Veronica Iria emphasizes expression while expanding Art Department

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"Art is so much more than just looking at something beautiful. What are you trying to say with your artwork?"

SLA’s art department is expanding thanks to our talented teacher Veronica Iria. Now in her second year of teaching, Mrs. Iria is teaching Art 1 and Art 2 to grades 9-12, teaching art to the 7th and 8th graders, and sponsoring the extracurricular Art Club that meets after school.

“My goal is to expose kids to a variety of different art forms. One of the biggest things for me is expression. Expressing themselves in different ways and tap into their creativity with the different projects that they work on,” said Mrs. Iria.

Mrs. Iria likes to talk to her students about the most amazing artist she knows who creates landscapes with a great use of color and is a sculptor too. “Whenever an artist is being inspired to paint a landscape, they’re being inspired by God as an artist,” she said. “One of the projects I have coming up for the 7th and 8th graders, as well as for Art 1, is creating a devotional out of a work of art. That’s one thing that makes me really excited about teaching here at an SDA school is that I can approach a project in that way.”

Another aspect of studying the arts that Mrs. Iria likes to highlight is how it can help in all academic subjects. For instance when students have to decide how to express an idea and what materials would work best to do that they are using their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. For more information about how art improves student outcomes, see the accompanying article, “Fascinating facts about studying the arts.”

Mrs. Iria has plans on how she’d like to grow the art program here. “One of the goals that I would love to do is to bring more specialized classes, so maybe one that’s specifically drawing or one that’s specifically printmaking. I would love to put together a proposal for a kiln and offer a ceramic class.”

Art Club is a new addition this year and that came about because the students from Art 2 initiated the idea. Those students were working on a sculpturing project using found items. One student decided to create a wedding dress from a plastic drop cloth. It sparked discussion in the class about what this piece of art could mean. “Art is so much more than just looking at something beautiful. What are you trying to say with your artwork?” said Mrs. Iria. “This project that started as ‘it’s going to be cool to make a wedding dress out of plastic’ turned into a whole commentary on marriage and how society nowadays looks at marriage as something you can just throw out.”

Besides working on personal choice projects under the guidance of Mrs. Iria, the Art Club also participated in Impact New Bedford in September and painted a mural for the evangelistic event. Since then, they’ve been asked to paint many other murals as well and had to even turn down some requests due to time. This after-school club meets for an hour twice a week.

Mrs. Iria left an unsatisfying career in finance to pursue art when she realized how happy she was working with kids and preparing art projects for Adventurers and Pathfinders. “That’s what a career should be, something that you enjoy doing every day and doesn’t feel like work.”

She re-enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in 2013, where she had studied marketing and management for three years before starting her family, to study art full-time. She studied many art forms--sculpture, painting, drawing, illustrating, graphic design and printmaking--so that she would have a broad background to teach art. She graduated this last May and splits her time teaching art part-time at both SLA and Greater Boston Academy.

Mrs. Iria and her husband, Paul, a production planner for Laser Services in Westford, have two children. Daughter Elena graduated from SLA in 2017 and now attends Southern Adventist University and son Miguel is a 9th grader at SLA.

Watch for students’ art work to be on display in the loft in the academy building near the end of the school year.