Alum-inescence: Alethea Busch

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Alum-inescence: Alethea Busch

Sam Mwakasisi, Editor-in-Chief

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Countless paths in life have led the Niles North staff to their current jobs, but the trails for several have dipped and winded from the graduation ceremony to the office. Yes, many teachers in this school were once students just like you, and they have interesting stories to tell.

In the fine arts department of the school, you may find a tall woman lighting up the space she’s in with a bright outfit and an even brighter personality. That woman is a new addition to NN of this year, and she is Alethea Busch–art teacher, art maker, and famed Shrek enthusiast.

Busch teaches Art Foundations, Graphic Design, and Digital Photography–all of these being classes she took as a NN student, alongside AP Art.

Busch’s teaching expertise stems from her work as an artist. While she has released serious work, like paintings of family photos, her most famous art is more outlandish, using the film character Shrek as a focal point.

It started in college as an inside joke. The Shrek influence is derived from a parody of the film Busch made with friends that received unexpected fame, but an art class she took that incorporated eggs into every piece is what inspired her to combine the two elements–Shrek and eggs–creating the first of many Shrek-centric works. The piece was well-received, described by longtime friend Lenny Veytsel as simultaneously bearing “a child-like aspect” and “[definite] maturity…as well.”

The irony of Busch’s relatively impersonal art being what audiences emotionally attached to the most was not lost on her, and this became the foundation of an experiment Busch conducted on the driving forces of commercial art, and whether or not it has meaning.

She cherry-picked visual elements like clothes and backgrounds based on popularity, and the initially comical art grew deeper and more openly interpretable for topics close to her, like gender representation and gay pride. The glowing reception these pieces received led her to the conclusion that even if unintentional, commercial art can harbor meaning.

Busch has since parted ways with the ogre, but her experience with art, especially what traits make it most appealing to audiences, gives her a healthy aptitude in the field.

During her time studying at NN, she pursued photography and psychology with interests in art therapy, before finding the process of artmaking therapeutic in itself. “[Art] allows for people to express themselves without necessarily saying it out loud,” Busch said.

Busch then decided to expand her horizons to different artistic styles in college–inadvertently leading herself to an epiphany.

“I realized I loved all types of art,” Busch said. “I realized that I loved learning everything, so then I would love teaching everything.”

Busch’s eagerness to explore multiple artistic media were welcomed with open arms by her first instructing opportunity at Niles West, where she worked as a student teacher. Alongside Deanna Sortino, director of Auroris Dance Company and former art teacher of Busch’s, and with a receptive group of students, Busch felt at home.

“I just fit in right away,” Busch said.

Busch then joined the NN staff through filling an open spot made from the retirement of another art teacher of hers. Much like at NW, Busch mostly credits her students for making her job so enjoyable.

“I love seeing what [my] students are creating,” Busch said. “Their ideas are always so amazing.”

Busch is a shining example of “aluminescence” here in Niles North; be sure to say hi if you see her in the halls!

Featured image by Alethea Busch