begin at the Yucca Valley Material Lab in the southern California desert. The goal of that residency, Fidler says, is solely to make art. Her plan is to work on a large-scale stained glass piece that is going to be incorporated into a studio remodel currently taking place at her home. The second part of the residency, called The Iris Project, will be a two-week stay in the Echo Park community of Los Angeles, with the goal of making art, but also of giving Fidler time to network, visit galleries, and do other artistic professional development -- all of which will ultimately contribute to her teaching. Fidler’s past and recent projects only enhance her students’ experience of studying art with her. She is a professional artist and treats her students as professional artists.
“When I am teaching, I have a lot to offer my students. And I don’t talk down to them, I talk to them on the same level that I talk to professional, working artists, because I want them to have that experience. I really enjoy that,” Fidler said.
The pandemic, Fidler says, gave her time to be more productive than she’d ever been in her life. She made numerous, large scale (50” x 72”) works on treated paper, many of which were recently shown at the Archer Gallery at Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., where she shared an exhibition with Seattle Artist Katie Stone. During the curation process for that show, there was enough space at the facility to lay out and select from all of the work that she had recently created, and Fidler says it was a profound moment -- the first time that she’s had an opportunity to see all of the work she’d produced at once.
Video by Travis Gilmour
Prior to the pandemic, Fidler was invited to participate in a collaborative project with the Oregon Symphony and three other artists (including OSU’s Andy Myers), to respond with art to specific movements of the piece, “Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Weber” by composer Paul Hindemith. Fidler met with Oregon Symphony Conductor Francisco Lecce-Chong at her home studio in Corvallis, to place art and plan out at what points in the music there would be a switch from one piece of art to another. They discussed the colors she was working with and what colors corresponded to certain sounds. Fidler and a studio crew incorporated stop motion animation. And while the performance ended up being delayed almost two years by the pandemic, that delay gave the team more time to edit and coordinate the project. It finally came to fruition at an Oregon Symphony concert in March. A corresponding exhibit, featuring the works by artists Fidler, Myers, Mika Aono and Julia Oldham is being held at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art through June 14. The live performance, Fidler says, was thrilling.
“It was the first time I’d really seen my work at that scale, projected as a huge background behind the symphony, and to hear that applause, and to see the conductor and the musicians working together live, it was pretty special,” Fidler said.
Another recent project involved Fidler creating a large-scale mural in one of the Facebook (Meta) buildings in the International District of Seattle. For two weeks, Fidler worked with former student/BFA grad Milla Oliveira as her assistant, under Meta’s unique, very high security work environment, to paint a permanent installation, tucked away in a private office area.
“It was very immersive. We got to know Seattle. We got to talk about techniques. Security was very high, it was very exciting,” Fidler said.
Recently, Fidler was approached with another unique opportunity, and she was able to incorporate this one as part of her curriculum for students. Oregon State’s new Arts and Education Director Peter Betjemann asked her to create art on hard hats to be worn by construction workers who are building the new Arts and Education complex and renovating Fairbanks Hall – home of the art department.
Fidler knew she had projects already planned in her 2D Design and 2D Core Studio classes that could be adapted to hard hats as a substrate rather than paper. They were studying color theory, and Fidler was introducing several color theorists, including Johannis Itten, who is known for his seven color contrasts as effective ways of using color. The students were tasked with applying what they were learning about Itten to the hard hat project, or to paper – she gave them the choice. Half of her 48 students chose to work on the hard hats, and the hats are currently being worn by workers at the project sites.
As a successful, working artist who also teaches, what advice does Fidler give to students who want to follow this career path?
“People will tell you that you can’t make a living as an artist. I am not here to tell my students they can do so easily, but I did it. And so if I can, they can. I make art, sometimes I do commissions, I teach, and the whole thing comes together as a life in art. And it is a career. I work hard, just like a lawyer or a doctor does – it’s the same amount of hard work – and it does pay off if you immerse yourself. So I hope that helps to build their confidence. I can’t say ‘yes, you are going to walk into a career as an artist easily,’ but I can say that it’s possible, because I do it.”