23 Oct Advent Faculty Spotlight: Amy Walrod
Amy Walrod, Advent’s newest art teacher, has led a life full of artistry. An Advent after school teacher for the past six years, as well as a celebrated illustrator, Walrod’s involvement in Boston’s art community has spanned decades.
With the exception of a period of time spent living with her family in Kansas, Walrod primarily grew up in Acton, Massachusetts. It was during her time in Kansas, however, where her father was stationed in the army, that Walrod discovered she wanted to pursue art as a career. Referring to herself as an “art-er” because she was too young to know the term “artist”, Walrod began to wheel a wagon around her neighborhood to pick up scraps that she found, then reassembled them into sculptures. Years later, with an established career under her belt, this is an activity she still likes to do.
Walrod also did not fully understand the potential career paths for artists until she attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), in Providence, Rhode Island. During her time at the School, Walrod met a professor who introduced her to illustration, thus changing the course of her career.
“When growing up, I knew art teachers, but there weren’t a lot of artists outside of school that I knew of. Those I had heard of had only been appreciated for their work after they died,” she said. “I knew I had to figure out how to make a living, and thought I had to go to a liberal arts college to do so. I instead went to RISD, and kept pursuing art, and my parents were supportive of my decision.”
Walrod initially entered RISD thinking she would venture toward the practical career route of graphic design, but once her professor introduced her to the possibility of integration between graphic design and illustration, she found her true passion.
“This professor had big influence on me as an artist,” she said. “It was this realization of the marriage between graphic design and illustration that then led me to children’s illustration.”
Walrod’s initial years working in children’s illustration changed her outlook on the life and mindset of an artist, as well as how to connect with children through art.
“I had always thought that artists were very serious, but I realized that there was a kind of hopefulness in children’s literature,” she said. “I realized I could put forward that hopefulness through my drawings, and I feel like I can relate to kids really well on that level. I love showing my students that being an adult doesn’t mean you have to put away all the things that you enjoyed from childhood.”
Though Walrod has been a member of the Advent community for several years, she has also had longevity practicing and teaching illustration beyond the School. In 1999, Walrod won a Golden Kite award for Excellence in Illustration from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The award was given for one of the first books she illustrated, “Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza.” She has also had her work featured in exhibitions at the Society of Illustrators in New York, and a review of her work featured in the book reviews section of the New York Times, among other recognition and awards.
In addition to her illustration credentials, Walrod has also taught at a creative arts program for several summers, which is where she initially fell in love with teaching.
“Being an illustrator could be lonely,” she said. “I would get up in the morning, do some work, walk the dog, have some coffee, and not really interact with others, so it was kind of isolating. When I would get out and do school visits and work on projects with students, it made me realize I wanted to have more of that in my life.”
Now settled in her role as an art teacher at Advent, Walrod hopes that her students learn as much from her class as she enjoys sharing her passion for artistry with them.
“I want to show them my excitement; to connect with my students and encourage them to find a way to see the world as an artist,” she said. “To show them that you don’t have to necessarily be an active artist in order to enjoy the world in an artistic way, visually.”
Walrod is also looking forward to the collaborative curriculum at Advent, as themes and lessons are often woven throughout several subjects throughout the academic year.
“I’m excited to share that what they’re learning academically, in math, Spanish, science and literature, can be brought over to art,” she said. “Helping students think about their materials from other classes in a visual way.”