On the Record

Sharing her passion

On the Record with Jo Plenger-Schulz

Jo Plenger-Schulz
Jo Plenger-Schulz

DeKalb artist Jo Plenger-Schulz has loved art from an early age, which led to her receiving two art degrees from Northern Illinois University and why she continues to take art classes at Kishwaukee College.

To share her love of art with children in the community, Plenger-Schulz is leading winter mural classes at two local libraries: 4 to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10 and 11 at Sycamore Public Library and 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 12 at DeKalb Public Library.

Classes are for ages 8 to 11 in DeKalb and 8 to 12 in Sycamore. Registration is required for each of the classes and can be completed on the library websites.

Plenger-Schulz met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to discuss the winter mural classes and how she hopes to inspire creativity and a love of art during the classes.

Milton: Have you always loved art?

Plenger-Schulz: When I was a child, all I wanted to do was read and draw. There was never any question that my degree would be in art. I received my bachelor’s degree in studio arts from [Northern Illinois University] and my master’s degree in art therapy from NIU. I worked for 30 years at Elgin Mental Health Center in Elgin as an art therapist.

Milton: What is an art therapist?

Plenger-Schulz: An art therapist does art as therapy, bringing art to patients in many different forms. I held open art studio classes and we often completed seasonal and holiday murals together.

Milton: What is a mural?

Plenger-Schulz: It’s something painted on a wall, most often it is an impermanent mural that can be taken down and replaced seasonally or for holidays. I usually create murals with acrylics. … I think creating murals was one of the things I missed the most from my job. I’m excited to offer mural classes to the local population, especially children.

Milton: Why is it important for you to teach art to children?

Plenger-Schulz: I know there are art programs in DeKalb and Sycamore school districts, but I know that in other communities, art isn’t taught in school. I’m always happy to help and get involved with art as long as there’s an interest. One reason I chose murals is because they’re fun, everyone works together and it’s a good finished product.

Milton: What are some misconceptions about murals?

Plenger-Schulz: Some people think that a mural is big and has to be drawn well and painted well by someone that’s a talented artist. The truth of it is that it’s simple work. You can paint one section blue and be involved in the project. You can take ownership in the painting and tell others that you contributed. I can see where kids might be intimidated, but it’s a group effort. Everyone works and cooperates together to make the mural, and I’m there to oversee, help and lead.

Milton: What is the design of the libraries’ murals?

Plenger-Schulz: We will be working on winter murals. They will be seasonal, not holiday-specific. We’ll also be using glitter paint. Since it’s a two-class format, I will quickly sketch some of the designs. There will probably be a skating pond, children sledding on toboggans and a log cabin. I’ll also ask for their ideas and incorporate them into the design.

Milton: What will the children learn during the mural classes?

Plenger-Schulz: They will learn how to work with the paint, mix it, apply it, proper brushwork, wet-on-wet and dry brush techniques. They’ll jump right in. The paper will be on the table and they’ll each work on a section.

Milton: Do you have ideas for future murals?

Plenger-Schulz: We can create murals on a seasonal or holiday basis. My hope is that we can create enough so that there are enough to rotate and decorate the libraries all year round. One of my favorite murals that I created with my patients was one for Earth Day. It had a tree, and each person selected their favorite endangered animal. They colored a picture of the animal and pasted it onto the tree. I think that it’s great to create art that has meaning. I love it when the art you make makes a statement, and you can do that with murals.

Milton: Tell me more about your art.

Plenger-Schulz: Although I have art degrees, I took drawing and ceramics classes this past semester at Kishwaukee College. I will take drawing and ceramics again this upcoming semester, too. I’ve loved taking the classes, it’s been a positive and wonderful experience. I’ve met so many people in the community. The classes are for all ages of adults. Our work will be featured in an upcoming student art show. The opening reception is from noon to 2 p.m. Jan. 24 at Kish. I have seven pieces in the show. I think that it’s a great way to see the work done by other students from our community.

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