Three Decade Teacher Reflects

          Judy Henriks moves her hand in a joyful manner and eagerly leans into the table, looking at a thick book full of inspiring artwork, smiling while giving her thoughts on a student’s final project. A quick story about her son’s third grade science project about ferns that wouldn’t die even when she deprived them of water and sunlight, quickly relates to the students project idea on flowers.

            Henriks is Elon University’s one constant in the art department. Henriks has been an art teacher at Elon University for about 30 years, “I’ve never taught anywhere else” Henriks claims in a happy, confident voice.

            One of her students Jen Hempel enjoys Henriks teaching style because of the “relaxed atmosphere and the creative projects.”

Not realizing she wanted to become an art teacher until grad school, Henriks has been thinking recently about her inspiration in the past eight to ten years.  A respectful smile appears on her face when she mentions her grandmothers.

‘‘They both had relatively difficult lives and yet they were very interested in my ability to draw as a little girl and very supportive” explains Henriks.


Prometheus by Judy Henriks

Prometheus by Judy Henriks

One of her grandmothers “thought I would be a hairdresser cause I was so good in anything kind of visual” laughs Henriks.


On her office wall there is a baby crocheted in what looks like a web. This talent is credited to her other grandmother who bought her a sewing machine and taught her how to crochet at a young age. Her parents and law even bought Henriks a table loom after college,

“And I started weaving, and in grad school I even thought I was going to go into Fibers.”

Going to a small liberal arts college, North Central College and University of Illinois-Chicago, Henriks majored in American and English Literature. The two drastic changes from small rural town to a big urban city is a pattern that Henriks has seen before, and it even carries into her artwork.

Growing up in western Pennsylvania and having the privilege to live in the middle of the Alleghany National Forest, Henriks remembers her childhood days roaming in the woods with out supervision.

“There’s just this part of me that loves that past, that kind of freedom that I had as a kid to roam.”

As a young adult Henriks worked as a case worker in Chicago where there where,

 “Very bad neighborhoods. The contrast from the very pastoral young life and then seeing that other side was a interesting conflict to resolve.”

When looking at Henriks’s artwork you see the two sides of her youth come out. There is the innocence of a baby doll that occurs in many of her drawings,

“But it’s usually physiologically darker though. ‘Cause Even though childhood has certain kinds pleasures and freedoms I think People often don’t realize or don’t want to look at the kinds of pressures and tensions and difficulties of children.”

Judy Henriks talks to a student about final projct

Judy Henriks talks to a student about final projct



Brooke Shore, another one of Henriks students notices the two differences in her artwork as well.

“One day in class we were drawing a self portrait with paint and she showed us the one she did from the day before and it was very dark and the one that she was in the process of drawing was light and pretty.”

Despite her somewhat dark or physiologically darker subjects Henriks admits that she,

“Was just thinking the other day how boring my life is,” Henriks comments with out any prompt.

She credits her most interesting event in her life to the birth of her children and loves to continue her passion for literature when not creating art.

Many of Henriks’s paintings and drawings have been in shows over the years, but currently her art is in the Andrew Martins and the Greensboro School of Painting at High Point University. Henriks does not seek exhibition shows but if something interests her or she is asked she will graciously display her work.

Henriks has had lots of experience with being an artists as well as a teacher. She gives some good advice:

 “Art making too is not restful. When students get frustrated, to me, I’m like why are you surprised. They assume that it’s recreational or restful. But its very difficult work, your always putting your gut on the line.”

Henriks puts her gut on the line for her art as well as helping her students improve in anyway possible. 


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December 2008
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