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Ky. artist speaks at Valley School

By Ryan Ottney

August 17, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney


PDT Staff Writer


Acclaimed artist and speaker Mitchell Tolle paid a visit to Valley Local School District on Friday to speak to the teachers and staff and motivate them for the start of another school year on Tuesday.


Originally from Lewis County, Ky., Tolle said he has been an artist since he was only three years old and saw his father drawing on a piece of cardboard. After attending the Cincinnati Art Academy, Tolle spent time as an artist for the U.S. Army, drawing field manuals and painting officer portraits. Today he is an accomplished artist, with an art gallery in his hometown of Berea, Ky., and four published books. He was commissioned to paint President Jimmy Carter, and one of his paintings helped raise $250,000 for Habitat for Humanity.


“I have spoken for educators for almost 25 years. It began innocently because of the way that I shared the impact teachers had on my life along the way,” Tolle said. “I’ll give you an example, when I went to the first grade I walked in and there was this beautiful teacher and I said, ‘I’m an artist, if you need any pictures just check with me.’ So rather than ignore me or put me in my seat, she actually drew a rectangle on the board and gave me a box of colored chalk and said ‘Here. Do paintings for me,’ and I did all year long.”


He said teachers were there for him at the key moments in his life, and he spoke at Valley School about shaping people.


“The key phrase is ‘touching the clay’. The idea that every human begins as a smooth lump of clay. The same kind a potter or a sculptor holds in his hands. With a lump of clay, you can make anything that your imagination and skill can allow, but whatever you mold from the clay, it has no opinion. It simply yields itself to the hands of the potter. We are like that. We are, as humans, not Christians or Muslims when we’re born; we’re not Democrats or Republicans. We’re just clay waiting to be made,” Tolle said.


Valley Superintendent Carl McCrory said Tolle understands the needs of students in our area because he grew up just across the river. He hoped Tolle would motivate and inspire the staff, and energize them for another school year.


“Sometimes we forget with all the new requirements and acronyms that we need to implement, that it’s still about caring for kids and making a difference in their lives. I thought this would be a great way to make teachers realize it’s still about caring for kids. Even with all the requirements, it’s still just about the kids,” McCrory said.


Tolle said each year he gets thousands of invitations to speak, but only chooses about 20.


“I like the superintendent (at Valley). I’ve met him on three other occasions. Sometimes I go in because the need is desperate and I hope I can make a difference. Sometimes I go because the leadership is so good, I think I learn while I’m there. I get more than I give,” Tolle said.


Students return to Valley School to begin a new school year on Tuesday. Tolle’s artwork can be found online at www.mitchelltolle.com.


Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.