Why I Teach

By Mike Nguyen, Ryman Arts Faculty Member

In May, we published Foundersland: Inspiration from “Artists who can Teach” written by Marty Sklar on the importance of mentorship and teaching. Following this post, we have asked our faculty members why they teach, what they are inspired by, and what they hope their students will learn from the Ryman Arts program.

Ryman Arts holds a special place in my heart because it is where I got my first teaching assignment after finishing graduate school.  It is also a place that reminds me of how I didn’t wait until I was an adult to decide that I was going to be an artist. It was a childhood dream that I kept alive with the encouragement of Mrs. Repp, my high school art teacher, who recognized a potential and bought my first print. In college, Professor Yu Ji gave his time so passionately with the belief that knowledge should be shared which is a major influence in why I teach. Being a teaching artist gives me the opportunity to pass on the gift of artistic practice, based on the classical tradition, which for centuries has been and is still inspiring creative minds. It also allows me to encourage and share my experience with the next generation of artist at an early stage. At Ryman Arts, there is a “conviction that classical drawing and painting skills are the keystone to art education,” so when I started here in 2013, it felt like a natural fit for me. In addition, being involved with an organization that thrives on giving is also nourishing for the soul. Giving students the opportunity to receive college level instruction prepares them for the demands of higher education. Giving professional artists a role in mentoring the youth is important and I am proud to be part of it.

Every semester, I am always inspired by the students and their brilliance in learning new skills. The concepts that I hope students take away when they advance to the next level are the ones that allow them to keep an open mind and look at the world with fresh eyes. In my classes, I put a lot of emphasis on preconceptions and what one thinks the world looks like in relationship to what one can carefully observe. I believe this encourages students to be lifelong learners. Another important skill is to simplify complex visual and conceptual information in order to create clarity in a work of art.

As always, keep the dream alive!


Mike Nguyen joined Ryman Arts in Fall 2013. He received his BFA in painting and drawing from California State University, Long Beach and his MFA from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. In his own work, he draws inspiration from the beauty and complexity of universal and particular forms found in nature. His work focuses on direct observation and his favorite subject is the Figure. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in the United States and China. In addition to Ryman Arts, he also teaches foundation drawing at California State University, Long Beach. Mike is passionate about making and teaching art. One of his favorite quotes is Pablo Picasso’s, "every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once s/he grows up.”

To see Mike’s work: http://www.mikenart.com/