Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Aubrey Jewel Rodgers
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Local art teacher, mentor, and artist Aubrey Jewel Rodgers inspires others to be stewards of fun, creativity, and kindness. Currently, Rodgers holds the position of an Applied Arts and Media Technology instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Outside of work, she embraces the roles of being a devoted mom, wife, artist, and fun-inspirer.
INSPIRED BY MISFITS
Growing up in Stevensville, a small village town in Berrien County, Rodgers experienced the challenges of being one of two people of color at her school. As a result, she often felt like an outcast among her peers. Reflecting on her childhood, she explains, “My friends were Star Wars characters and anyone who was a misfit. Robin Williams, Luke Skywalker, Tim Burton… They all inspired me to believe that there was something more for me… They helped me learn that it was okay to be weird.”
An alumni of a Montessori school, Rodgers discovered that Montessori techniques played a pivotal role in sparking her curiosity. She firmly believes that her ability to think critically and creatively are gifts that originated from her Montessori upbringing.
FROM MARINE BIOLOGY TO GOOD MISCHIEF
During her childhood, Rodgers had grand aspirations of becoming a marine biologist. However, everything changed one fateful day while she was watching Disney’s The Lion King. Recounting that moment, she shares, “While watching the scene where Mufasa died, I knew I wanted to do what Disney did. I wanted to invoke emotion in people with my art.” Motivated by this realization, she took the initiative to contact Disney and inquire about the path to becoming an animator.
Upon Disney’s recommendation, Rodgers pursued her studies at the Columbus College of Art and Design, delving deeper into the realms of art, design, and animation. After careful contemplation, she made the decision to pivot from her initial career goals and embrace the role of an educator. Reflecting on this choice, she explains, “I never thought I would become a teacher, but I loved helping other people tell their story… I also knew that I had my own story that I wanted to tell.”
I know I’ve done a good job with my students if I’ve inspired them to make good mischief.Aubrey Jewel Rodgers
FRIEND OF PRINCESSES, ADVENTURERS, AND SUPERHEROES
Always inspiring creativity, Rodgers gives back to the community through a variety of events, including stop-action LEGO film camps for youth and adults. Moreover, she explains, “Seeing people get excited is the best thing… I love to see people be inspired.”
Rodgers recently collaborated with Olivia Grace & Company to help bring some Disney magic to Kalamazoo. Despite not being the Disney princess type herself, Rodgers laughs and says, “My four-year-old loved the event, and the community loved it, so I count it as a win. And I got to invite Mulan and Moana to come! I later invited Spider-Man and Black Panther to a drawing session for Comic Book Day. It has been rather fun seeing the community react to these out-of-the-ordinary experiences.”
Sharing her motivation, Rodgers reveals, “Stella [her daughter] is my north star. I ride the currents of her interests, and my focus is always on making a better world for her.”
LESS SCREEN TIME, MORE LEGOS
Balancing art, teaching, motherhood, and being a wife is no easy task. However, Rodgers finds balance by not being constantly available to everyone. When there’s nothing on her schedule, Rodgers works hard to find ways to relax and stay off screens. As a true creative, Rodgers also loves spending time making LEGO creations with her family. With a smile, she says, “I love creating with them… Life is too short to not have fun.”
For information about events Aubrey Jewel Rodgers is hosting, as well as her art and more, you can visit her website at www.aubreyjewel.com.