Student Spotlight - Richard Agbeze
We asked him a few questions about why he chose to come to Kent State and what led him to a career in art education.
Who were your influences for this career?
My influences for this career have a lot to do with the teachers who had my interest at heart, encouraged me and set me on the right path. Throughout my education, I have come across some wonderful teachers who not only imparted knowledge in me, but extended their responsibilities to help me improve my lifestyle, relationships and to become a better person. I was fortunate to have a very skilled art teacher in high school who taught me most of the things I know in art. My decision to be an art educator was largely influenced by his skill and the motivation he gave me.
Why Kent State?
I was looking to study under professors who are experienced in the field to enrich my learning experience. Of course, I had heard much about Kent State and how renowned it is within the country. I read about the faculty and I was really impressed by their credentials and experience. I paid attention to their research focus and it became obvious to me that studying under these professors would position me as a well-rounded art educator. It looked like the best choice for me, and of course it is the best decision I have made to study here.
Your artwork is mostly very realistic. Why do you enjoy this approach and how has your approach changed since taking art courses at Kent State?
Yes, my artworks are mostly realistic due to my attention to details and an eye for beauty. I like that this approach makes me patient and calms me down. I find it to be a great way to prompt an emotional response from anyone who sees my artworks.
I have tried to change this approach since taking studio and art history courses at Kent State. I took drawing and printmaking classes and now try to combine both methods into my practice. The art history courses I have taken further expanded my approach. I now strive to create art that speaks to issues that mean something to me, but it hasn’t been easy trying to break away from something I have been doing for years. Having studied works of contemporary African and Native American artists, I am trying to find my voice as an artist and educator who discusses issues on race and gender to counter long standing narratives. This has been the foundation of my research which is leading me to designing a curriculum that discusses race and gender-based issues using art education practices. All these learning experiences are gradually changing my style of work and my teaching philosophy; this I believe portrays the beauty of the art education program here at Kent State.
How have your mentors in art education at Kent State helped you find your voice as an educator?
First of all, I would thank them for their patience and how they have supported me in many ways since I got here. They have been generous and are always ready to answer my questions. They have been very flexible and support me with relevant resources and learning materials to help me understand the framework of the program. It has been a long journey trying to find my voice as an art educator. My mentors have exposed to me a wide range of issues in art education. Eventually, I found my voice with social justice because it is highly relevant and responds to the current demands in the K-12 classroom. It is important to me that I am able to combine traditional and contemporary approaches while also having the experience of studying in two different countries.
Has anything surprised you about living in Kent/USA?
There isn’t much that has surprised me. I have observed American culture on TV and the internet or read about most of the things I see here in real life. Kent is a lovely place and I have made some good friends. I like that it is very much diverse and accommodating. Wherever you come from, you get to call this place a home!
Images: (top) Richard Agbeze and a graphite drawing he created in 2017. (in text) Two artworks created by Richard Agbeze - a graphite drawing from 2017 and a current artwork (bottom) that combines drawing and serigraphy titled "Black Femininity" from a 2019 course at Kent State.