Home
W. Reed Simon
share

Notre Dame College Associate Professor of Art Also Educates Through Music

The art of teaching art for Notre Dame College faculty member W. Reed Simon is, in part, music.

A jazz violinist as well as an artist and educator, Simon distinctively shares with his students─through his experiences in and outside of the classroom─the technical proficiencies and creative processes required to craft objects of beauty. Simon, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from Pratt Institute of Art in New York, was recently promoted from assistant to associate professor at the College.

As an artist, Simon is a realist and impressionist whose instruments of choice are mostly oils and pastels. He teaches 2D studio art─basic design, drawing, painting and color and design─as well as graphic design at Notre Dame.

He also plays violin with several local jazz and acoustic ensembles, including the group Hot Djang!, which was recently featured on WCPN, the Northeast Ohio NPR radio station, as part of the “Sound of Applause” program with Dee Perry. Simon will appear live on stage with Hot Djang! from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Friday, April 18, at Rockefeller’s Restaurant in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Simon performs solo and with various duos and trios, too, including a show at 7:30 pm. Saturday, April 26, in the Cleveland bistro Bon Vivant with local piano legend George Foley. Reservations are recommended.

And he and his violin make appearances at Notre Dame events throughout the year, like the openings of library art exhibits and the College’s annual community art show, among others. He also plays impromptu in his faculty office and art classrooms.

Regardless of where or with whom he performs, Simon knows firsthand a musician must learn notes and scales and how to play an instrument. But that is not enough to actually make music, he said. So, in that same vein, Simon instructs art students at Notre Dame in brush strokes and color theory and how to use graphic software, but he also teaches them how to create art.

Many students of drawing, painting and design, Simon said, come to the College as “doers.”  He strives to show them the relationship between doing, seeing and thinking.

“Like with music and similar subjects, art requires a degree of discipline and rehearsal in order to develop the ability to see,” he said.

So Simon uses music as one of his methods to help students develop a sense of inner sight. And then he teaches his classeshow to translate such vision, through technical skills, into an outward object of beauty others will not just observe but with which they will share sentiment.

“One of the first questions I ask my classes in the beginning of the semester is, ‘Who plays a musical instrument?’ More and more these days, students are raising their hands,” Simon said. “In the classroom or studio, I think of the many analogous and complementary ideas that art and music share and how the creative process draws on so many resources, involving numerous connections and ideas.”

Simon, who also has taught art at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Kent State University, Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College, said Notre Dame’s diverse students and faculty, in particular, brought him to the College nearly eight years ago. And the connections he makes with them keep him here.

“No sooner do you walk through the doors at Notre Dame, you are collaborating with someone, sharing ideas and experiences,” Simon said.

Simon’s personal link between art and music also is indicative of an association he shares with one of his mentors, renowned artist, sculptor and industrial designer Viktor Schreckengost. Simon had the rare opportunity to get to know the icon while Simon was teachingat the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Simon said, among other things, he asked Schreckengost whether the creator saw himself as an artist or a designer.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I’m Viktor Schreckengost.’ But he was a very humble man. This was not ego or self involvement,” Simon said. “And in that little moment was an emblem of the creative process. He is himself, a whole person, with both─and more─interests.

“He was curious about everything, and that is what keeps us human and alive throughout our lives,” Simon added.

A similar seeking, reflecting and experiencing also keep Simon crafting art and music─and modeling both the technical proficiency and creative process for his students.

Simon’s visual art has received honors from various groups, ranging from the Cain Park Arts Festival to the Ohio Arts Council, where one of his works entitled “Light’s Path” was accepted into the Lake Erie West Ohio Arts Council International Exhibition that travelled to Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Spain and Japan. He exhibits from time to time in local venues like the Valley Art Center and is a member of the St. Paul’s South Wing Gallery Committee in Cleveland Heights.

He also has designed CD covers for the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and Panoramicas Chamber Group.

In addition to Hot Djang!, which performs regularly at Rockefeller’s, as well as The Barking Spider in University Circle in Cleveland, Simon plays violin with Gene’s Hot Jazz, the house band at Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, and the local self-described alternative world beat folk rock group Uzizi at area venues.  

He and his music, as well as his art, also grace the national stage. In March Simon traveled to Washington, D.C., to entertain with the Forest City String Band, and he and Hot Djang! will perform at a music festival in Elkins, W.Va., in November of this year.

Simon also has recorded a CD, “A Storm Along the Mississippi,” with his late father accompanying him on piano.

Listen to Simon and Hot Djang! on WCPN. Photos and videos of the group also are on the Hot Djang! Facebook page.