Traffic Jam Scene by Preston Drum, Photo by Dusty Hoskovec
Traffic Jam Scene by Preston Drum, Photo by Dusty Hoskovec

What are your roles at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design?

I was originally a student in the graduate school, where I worked with the Visiting Artist program and taught a few workshops for Continuing Education (CE). After graduating in 2016, I was fortunate enough to be hired by the Fine Arts department to teach Drawing 2. This was a formative experience that revealed how important teaching is to me. While I am a full-time practicing artist, I believe it’s necessary to continue teaching in order to stay connected to the community. MCAD’s Continuing Education Department has become my second home where I have had the privilege of teaching several classes over the past few years.   

"CE offers an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by people, young and old that are pushing themselves to grow, evolve and learn."

What has been your favorite class to teach and why? 

Drawing classes are generally my favorite. It’s easy to create a positive learning environment that’s full of energy, exchange, and student growth. Drawing is fun! Any day you get to draw is a great day! If we are getting specific, I taught an experimental landscape drawing course for CE in 2017 that was amazing! Each class was held at a new location using materials from the site to make drawings of the landscape. It was an incredible experience!

Preston works with a drawing student

Preston teaching drawing during the 2018 Pre-College Summer Session.

Describe your own art practice. Where do you go or what do you look at for inspiration?

My own practice has many facets to it. I make videos, drawings, paintings, music, and sculptures, but the majority of my efforts as of late have been devoted to building interactive installations that place the viewer in a narrative. The settings of these narratives have spanned the gamut from a pawn shop to the set of soap opera. I like to employ equal parts humor and tragedy in my work and indulge in the supernatural and absurd. I also love to collaborate with other artists, this is central to my practice. For the majority of 2018, I worked with Carry On Homes to design, build, and activate a large interactive sculpture in downtown Minneapolis funded by the Creative City Challenge. Almost all of my projects involve some level of collaboration and I see each them as an opportunity to not only make something beautiful, but also to connect people. In short, I am inspired by people and all the crazy things we do.    

Are there other local/contemporary artists whose work you particularly admire?

And an excellent segue from this discussion of collaboration. While I can always get down with a Joan Mitchel painting or a David Lynch film, my heart always goes out to those working around me. I came up in the DIY punk scene of the southeast, which had little to do with the nihilism commonly associated with punk and everything to do with positive mindsets and working together to create your own culture. That said, here, now in the Twin Cities, I am loving the work of Essma Imady, Samual Weinberg, Joshua McGarvey, Christopher Selleck, and Jonathan Herrera. On the internet I relish in the work of Kristen Liu-Wong, Alex Paulus, Andy The Doorbum, and this Instagram/street artist named @vibedoubt, who tags under “Sluto.”

Do you have any other creative outlets?

Well, as I said about my art practice, its pretty far-reaching in terms of mediums, so you won’t hear that I like to make ships in a bottle in my free time. I feel that all my creative efforts are connected and serve the installations. But I guess, I do play in an awfully noisy band called Naptaker and I really enjoy gardening. My parents were both horticulturists, so that’s in my blood. 

An example of Preston's public art titled: Carry On HomesCarry on Homes installation, photo by Peng Wu, courtesy of Preston Drum 

What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching Continuing Education students?

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would have something to offer to a student that has been painting as long as I have been alive, but CE has made this possible. I have had students twice my age who considered that fact irrelevant; they were there to learn and weren’t bothered by our divisions. CE offers an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by people, young and old, that are pushing themselves to grow, evolve, and learn when they could just as easily sit at home staring at screens and eating potato chips.    

"While I am a full-time practicing artist, I believe it’s necessary to continue teaching in order to stay connected to the community."

What do you think is unique about MCAD?

MCAD is an endangered species, which sounds negative but I say that with a high regard for the students, faculty, and staff—these people are my art family. To clarify, what I’m trying to say is that institutions like MCAD are closing every year because our culture doesn’t value art as it once did. I know because I hear it from my high school students. When I ask them, “Why did you take this class?” a common response is “because my high school doesn’t have an art program.” It’s also in the news—the federal government wants to cut funding for the arts so we can build walls and run around the world with drones. This is not a hidden political message, this is an acknowledgment that progress and innovation come from incubators that value creative thinking and society at large should support them because we are nothing without art. MCAD is one of those incubators in our area that supports students to truly find themselves and break the mold of what’s possible in art and culture.         

If you could condense your experience and knowledge into one tip for artists, what would it be?

Remain present.