We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Funnell and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jennifer, why did you pursue a creative career?
Well, I think it was a pretty innate thing for me. When I was younger the only careers I ever imagined had a strong creative component to them. Interior design, photo journalism and architect were among some of the first. I settled on art teacher in the 9th grade after a friend mentioned that’s what she wanted to do. After she said it, it just made so much sense for me too. Today, we are both art teachers. I knew that I wanted my career to be connected to something that I was passionate about since I would be doing it for a very long time. Art has always been a way for me to express myself and connect with others. I love being able to have a creative career because it allows me to keep growing, both as an artist and as a teacher.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been a visual arts teacher for 13 years. I have taught K-12, although currently I teach high school drawing and painting. I have taught in 3 different states and over 7 different buildings. Moving around as a teacher isn’t always easy as districts often only take so many years of experience. Plus, each time I moved I had to get to know a new building and culture, staff, students, parents and community. It’s a lot! However, I really think it helped mold me into the teacher I am today. I was always taught that building relationships with students was the most important thing and my experiences have proven this to be true. Today my focus is on connecting with my students in the most authentic way possible. One of the ways I worked to support and connect with my students during the pandemic was creating art videos and tutorials that I would post on YouTube. One of videos on acrylic painting techniques started to get a lot of views during the pandemic, which led to me monetizing my YouTube channel. It also led to an amazing opportunity teaching adult seniors in a virtual setting. The goal was to build a virtual community to help with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Each week we have several sessions where we get together and create art via Zoom. Teaching art is a way to connect with people, build relationships and learn about the world around us. I really do believe I have the best job. Each day I get to see my student’s eyes light up when they discover something new or realize they can draw after all. Recently I heard from a parent about how their 11th grade son was less than thrilled to have a drawing and painting class on their schedule but after their first day in my class they came home really excited about it. Stories like that warm my heart because I have to attribute much of it to the work I put in to build connections with students, from day one.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would definitely take my best friend to see all of the amazing murals in RiNo. The Denver Central Market is a great stop, lots to check out in the area. First Friday on Santa Fe (or head back to RiNo) is always a great time. In the summer there are food trucks and live music. Adrift Tiki Bar is a great place for fun drinks and delicious Polynesian/Caribbean fare. I think Denver has a great music scene and so many fun venues. I love to check for shows at Bluebird Theatre, The Mission Ballroom, Red Rocks and many others! Some of my favorite smaller venues are Your Mom’s House and Larimar Lounge. I would take my best friend paddle boarding at Chatfield or up in Dillon. Getting up into the mountains is always a fun experience. I like places off the beaten path away from tourists. Getting ice cream is always a must. Little Man Ice Cream is always great.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My dear friend Annie, for even putting the idea of becoming an art teacher in my head. Dr. Cindy Todd (Kendall College of Art and Design) for being one of the best teachers I have ever had. I wouldn’t be the art teacher I am today without her and the program at KCAD. All of my teacher and artist friends that have helped me grow along the way. Most importantly, my students for inspiring me to keep going every day.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniferfunnellvisualarts/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/jenniferfunnellvisualarts

Image Credits
Mark (still life) Julia

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.