NSCDS art teacher receives Rauschenberg Residency

Growing up on Long Island in New York, Keith Sklar was an artist at heart, though he didn’t always know it.

“When I was a kid I would sort of make cool caricatures of my teachers,” Sklar said. “I was drawing all the time, but I didn’t think of it as art or drawing. It’s the core of who I am. It took me a while to figure that out.”

His passion for art and teaching was rewarded earlier this year as Sklar found out he was awarded a Rauschenberg Residency, an opportunity only given to eight to 10 artists at a time.

The program was launched in 2012, and serves 70 artists/creative thinkers annually. The artists are invited to spend four weeks at the home of the late Robert Rauschenberg in Captiva, Florida to fully immerse themselves in art.

“I’ve known of Rauschenberg since I was a kid in college,” Sklar said. “He was an artist I tremendously admired. [His style] is a way of looking at the world where we all have very defined boundaries, but you can have real connections between music and sculpture, science and art, etc. All these boundaries can be played with.”

Recipients of the Rauschenberg Residency do not apply for consideration, but are chosen by one of nine “selectors.” The selectors choose individuals of exceptional talent and promise who embody risk-taking, experimentation and collaboration.

Sklar was nominated by Denise Markonish, the curator at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The two first met while Sklar was living in New Haven, Conn.

“She put my work in a few exhibitions and has been following it ever since,” Sklar said. “She’s been very supportive.”

Sklar didn’t start painting until after his graduation from Wesleyan University. After graduating, he moved to California, which brought out his love of teaching. Sklar earned his MA in Art Education from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development in 2011.

Sklar’s four-week visit to the Rauschenberg residence in Florida will take place this November and December. He is excited at the opportunity to work at the 20-acre estate, which features an 8,000 square foot studio, and plans to take advantage of the professional opportunities available.

Sklar will begin his third year of teaching art to the middle school students at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka this fall, and is already preparing for his trip.

“The preparation is just making sure I have things really solid for the person who is going to be taking over my class,” Sklar said. “Also, getting into my own focus about what I want to do. I may pursue sculpture more or continue with various painting projects. Do I want more continuity or branch out into a whole new opportunity?”

Though he’s only taught at North Shore for a short time, Sklar is thankful to Head of School Tom Doar, Administrator La Vina Lowery and Art Department Chair Kate Puccia for allowing him to take his sabbatical during the upcoming school year.

“I gained this opportunity, but the school is making it happen,” Sklar said. “I feel rewarded that they believe in what I’m doing with the students, and they’re really willing to support that and allow this to happen. I’m beyond happy and grateful that they’re doing this.”

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