Todd Bartel Earns RISD Art and Design Educator Award

On Friday, October 11, visual arts teacher Todd Bartel was honored by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Alumni/ae Association with a newly established Art and Design Educator Award. Todd is the inaugural recipient of the award, which is given to RISD alumni/ae “who demonstrate exceptional skill as an educator or a clear commitment to the field of art education, and are recognized by their peers and students as having shown those qualities that most encourage students to learn and thrive creatively.”

“I feel so humbled and honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Art and Design Educator Award,” Todd shares. “It is wonderful but also overwhelming. This acknowledgment and celebration of my skills as a teacher means a lot to me personally.”

It was during his sophomore year in high school when Todd knew he wanted to make a career of teaching, a desire he expressed in his application to RISD. He remembers saying he wanted to paint and to teach — plain and simple. He attributes his interest in teaching to the many great educators that guided and inspired him throughout his own journey as an artist. 

Todd received a BFA in painting from RISD in 1985 and also studied in Rome as part of RISD’s European Honors Program. He achieved his MFA in painting from Carnegie Mellon University in 1993. In addition to CSW, Todd has taught at Brown University, Manhattanville College, Carnegie Mellon University, Vermont College, and New Hampshire Art Institute. He has been a guest critic at RISD and a visiting critic at Vermont College and New Hampshire Art Institute. He has lectured at the Alfred University, Western Connecticut State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Montclair State University, and Chatham College among others. His work has been exhibited at the Palo Alto Art Center, Katonah Museum, Brockton Art Museum, Rhode Island Foundation, Zieher Smith, Mills Gallery, Iona College, and more. 

Todd came to CSW in 2002. He has since taught a variety of courses in drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, installation art, design, and conceptual art. He is also the founder of the IS (Installation Space), CSW’s proposal-based installation gallery, and founder and Gallery Director of the Thompson Gallery, a teaching gallery dedicated to thematic inquiry. 

As a collage-based artist, Todd says that his experience with collage, assemblage, and installation taught him “how to listen — to find, to mind, and to bind. Anything and everything tangible and intangible can be combined if you figure out how to listen.”

Over the years, Todd’s profound patience, sincere encouragement, and sage advice have proven invaluable to countless CSW students. 

“Despite not taking a class with Todd until my senior year, my most significant moment with him occurred during my first few weeks of freshman year,” shares Amanda Poorvu ’15. “My very first assignment of high school was hanging on a gallery wall. Todd, who was not my teacher at the time, went through the trouble to locate who I was just to tell me he saw potential in my work. I still find it incredible that he predicted I would become an artist a whole four years before I figured it out... He's been one of my biggest cheerleaders ever since.”

"Of the many teachers I have had in my academic studies, both at CSW and at RISD, in the undergraduate and graduate level, none have made as large an impact on my life as Todd Bartel," adds Max Pratt '15. "In the formative time of one's life which is high-school, Todd pushed me to become a deep thinker, and a serious creative. I can certainly credit my success in an arts college, as well as my early development as a designer, maker, and artist to Todd’s unique pedagogy. I am sure I would not be alone in saying that Todd was, and still is, my favorite teacher."

“Each and every day, during each and every conversation, I work to bolster students’ innate strengths appropriately, while holding the high bar of honing weaknesses into skills,” Todd shared in his acceptance speech. “I know of no other greater classroom success than the student who falls in love with the thing they did not have in their suitcase when they first entered my classroom.”

Award ceremony photographs by Matthew Watson.
The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.