WARSAW — Andy Tomasik sees art as not a mystery only “for the chosen few.” He believes most people like to be creative, but just don’t know how to get to that point.
“Art is not an exclusive club,” he said. “I take everybody who comes in my classroom,” even if that student was simply put there by a guidance counselor because no other class would fit into the student’s schedule.
Tomasik, the chair of the art department at Warsaw Community High School, teaches four levels of ceramics classes and this year also teaches a sculpture class.
His path to WCHS was not a straight one. A graduate of Penn High School, he enrolled at Ball State University with the intent on earning an architecture scholarship. But knowing he had always liked making art, he changed his plans and switched his major to art.
“I decided I wanted to build things, not just design things,” he said, noting a college professor told him he thought Tomasik might be a good teacher.
Eventually, becoming a teacher “clicked” while he was at BSU. After getting his bachelor’s degree in art education, he later went back to the same university and earned a master’s in sculpture.
In January 1995, after teaching art in a South Bend elementary school, Tomasik filled in for a teacher on maternity leave at WCHS. He has been there since and has also taught art at Lakeview Middle School in Warsaw.
For about 12 years, he commuted from his home in South Bend to Warsaw but then moved his family to Leesburg in 2006.
To some, art has a shroud of mystery surrounding it and it is assumed only the “gifted and talented” can learn it. Tomasik has a different perspective, though. “Art is developed and you need to practice at it if you are interested,” he said.
He said he has seen kids who did not think they were artistic, “but I can teach kids to make art.” There really is no mystery to it, he said.
There are the three P’s he uses when it comes to teaching art. Those are patience, persistence and possibilities. He chooses to focus on unleashing a student’s creativity.
“I want my kids to be creative thinkers,” Tomasik said, adding being a creative thinker is something a student can use even if they don’t choose art as a career.
Outside of the classroom, he keeps busy with community involvement and also doing his own artwork. He serves on the diversity committee at OrthoWorx and also the fine arts committee at Wagon Wheel.
Tomasik does functional pottery and makes pots that can be used. He also does more abstract sculptural art and exhibits those pieces in the Midwest. One example is a sculptural piece along the Winona Lake Heritage Trail, which was dedicated May 7.
He was awarded a Lilly Teacher Creative grant and will get to visit Italy for two weeks this summer. “I am kind of a Renaissance man and always wanted to go to Italy,” he said.
Included in the grant is studying in Tuscany where he will attend a class taught by a professional artist about how to make pottery to be used for a table. Cooking lessons will be included, too, and Tomasik has been preparing by learning to speak conversational Italian.
And he will get to spend a week in Florence, Italy, with his wife.
Andy is married to Wendi, who works at Liberty Mutual Insurance. They have two children: Drew, graduating from BSU this year; and Emma, who just completed her sophomore year at BSU. Andy enjoys fishing, cooking, traveling and family time when not in the classroom or making art.
He said he enjoys developing creative confidence in his students and the growth they show. “I like to see students proud of their work,” he said.