Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sandra Charlap – Combining Work Life with Pastime

Everyone hopes to enjoy his or her work life. But when one can turn a hobby into her job, that can be a dream come true.
When she was about 10 years old, Golda Och Academy Upper School art teacher Sandra Charlap discovered her passion for art, and it hasn’t stopped since.  In one form or another, Ms. Charlap has worked in the arts arena all her life.
After attending the Parsons School of Design in New York, Ms. Charlap worked as a ceramic artist selling her creations at high-end stores such as Barney’s and Neiman Marcus.
While her daughters were young, Ms. Charlap began painting murals and faux finishes, but said the work became too physically demanding. With her daughters now ages 12 and 14, Charlap has more time to devote to painting watercolors, abstracts, and pet illustrations.
The bubbly art teacher enjoys trying out different types of art as she combines her work life with her pastime. “When you’re so curious to see how something works,” she said. “If you can keep that curiosity well-tended, you’ll never tire of it. It requires a tremendous amount of time, but it’s so gratifying.”
In addition to teaching at Golda Och, Ms. Charlap gives private art lessons and has a side business painting pet portraits.
Her artwork has been exhibited in several galleries including the Gas Gallery in Maplewood and the Pierro Gallery in South Orange.
“Next thing I know, I’ve got 20 pieces and I’m doing a show,” she laughed. “My home is filled with art.”
And so is her classroom – filled with the artwork of her students, that is.
Students brightened the room with their most recent creation, hand-painted tallitot, or Jewish prayer shawls. The students used hot wax as a resist on the fabric before they painted, a look much like batik textiles.
As if she weren’t busy enough, Ms. Charlap also runs a Creativity Minyan for about 20 High School students.
“It’s about opening up your mind as we do when we pray,” she said. “I try to direct them to tapping that part of their mind.”
This year, Ms. Charlap received a new “toy” for her classroom – a fine art printing press. Printmaking, she said, is her favorite medium now.
“I love the richness and technical requirements of this particular medium,” she said excitingly.
Ms. Charlap began printmaking while working on her degree at Montclair State University where she was greatly inspired by her teacher.
“I hope in many ways that I can be like that,” she said. “As a teacher you hope to be able to influence someone that way.”
Ms. Charlap has certainly made her mark at Golda Och Academy. A former student sent a letter about his decision to minor in art at the University of Maryland after having taken one of her classes at Golda Och.
“He said he loved the class so much and that it changed his direction,” Ms. Charlap said proudly.
She also runs art clinics for Middle School and High Schools students during lunch and recess. Other students visit during breaks to work on a project or stop by just to say hello.
“Even kids who haven’t always had an interest in art usually come around to it,” she said. “You might surprise yourself. It’s all in your attitude. Do your best to keep an open mind and take chances. None of this is ever a failure.”
You can see Ms. Charlap’s pet illustrations at http://www.illustratedpet.com/.
GO Behind the Scenes is a new column on our blog, which will highlight a different faculty or staff member every two weeks. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured, please email DOshri@GoldaOchAcademy.org.