Art teacher Rob Kinnaird retires


Photo by Mustafa Zirapury '23

SPIN IT, GLAZE IT Rob Kinnaird helping a student with their ceramics project. “I’m applying to art schools because he has honestly inspired me to pursue a passion I didn’t know I had,” said Stone. “I wouldn’t have fallen in love with art with a different teacher.”

Anjan Singer '24, Lifestyles Editor

Rob Kinnaird, art teacher of more than 30 years, will be retiring at the end of the school year to focus on his own art.

“I’ve never really stopped, but I’m going to go into it all the time, full time” said Kinnaird.

Kinnaird has taught a variety of subjects including photography and ceramics and will continue to explore them after he leaves.

“I would never be truly happy doing just one thing all the time, I could do ceramics for a couple of years straight but I do like to have my hands in more than one thing, that’s how I best breathe as an artist” said Kinnaird.

He’ll mainly be focusing on sculptures including found objects and electronic components.

“I don’t need a huge studio for that, whereas with ceramics I do,” said Kinnaird, who will be sharing his time between Charlevoix, Ann Arbor, and Berlin. 

“I’m sure after a while I’ll have my own studio in Berlin,” said Kinnaird

Kinnaird has built art at Greenhills as we know it from the ground up. 

“[Greenhills] had a decent art room,” said Kinnaird, describing the state of the art department when he started. “It still had all the pottery wheels. It was in a different part of the building at the time, it was really more focused on traditional art, like drawing and painting. When I started, I had two drills, one of which was broken, and some screwdrivers and that’s really all we had.”

When he came to Greenhills art wasn’t as much a part of the community as it is now.

“It was a lot harder, our budget wasn‘t as robust, when  we wanted to hang something on the wall it was very challenging, because the school at the time felt that was not appropriate, that it put us on a bad path somehow. There was really no art shown at all” said Kinnaird.

However, Greenhills was at its heart the same, a group of people dedicated to learning and teaching, that much will never change.

“The core elements are the same as they’ve always been which are that I can have a conversation with a person such as yourself and we can connect at a really personal level because we have similar interests” said Kinnaird

Along with changing surface level things, like the location of the art room, the amount of tools we have, and where student art is shown, he has had a profound impact on what the focus of art at Greenhills is.

“I felt it was important for students to learn and explore working with a conceptually based curriculum,” said Kinnaird “We’re making things that are about something instead of just of something”

Along with just working within a concept Kinnaird has given students room to breathe.

“He lets you think about things in the way you want to instead of just shoving in his concept,” said Alesha Hasssan ‘24

Which is not to say that his classes are free form or scatter-brained, he seems to have struck a perfect balance between teaching and letting creativity run wild.

“He has structure built in but because it’s a great art class you don’t feel trapped” said Annie Stone ‘23

Kinnaird likes teaching now, but it hasn’t always been that way.

“When I was in high school I had a very influential teacher, Gene Pluhar, we called him Plu, and I was just really heavy into ceramics at the time and I was helping him with a project and he just turned to me one day and said, “you’re going to be a teacher,” and I was like, “No I’m not” I was like 17 or 18 years old at the time, fast forward to when I was in college I was teaching art to elementary school kids and middle schoolers to make a little extra money and I just loved it, I loved teaching,” said Kinnaird.

A love of teaching is what got Kinnaird to become a teacher, but a love for sharing art and craft with the next generation of artists that’s kept him here.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to share something I love with people who are interested, and see the joy in their eyes, and it’s what has kept me in the same career for the last thirty years” said Kinnaird.

Even as he is moving on to other projects Kinnaird is still passionate about teaching art to the next generation of students.

“I don’t want ceramics and photography and sculpture to turn into a craft, I want it to remain as an art-based study,” said Kinnaird. “That’s why we don’t have a class called photography (the class is called Art Photo), that’s just a skill, I want people to really explore what are they trying to say, to whom are they speaking, and why”

Pluhar, was a huge influence on him.  

“I think back to when I was in high school and I had a strong relationship with my art teacher and to this day I still think of him as my mentor, even when I was teaching here” said Kinnaird.

Kinnaird has passed this on, inspiring a new generation of students and artists.

“Rob is the biggest influence in my life,” said Stone, “He has taught me everything I know about being an artist.”

Kinnaird is a mentor as well as a teacher.

“He treats you like an adult but he’ll always be there for you,” said Stone, “he’s a mentor to everybody.”