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From welding to the joy of teaching art

Michael Walsh was in his mid-thirties before he found his place in life. He quit his job as a welder and became a full-time art teacher at the Bermuda College.

Three years later, the 39-year-old considers it one of the best decisions he's ever made.

“If you're working in a job that's just work, it's hard to go to work,” he said. “My brother is a fisherman. I was always jealous because he never worked a day in his life. He was just doing what he wanted to do.

“Teaching is like that for me, I wouldn't want to do anything else.”

His lectures at the college have also helped him develop as an artist, Mr Walsh said.

“I've always been interested in art and I do get a similar kick out of helping other people make their art.

“I guess because art is about communication. You're trying to share your perspective and so you have to be confident of your perspective but also empathetic of others' perspectives.

“I guess that's why teaching appeals to me. Part of the dialogue is helping people find their perspective and their voice, and learning about your own point of view in contrast to theirs.”

Mr Walsh's work will show as part of the Bermuda Society of Arts' Invitational & Emerging Artist Exhibition. Sharon Wilson, James Cooper and Meredith Andrews are among the better known artists involved; Matt Hooper, Avarie Graham and Pradeep Jumar Betha are in the group of relative newcomers.

Mr Walsh created a video installation for the show. It features the rushing waters of Flatts and will screen on 30 tube TVs in the BSoA's main gallery.

“The idea is it looks like a river flowing through all the televisions,” he said.

“The televisions will be turned face up and hopefully give people a sense of walking through a river. It's less about the representation of the river, and more about the attempt to possess the ephemeral.”

The artist has shown his work with the Bermuda National Gallery's Bermuda Biennial and also had a solo exhibit at the City Hall gallery last year.

“I have made stuff with ice, with beer ... In university I did a semi-performance piece. I made a boat with beer glasses, filled them all with beer and shared it with the audience. It was very well received,” he laughed.

He doesn't miss his life as a welder at all.

“If you're making art you're responding to all the inputs around you, the things that are bombarding you every day. In my old job I wasn't hanging out with other artists,” he said.

“What you're making is a reflection of what you're trying to say.

“The medium is the message but you have to have your voice and find the best way to share your perspective.

“You choose a medium based on a specific message. I basically try to say something with all my work.”

He's enthusiastic about Bermuda's young artists. There's an average of 18 students in his classes each year; in 2014, the arts courses at the College were all oversubscribed.

“The ones that are there do want to be there,” he said.

“We have quite a few young artists who genuinely want to figure out the best way to make their work, but also be themselves.”

Mr Walsh confessed to being a bit “nervous” about tomorrow night's opening.

“There's lots of computers and wires,” he said. “Anything could go wrong.”

The BSoA's Invitational & Emerging Artist Exhibition opens at 5pm. It runs through September 2.

•For more information visit www.bsoa.bm.

Art of communication: Bermuda College lecturer Michael Walsh is one of several artists whose work will show as part of the Bermuda Society of Arts' Invitational & Emerging Artist Exhibition, which opens tomorrow night. Walsh says his work as an art teacher requires confidence in his own perspective and empathy in others' perspectives (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 06, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 06, 2015 at 9:16 am)

From welding to the joy of teaching art

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