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Daniel Grissom: Keeping the spark alive

Local artist Daniel Grissom found a new way to share his creative talents: becoming an art teacher.

“I've always enjoyed learning new subjects and then teaching them,” Chattanooga artist Daniel Grissom said. “I've taught English Language Arts, English as a Second Language, Spanish, Video Production, and Digital Storytelling.” Now, he wants to add art to the list.

Five years ago, while he was an English teacher in Brooklyn, Daniel enrolled in a drawing class for “some mid-week self-care.”

“The teacher, the community, and the craft awoke an artistic part of me that had been lying dormant since childhood,” Daniel said. “The more I drew, the more I loved it. It was so fun just creating. It's play. It makes me childlike in the best way.”

Back in the classroom, Daniel encouraged his English students to get creative with their projects.

“When I focused on creative writing or other more creative activities, I would see kids come alive in new ways, many who would just drudgingly slog through the rest of the year,” he said.

“Traditional education models fail to nurture creativity,” Daniel added. “A part of my desire to teach art is to encourage that play, to encourage that childlike wonder.”

Teaching art is also important to Daniel because of its significance as a discipline.

“Art and stories are more captivating and persuasive than facts,” Daniel said. “[I]f you want to influence people, or lead them, then you need to tell a good story. … Students need to be taught how to create art and stories that influence the world for the better, that give hope, that explore what's true, and that offer a better way forward.”

“[M]ost of the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century workplace are creative ones anyway,” he continued, “like developing innovative solutions, making connections across disciplines, or transferring your knowledge and skills to new situations.”

Last December, Daniel started teaching drawing classes in addition to English. As his drawing classes grew more and more popular, he wondered whether or not he should focus solely on teaching art.

“Almost one year later, that’s what I’m doing,” Daniel said. “I left my classroom teaching job, and it’s been great so far.”

Since then, Daniel has moved to teaching various subjects he’s passionate about online, including art, reading, writing, Spanish, and philosophy. He describes it as “sort of like ‘freelance teaching’” and was inspired by his experience during the pandemic.

“I really enjoyed working from home,” Daniel said. “It was pretty awesome going on a walk with my wife and kids during the lunch break, or teaching from a beach house.” While online classes lacked the “relational aspects of in-person teaching,” they allowed him to spend more time in creative endeavors, which also provided some extra income.

Daniel’s latest project is developing Curious Together, an educational, “online hub” where he can combine all his classes in a single platform for “creative and quirky kids.”

“It’s perfect for homeschoolers,” he said, “and also a great supplement for traditionally schooled students.”

In each of his classrooms, art and otherwise, Daniel wants his students to leave with “an increased sense of wonder and curiosity,” “confidence in their abilities to create and contribute,” and “a specific skill, whether it’s a new way to think about a problem or a new drawing or design technique.”

Check out Daniel’s work on his website, and visit Curious Together to sign up for launch updates!