La Grange art teacher to be featured in Chicago gallery
Student Hannah Lutz gets some advice from teacher Maribeth Coffey-Sears on how to attach a spout to her china teapot. Coffey-Sears, a Lyons Township High School art teacher, won an opportunity to study at the Art Institute of Chicago this summer. | Jon La
Family: Husband, David, and their children, Justin, 16, Micaela, 14, Dylan, 11 and Ethan, 7
Town: Glen Ellyn
Media of expression: Painting, photography, mixed media sculpture and ink on paper
Currently teaching: molding and glazing bowls and teapots with background on Japanese tea ceremonies
Exhibit: 33 Contemporary Gallery, 1029 W. 35th St., Chicago, from 10 am. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 19 to Nov. 10, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. (708) 837-4534
Updated: October 22, 2012 6:30PM
LA GRANGE —For an art teacher already absorbed in drawing out creativity from her Lyons Township High School students, Maribeth Coffey-Sears has a full plate.
The mother of four also has carved out time to create artworks on exhibit in Vienna, Austria, Turin, Italy and Chicago. She collaborated with a scientist to design a piece reflective of sustainable energy, and she takes part in a consortium for teachers on sharing East Asian art and culture.
Coffey-Sears still may be recovering from a tsunami of creativity unleashed during an intensive two-week summer residency program at the Art Institute of Chicago. As one of 17 teachers selected from around the world, she met leading artists, was offered top instruction and spent long hours in a studio.
“This summer, I made probably 40 pieces and have 35 solid pieces I love and would hang tomorrow,” she said. “It was grueling, much harder than graduate school, where I made about 12 pieces a year. It was intensive, but really wonderful.”
Coffey-Sears completed a series of ink-on-paper designs using some experimental methods to produce abstract expressionist pieces. Her ideas were sparked by a powerful connection in May, when the seventh of eight biological sisters contacted her after they were separated for decades.
Adopted as an older child into a loving family, Coffey-Sears has been searching for members of her biological family who were placed in other homes or became wards of the state. Medical issues, including diabetes and genetic problems among some family members, initially prompted her search, but much was gained as contacts were made, she said.
“All these emotions and sharing about our lifetimes spent apart came to the forefront,” she said. “It was kind of mind-boggling and is switching up the way I’m expressing myself.”
The end results of those emotions and her intensive two weeks in the studio will be featured in the “Preservation Exhibition” at 33 Contemporary Gallery from Oct. 19 to Nov. 10 in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. The artist said she was thrilled to be selected.
“Oh, my gosh. It’s my first solo exhibition in 15 years. I took about 12 years off to raise my children, and it was my husband who told me it was time to go back, to start showing again,” she said. “I had no idea things would go so well and so quickly. It’s such an honor.”
Coffey-Sears said she sees her artworks in the show as a vehicle to share with her students, both as a professional artist and on a very personal, emotional level.
“I have some students who don’t live with their parents or are wards of the state. Quite often there are deep wounds,” she said. “I talk to them about being adopted and the whole journey through that process. It helps them to have someone in a similar situation and to be encouraged.”