Countless students have gone through the middle school art program and transformed themselves, finding creative ability they didn’t know they had.
Ms. Nancy Agati has mentored many art students at Haverford for 19 years, but she has decided to stop teaching next year so that she can focus on creating her own art.
“I’ve been juggling a part-time art career with a full-time job for 19 years at Haverford,” Ms. Agati said. “I felt like if I don’t start really putting my foot in my art career, I’m going to sort of run out of time to do that.”
As an artist, Ms. Agati creates a diverse range of sculptures, installations, and what she calls “works on paper,” which are “somewhere between a drawing, a painting, and print.”
Although her body of work is varied, much of her art has a unifying theme of nature and how humans interact with nature.
“I first started just getting interested in looking at water. But then I realized that the pattern in water relates to the way you see, for example, the grain of wood,” Ms. Agati said. “Right now, with our world in such crisis in so many ways, making art about nature or how to preserve the nature that we have, I feel, is important.”
“[The piece] was floating in the Delaware River and was made up of driftwood that I collected from the river. It was supposed to look like a fingerprint. It was a big spiral,” Ms. Agati said. “The fingerprint was sort of the idea that the Delaware River has run through our area forever and people have always utilized it or lived along it and so have always interacted with that particular body of water.”
Her work spreads the message of “environmentalism, ecology” and “climate change, in some sense,” yet she also believes in making art solely for the sake of making art. Not everything she makes, she said, “has that heavy of a reason to exist.”
In her art class, she tries to relate her teaching to her own work, and she tries to impart an appreciation of nature to her students.
“My students have all done these projects where they had to collect objects from nature and put them together in a design and take pictures and do a painting of it,” Ms. Agati said.
Although students advance in skills such as drawing, working with clay, and printmaking, Ms. Agati tries to teach her students more than just artistic skills.
“The big picture things are independent thinking and problem solving and making decisions on your own,” Ms. Agati said. “The actual process of making artwork is a problem-solving technique. You have all these materials in front of you and you have to figure it out.”
As for what she’ll miss the most about teaching, she said she’ll miss “working in the classroom and being engaged in students” the most, which has all but disappeared recently because of the pandemic and the need for social distancing. She also said she’ll miss her co-workers, especially Mr. Pankratz, who has worked with her to teach middle school art for more than ten years.
“Be creative. Always.”Ms. Nancy Agati
Although Ms. Agati will not teach next year, she will undoubtedly remain a member of the school community.
“I don’t want people to think I just disappeared,” Ms. Agati said. “I’m hoping that we can have a real eighth-grade graduation and a real senior graduation in the fall, and I will come to both of those. And I hope to be around. I’m not going to completely go away.”
As a community, Haverford will certainly miss the expertise, passion, and care that Ms. Agati brings to all facets of her work at Haverford, but the community doesn’t have to say goodbye completely. You can stay informed with the art that Ms. Agati is working on and find information about her latest works at nancyagati.com.
As a parting piece of advice, Ms. Agati said, “Be creative. Always.”