Artist Drew Helge featured at retired teachers’ luncheon Sept. 25

The Oceania Tile Mural (Photo by Jane Hayes)
The Oceania Tile Mural (Photo by Jane Hayes)

Artist Drew Helge (Photo by Jane Hayes)
Artist Drew Helge (Photo by Jane Hayes)

By Jane Hayes

The Winnebago County Retired Teachers’ Association (WCRTA) is having its fall luncheon at the town center at Wesley Willows on Rockton Road at noon, Thursday, Sept. 25.

Drew Helge, renowned glass, jewelry and multimedia artist, will give a presentation to the group of educators. He has achieved considerable fame as an artist, designer, sculptor, muralist, writer, speaker and educator. Helge graduated from Auburn Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) in 1999. After attending Rock Valley College and Illinois State University, he received his art degree in 2005.

Helge has lived in Chicago, where he worked for numerous artists and galleries in a variety of roles and also designed and fabricated art for the Hyatt Place and other Hyatt hotels. His artwork can be found in collections both domestic and abroad, and he has traveled extensively, continuing to learn about various cultures and the arts.

Now, Drew and his wife, Malinda, live on a farm outside Rockford, where they have learned to be farmers and naturalists. For the past two years, Drew has focused on arts integration by creating curricula, murals and an outdoor classroom called “The Grove” at Severson Dells Nature Preserve in Winnebago, Illinois.

According to Severson Dells’ website (, an outdoor classroom like The Grove “is designed with the intent to bring children back to nature using fallen logs, tree stumps for seating, vertical logs for forts, slides embedded in the side of hills, etc. Outdoor classrooms offer a range of open-ended play options for children while remaining safe.” For many students, this is their first connection to the outdoor classroom, too often neglected in today’s emphasis on technology in education.

Helge’s involvement during the conception, process and implementation of the Oceania Mosaic Mural at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Rockford has shown the range of his interests and expertise. As noted in an April 16 article on The Rock River Times’ website ( “The Oceania Tile Mural, a 2,200-plus tile mosaic in the Marshall foyer, is based on cutting-edge art/science integration. The intense year-long project was made possible because of the hundreds of students at Marshall, staff, family, friends, and because of the passion of three artists — Lisa Normoyle, David Stocker and Drew Helge, who revealed the mural to the public on April 17, 2014.”

This talented young artist Drew Helge continues to give back to his community and the Rockford Public Schools. Anyone who would like to join the retired educators’ group for the presentation and luncheon can call (815) 877-1518 for reservations. The cost of the luncheon is $15.

From the Sept. 10-16, 2014, issue

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