Art education teacher Gail Alexander’s bold flamboyant style captivated the hearts and minds of her students for decades. Although recently retired, there is no slowing down her creative spirit as she embarks upon new challenges as a local glass artist and private tutor for gifted students.
A four time teacher of the year recipient for Dade County Schools, her 36 year career (primarily at Allapattah Middle School) culminated in a promotion to magnet art program lead instructor and audition recruitment liason for promising artistic youth. As co-chair for the City of South Miami’s annual Martin Luther King Jr Celebration Committee, she has found a way to continue to promote young talent in the community as parade coordinator in charge of event performers.
“I always had a principal that let me do what I wanted to do,” said Alexander. “And to see the way the kids responded to teaching them basic art concepts was a real highlight for me. They always wanted to be in my class and the parents wanted them to be in my class. I gave them the freedom artistically to do whatever they wanted to do.”
To say Alexander has an artistic flair about her would be quite the understatement. She only recently clipped her long blonde dreadlocks to make it easier to wear a mask when she enjoys one of her favorite pastimes, snorkeling. Alexander believes it was partially that be-who-you-truly-are leadership style that endeared her to the children’s confidence. “They responded to lessons and techniques and we never had many problems in class. If there was something negative going on I would find ways to change the mood of the day and get them into the realm of everything-is-going-to-be-okay.”
Alexander’s positive response to her Allapattah Middle School Principal Adolfo Costa’s suggestion that she take visual arts classes at the University of Miami helped the Bethune Cookman College graduate develop her latest passion for glass work. “I thought I would branch out and try something I’d never done before.”
“At the university the instructor said ‘if you agree with the glass, it agrees with you and you have control’ I so happened to agree with it and became intense on learning the techniques. Once the heat touches the glass it changes from the original casting of what you thought you might have and evolves on its own.”
“Blue Eyed Brother” is a glass mask sketched out by Alexander in the print making phase to purposely appear unique with one oval and one square blue eye and large sea green eyebrows. The multi-colored recycled glass atop his head resembles dreadlocks or natural style hair. “I wanted it to look different when I drew the face and features. The heat accents the color and the movement. When it cools down (after the kiln and furnace stage) you get a chance to see what the heat did for it. It made himself a goatee as some of the fired glass moved down around the piece and mixed the colors to give his nose the true skin tone.”
This organic unpredictable final outcome is part of the charm of the process for Alexander. She likens it to nature’s ever changing independent moods where water, sky, fire, and air work together to recreate life. “When I blow into a tube for a glass blown piece the air from my body is trapped in time in this hot molten form. The elements are all working together. Glass has its own identity where shapes are formed by light.”
Gail Alexander has shown her glass work at the Lowe Museum at the University of Miami, the College of Education at UM, Miami International School of Arts and Design, Ring Theatre, and The Grove House Gallery. To find out about her work or her art tutorial programs for future artists of tomorrow call 786-253-2213 or email email@example.com
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