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By Linda Broatch, M.A.
After working for 30 years in a studio he set up in New Jersey, Robert now lives and works in Salisbury, North Carolina, with his wife, Lee, also an artist, who he met in art school. His sculpture and paintings are featured in several local galleries. He ships his work all over the country, including to major movie and television studios that have used his bronze busts in their productions. Author Anne Rice has Robert's bust of Beethoven on her desk right next to her computer so that he can "stare right into my face' and inspire her.
Robert also believes that being surrounded by the energy of positive, creative people fuels ones own creativity. His mother was his first model for this, and he, in turn, tries in many ways to pass that energy on to others. He remembers vividly the one class he passed in public school, which was a hands-on science class, taught by two women who were gone the following year. "They taught by demonstration, and, like a lot of people, I'm a visual learner," he says. "To this day, I wish I could find them and thank them."
Over the years, he has taught art skills to adults and children and has even designed his own unique curriculum for drawing. Robert recalls with particular fondness a group of gifted kids, several with learning difficulties, who he taught on Saturdays. "They were sent to me by teachers who couldn't really give them the attention they needed," he comments, "and I always thanked every teacher who did that. I had more fun with them. They were visual thinkers who were very quick to learn and they excelled in my class.
"And I simply taught them in a natural way, like Montessori, by asking them, 'What would you like me to do for you? Tell me what subject you'd like to draw and bring it in.' One boy brought in a mouse, and I said, okay, we'll draw the mouse," he adds, laughing.
Based on his own terrible experience with school, Robert says he wishes the public schools would embrace Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and teach to children's strengths: "The whole point is, in the educational system, we have to look at kids in a new way and say, hey, they have different learning styles - they're visual people, maybe, or they have scientific brains; some of them excel in sports, some of them in art, like me, some in math. I failed math; Einstein passed it. But he couldn't paint and sculpt like me. So we all have these specialties, these strengths."
True to his convictions and his mother's early example, Robert continues to pass his creative energy on to others. "It's a great feeling to be a resource person and a role model to somebody,' he says. "That's a great feeling for me."
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