Artist and Instructor Angelique Byrne: On Fire to Foster Community through Art, Part 2

What do fire, Milwaukee history, quilting, civics, and street art have in common? 

If you don’t know, first go back and read about my guest, artist and instructor Angelique Byrne. Then continue here as Angelique shares more about her creative process and how she brings art experiences to her students through an interdisciplinary approach at Pathways High in Milwaukee.

Angelique Byrne; all photos courtesy of Angelique

How do you create? 

Angelique: My creative process varies depending on my medium. I definitely need to find some type of inspiration first. Usually, for me the inspiration comes from color, texture, and spaces paired with a concept. The concept is usually something that relates to nature when I’m making clay sculpture.  

I will usually sketch and gather images first. Then I make series of pieces that are similar, allowing them to evolve and change from piece to piece. 

I find the repetition to be motivating: 
how can I change the next piece or make it better? 
How can I push the texture, the shape, or concept more?  

I also am very interested in the environment, social issues, and other issues in our news. These concepts come out more in my seminar design with students. It’s fun to take these concepts and see how my classroom community or school community can bring it alive. 

Rube Goldberg Project made with students at KM Perform

Rube Goldberg was an illustrator who made elaborate machines in illustrations that were both comical and fictional.  Each year for the Rube Goldberg Machine competition, there’s a specific function the machine needs to do. One year it was pouring cereal and milk.   

Our whole school participated in a school-wide competition. The students had to brand their machine, come up with a logo, narrative, and story that went along with the machine.

Each one was unique and decorated to fit their concept. Students needed to set up their machine for different judges, show how it worked, and tell the story.

What kinds of interdisciplinary seminars do you have in the classroom?

Angelique: Examples of seminars might be:

  • “Upscaling History: Creating Apps to educate people on Milwaukee History”
  • “Street Art in Milwaukee”
  • “Ultimate Design Project”
  • “Global Citizenship”
  • “The Art and Math of Quilting” 

. . . and many more.  They are interdisciplinary because kids can earn standards that will go toward a credit from multiple subject areas. For example, “Upscaling History” will be standards in Humanities/Civic engagement, Communication Arts/English and Design.

All seminars have multiple subject areas integrated. We work on a mastery-based system so students may revisit these standards multiple times before becoming proficient or mastery in the standard. 

Within these seminars, students also have choice to go deeper into concepts and issues they care about. This really helps because they can use their own creativity and pair it with the skills I’m teaching. The skills build confidence along with personal expression. 

Raku firing with students

How do you bring creativity into your daily life? 

Angelique: Besides everything else I mentioned, I love to design for my house or problem solve in my mind. I also love to figure out how a system or object can be designed better. It’s something I naturally do, sometimes to a fault. 

I’m always looking at the next rendition. For my house, I love to redesign rooms, plan gardens, and think about the next renovation I can start. I love to pick colors, tile, finishes, and all other parts of renovating and redesigning. 

I like it even better when someone else does the heavy lifting! I do enjoy some of the renovation work as well. There is something satisfying about seeing the ideas and the hard work pay off over time. If I didn’t teach, I would love to work as a designer, helping people redesign kitchens and bathrooms. 

Angelique’s kitchen, remodeled in 2017

Any tips for others who want to create and design? Particularly, how do you encourage creativity in your students? 


The first tip is that everyone is creative.  
We have just been told we aren’t, perceived as not, 
or thought there was a right way. 
Creativity needs to be cultivated. 
Just like anything else, 
there are skills to be learned to use creativity 
in constructive ways.  

I have talked to countless parents and students that say they are not creative, but just don’t recognize how their creativity comes out. If you have an interest, take a class. 

The community of an art class is so great!  
It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it as an adult.  
As long as you check your fear at the door 
and don’t compare yourself to others, 
you will have a blast.  

I try to encourage my students to find the area they are interested in to build their creativity. I am lucky enough to teach at a school where kids can pick the seminars they want and dig into the creative areas they are interested in. 

Which interdisciplinary classes, units, or projects have you participated in as a student?

I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,


8 thoughts on “Artist and Instructor Angelique Byrne: On Fire to Foster Community through Art, Part 2

  1. I’m sure I’ve said this multiple times, but artists and musicians are such amazing people!

    They have a special comprehension and perception of reality and then the gifts to create and share those visions and understandings. Everyone may have some creativity in them but take my word, the levels are sooooo different! But praise God we can enjoy the gifts artists and musicians are blessed with.

    And about your question—I think my days as a student predate interdisciplinary classes!

    1. Yes, we sure can enjoy each other’s gifts! I’m thankful for that, too.

      You’re right–back in the day, we didn’t have a lot of interdisciplinary classes except with innovative teachers. My 8th grade teacher let us pick really cool projects for history units, so I wrote my first historical fiction in middle school! The setting: colonial America. I loved learning history by researching and figuring out how to incorporate it into a story!

  2. I love the idea of combining the “logo, narrative, and story with the machine.” Sounds like an excellent way of bringing all the sides of the brain together. It also helps students celebrate each other’s strengths in one of those categories as they blend them together.

    I am wondering how the Raku firing works–that looks like something one could do in one’s backyard. Hmm…

    1. For Raku firing you need many specific supplies, equipment, a Raku kiln, bisque fired pottery, Raku glazed, large propane tank and a team of people. But yes, you can Raku fire at home if you had all the right tools, space, and kiln. Many people have at home studios with a variety of different types of kilns. There is a lot of science that goes into this process. If the temperature is not raised at the right interval you could end up with exploded pots. That’s exactly what I like about it! An easier at-home firing would be a pit fire. You can do it in a metal barrel or even a fire pit.

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