By Josh Fernandes
When a Middle or Upper School student registers for a class taught by Robert Ponzio, their educational experience goes beyond the basics of an art class. Growing up in Queens, NY, Ponzio first got interested and started practicing art when he was in the sixth grade. Since his family moved a lot, his outlet for coping with being the new kid at school was art. He artistic talents first started when he drew superheroes by copying the art out of comic books. “I’d draw Spider-Man and practice,” he said. Although he started drawing in middle school, it wasn’t until he went to college that he decided he wanted to do art professionally.
Before coming to Oak Hall in 1995, Ponzio taught art at the University of Florida. “Since I’ve been [at Oak Hall], I’ve had a good opportunity to push and promote global education,” Ponzio noted. He is able to do this by bringing exhibits to the Cofrin Art Gallery. The most recent exhibit, “Color Theory: A Celebration of Color in Art” is currently on display until Feb. 21.
Ponzio’s favorite part of teaching is his Art-I class, “because everyone thinks that they can’t draw but it’s really easy to learn,” he said. While he hears students say they can’t draw, watching them progress through the semester and improving is rewarding for him. Ponzio has always enjoyed problem solving and thinks that is what art entails. Essentially, an artist is “starting from scratch”. He also likes to help students think deeper and differently about things. Ponzio also enjoys the accomplishment of completing something. “There’s a saying in art that you’re only as good as your next show,” he said. “You have this great show, it’s the greatest work you‘ve ever done, now what, what’s next?” he questioned.
Ponzio not only teaches art, but skills such as black smithery, welding, and woodworking. He thinks that it is important for kids to learn hands-on skills and have an opportunity for more non-academic classes. “If you’re going to be a successful person, you need to learn that you can do things,” he said. “You should be able to figure things out and make things happen.”