Bringing the outdoors inside

Published 9:45 am Friday, March 5, 2010

Upcoming school art events:

K-12 Art Show at Albert Lea Art Center

Openhouse: Sunday, March 7, 1-3 p.m.

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Show: Through April 3

Sibley Elementary School art teacher Mark Blong grew up in Albert Lea on a farm. His mother was a teacher at Lakeview and his father worked for a bank. Nobody ever really did any art, until Mark came into the world. He just starting drawing. He really liked the outdoors, so he drew nature.

“There was something bigger, you know?” Blong said.

When Blong went to college, he decided to attend Winona State University because of the outdoors. Blong had been thinking about being an elementary school teacher, but after taking some art courses for his general education requirements, people told him he should major in art. That’s just what he did. He later decided to go back to school and get his teaching certificate so he could teach art.

Blong first taught art for two years in Dassel Cokato, near Hutchinson.

After meeting the woman who is now his wife, Jodi, who happened to also be from Albert Lea, they decided to move home.

Blong got a job as the art teacher at Lakeview Elementary School before moving to Sibley. Jodi works at Albert Lea Medical Center.

As an elementary art teacher, Blong said he really enjoys working with kids and seeing them grow. He also enjoys working with the other elementary school art teachers. “I have a good rapport with them,” he said.

Blong likes to bring in artists to speak to his students. Recently, wildlife artist and duck stamp contest winner Mike Kness came into his class on a grant they received. The kids are designing duck stamps to enter in the junior duck stamp contest, so Kness was able to help with that.

“Some kids really get into it,” Blong said about the stamp contest.

Another art contest Blong’s students have been working on is designing the coin for the Lakes Foundation. The foundation picks one design and it is printed on one side of a coin. All the proceeds go to the lakes. So far, he said, 103 students at Sibley have entered their drawings.

Blong said these days he doesn’t have too much time to paint. He was doing a lot of watercolors. Currently he has been doing glass etching. He draws out a piece and etches it on glass and gives the pieces as gifts to friends and family.

After school, Blong coaches track at Southwest Middle School. When not teaching, Blong enjoys fishing, hunting and being in the outdoors with good friends. He is also involved at St. Theodore Catholic Church.