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Rod Northcutt teaches that sculpture can be anything

By Olive Overmoyer, For The Miami Student

As students file into Rod Northcutt's Tuesday evening sculpture class, they greet each other with warm smiles and friendly banter.

Throughout the lecture, the students remain captivated by the information as Northcutt asks questions and involves every student in his class.

Tying in examples from a variety of artists and art forms to help his student's learn, Northcutt makes sure his students have a firm grasp of the concepts he is teaching. He sits back they participate in discussion. He seems like he learns just as much from them as they do from him.

"Teaching allows me to perpetually be inspired by energy, and if I'm only talking to my peers, if I'm only talking to people in the art world, I don't receive the same boost of energy that I get when I'm working with students," said Northcutt. "There's a youth and a vibrancy and a naiveté and as I teach, I learn."

As a teacher, Northcutt listens to his students and their interests. He engages each person that walks through the door.

"He always keeps an open mind with something," said senior Robert Donato, one of Northcutt's students. "Whether he agrees with it or not, he'll look at your point of view."

In his classes, Northcutt teaches more than just how to sculpt. He teaches students how art can help them and others in many different situations.

"I've learned that you can put art anywhere," said sophomore Jess Behne. "Art can be in any part of your life."

After enlisting in the Army, Northcutt used his G.I. Bill to earn his bachelor's degree at the University of North Texas. From there, he went on to get a master's from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Now, he both teaches students how to create and creates works himself, focusing on social sculpture as a form of expression.

"When you look at community and you look at the need, social sculpture addresses it," Northcutt said.

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At Miami, he and fellow innovators saw the need for a fun, creative outlet among all the red brick.

Along with the organization, MAKE TANK, of which he is a member, he has helped bring the Oxford Kinetics Festival to life for the last five years. Northcutt and MAKE TANK involve people with the arts and innovation through more than just the Oxford Kinetics Festival.

"We've created a lot of STEM to STEAM programming," said Northcutt, "So basically using art systems and design thinking, two different ways of dealing with something, and applying that to STEM learning. We're doing this for middle schoolers and high schoolers through a variety of different programs in the region."

Northcutt is able to bring art into everything that he does. His students have built bikes for the kinetics festival, worn handmade masks around campus and winterized trailers.

"Everything can be sculpture," Donato said.