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Carrie Alter: New art instructor celebrates the absurd in the ordinary

Studio Art Instructor Carrie Alter is bringing new courses, materials, and techniques to studio arts offerings, including fields trips to the Scrap Exchange for fabric and other treasures.

The incoming members of the junior class weren’t the only ones walking around a bit dazed for the first few weeks of school in August. Transitioning right beside them — and standing not much taller than most of them — was Carrie Alter, our new studio art instructor. Alter had to learn to find her way around Science and Math while also adjusting from teaching college-level courses to a high school block schedule.

“It’s been a big learning curve,” Alter says. “I’m still getting used to teaching for 50 minutes, because I’m used to three hours where I’d lecture for an hour and then we’d draw and paint for two hours. So I’m altering my teaching and homework assignments.”

This first trimester she’s teaching painting, two sections of drawing, and open studio — a new class that she’ll offer every trimester in which students complete two projects and write a paper after looking at an aspect of philosophy. Alter also plans to hold some community workshops, inviting students and staff to participate, and pop-up exhibits in which she’ll find spaces for employees to exhibit their creative work and hold opening celebrations.

  Some Thing “Some Thing,” an oil on canvas by Carrie Alter being shown at the Limner Gallery in Hudson, NY, as part of its “Strange Figurations” show.

Alter has served as an adjunct professor of art at Meredith College, Elon University, UNC-Chapel Hill, Durham Tech, and The William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education. She has spent several summers teaching Western philosophy at The Governor’s School of North Carolina.

She’s also a working artist, mostly painting and drawings that “react to the absurd, playful, and existential aspects of everyday life,” as she describes her work on her website. In the last month, Alter has been invited to participate in a Monster Drawing Rally with Max, 9, one of her two young sons, at the North Carolina Museum of Art; was interviewed for an ArtsNowNC podcast; and joined an exhibition in Hudson, NY, showing one of her series of paintings that began as drawings by Max.

“I’ve been a working artist all these years, that’s something I want to share with my students,” she says. “I remain passionate about creating art, I’m not only an educator.” This year, she knows, her art may take a bit of a back seat to teaching while she gets adjusted to her new school.  

“I love the students, that’s the best part of the job so far,” she says. “They are respectful and work hard, they don’t feel much different from teaching college freshmen.”

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