All classes are taught by Certified Art Teachers and/or Art Professionals which undergo a background check as required in the Jessica Lunsford Act.

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Jan Briggs (Davenport, FL)

B.A., Art Education, Western Michigan University, Art Teacher at Horizons Elementary

I earned a BA in Art Education from Western Michigan University, but not before I tried for theatrical design and briefly pursuing interior design. Since moving to Florida in 2005, I have had the privilege of teaching at Lake Alfred Elementary and Wendell Watson Elementary of Polk County, as well as Woodville Elementary in Leon County. I am currently an arts instructor at Horizons Elementary since 2011, earning the honor of Horizons Teacher of the Year in 2012.

I have been teaching with the Summer and Spring Art camp programs at Polk Museum of Art and the satellite program in Winter Haven for several years. In 2016, I presented at the Florida Art Education Association Conference about a creativity game that I developed while teaching with the museum programs.

I am keen to try new ideas. I like to explore different materials and techniques to alter the expressive qualities of a work of art. When not in the classroom, I find joy in planning and constructing quilts with my company Quilting Among the Groves.

Lauren Gessner (Lakeland, FL)

B.A., Art Education, University of North Florida, teaches art at McLaughlin Fine Arts Academy

I am an art educator focusing in printmaking and mixed media techniques.  I am currently the Visual Arts Educator of 3D art, ceramics, and sculpture at McLaughlin Middle School and Fine Arts Academy in Lake Wales, Florida since 2010.  I received my bachelors of art education from the University of North in Jacksonville, Florida with a concentration in Printmaking.  I have been working with the Polk Museum of Art’s youth and adult classes, Polk College Summer Youth Arts Program, as well as the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Arts Education Program.  I was recognized by the Polk County School Board as being a highly effective educator, and an Arts Achieved Model School Art Educator!


Dustin Goolsby (Tampa, FL)

Artist/Illustrator at Dustin Goolsby Art, Tampa

I was raised in Polk County, Florida. As a pacifying hobby for my parents’ sanity, art became a major interest of mine. Crayons to comics I was led to practicing figurative drawing and this aided to my acceptance to Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland, Florida. My work there was heavily illustrative, with a natural eye for design. However, more expressive fine arts has always been a stronger interest.

After high school I decided to attend a small private college in Temple Terrace, Florida. After leaving I started counseling at Summer camps and afterschool programs. I then went on to teach art in private schools, homeschool co-ops, and private lessons. It was then when I decided art is no longer a hobby, but a life path!

My current work has developed from my love of rust, patina, chipped paint, age and deterioration. The acrylic medium allows quick layering of story after story on a still surface creating a sort of history. This overlapping of colors and textures expresses my fascination with the decay of both industrial and organic elements. Surfaces which are usually ignored or unseen by many, capture my attention and inspire me to share with the world. I think of my art as an extension of what I experience in these things, and thus expresses how I see the world.

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Natalie Helms (Winter Haven, FL)

M.A. Art Education, University of Nebraska at Kearney, teaches art at Elbert Elementary

I knew I wanted to be a teacher on the first day of kindergarten!  My interest in art began in my high school ceramics class – I loved manipulating the clay with my hands and experimenting with the medium.  Being more of an abstract artist, I thrive for the opportunity to create the unexpected and provoke thought. 

I carried this interest into college, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Georgia Southern University.  In 2004 I studied drawing, painting, photography, and art history abroad in Bayeux, France for a summer.  This experience was awe-inspiring, and the taste of European culture will forever affect the way I live my life. In 2012, I earned my Master of Arts in Art Education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. 

I began teaching elementary art in 2005 at Winston Elementary in Lakeland, and have been at Elbert Elementary School in Winter Haven for the past 10 years.  While at Elbert I have started a number of successful programs, including Elbert’s Art Club and a monthly rotating student exhibition at Richard’s Fine Coffee in downtown Winter Haven. 

My journey with the Polk Museum of Art started in 2008, and I look forward to teaching every summer.  I always feel rejuvenated and refreshed when the new school year begins after sharing lessons and techniques with colleagues throughout the summer.  Working with such talented artists – teachers and campers alike – each summer is an inspiration year after year!    


Rick Olivo (Lakeland, FL)

B.A., English Literature, New Rochelle University, New York, Owner/Instructor of Rick Olivo Studios

"Rick has taught in many area schools, especially Rochelle School of the Arts, where his influence continued through numerous students’ journeys to Harrison School for the Visual and Performing Arts, and through various college art programs. His former students have won numerous awards, from the 12th Congressional District Visual Arts Show to a Tony to an Oscar for set design.

Beyond teaching in the traditional classroom and studio, Rick Olivo has spent many long afternoons after the regular school day teaching art to the neediest of populations in this county’s migrant camps. This he did without fanfare or remuneration, hoping only to encourage a love and appreciation of the arts and to teach skills not otherwise available to those children.

Rick’s numerous public works have enriched the city and provided much enjoyment for residents and visitors alike. He founded Pied Pipers Children’s Theater (Lakeland Community Theater), restored the interior frescoes and ceiling of the Polk Theatre, sculpted animal figures for local parks, painted exterior murals for St. David’s Episcopal Church, and created the swan prototypes for the Lakeland Junior League’s signature public sculpture project which celebrated Lakeland’s famous swans, the symbol of the city.

No one has done more for the arts in our community than Rick Olivo. " - The Ledger*

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Paul Peterson (Lakeland, FL)

BFA, Ceramics, Ringling School of Art and Design, teaches art at Southwest Middle

Growing up, I always liked tinkering around and building weird stuff including my first car and skateboards with windsurfing sails.  After a skull fracture at the age of 11 which knocked me out of becoming a pilot for the Air Force, I decided that I would try to hone my skills through art.  I earned a BFA in Sculpture through Ringling School of Art and Design before moving to Lakeland 20 years ago.  I have been teaching in the school system and Polk Museum of Art ever since.  The last 17 years I have spent at Southwest Middle School.  During the last 4 years, I have expanded on the Create-A-Skate program at our school by building a skate press with my students and making custom skateboards to share my love of board sports and engage them in relevant applications for the math, science and art.

Betsy Reeves (Lake Wales, FL)

BFA, Florida State University, BA in the History and Criticism of Art, FSU, teaches art at Pinewood Elementary

I grew up in Lakeland and attended Harrison School of the Arts the year it opened. I earned a BFA and Art History Degree from The Florida State University. My last year in college was spent studying art in Florence, Italy and traveling around Europe to famous museums.

Upon graduation I moved to Manhattan and was as an event planner for clients including Disney, Swatch, Conde Nast, Lancome, and various investment banks. I designed the creative and logistical aspects of parties across the United States and abroad.

After seven years I needed a creative change so I started my own jewelry company Zubie NYC Jewelry. My designs were featured in celebrity gift bags for the Emmys, Independent Spirit Awards, and VH1 Save the Music. They were worn on television shows such as “The O.C”, “The View,” and “Good Morning America.” Katie Holmes was photographed wearing Zubie earrings when she debuted her relationship with Tom Cruise to the world.

Seeking a new challenge, I decided to move back to Florida to become an art teacher as volunteering with “Free Arts New York” was such a joyful experience. I taught 2D art for four years at McLaughlin Middle and Fine Arts Academy and 2 years of reading at Pinewood Elementary. I am currently enjoying my first year of teaching elementary art!


Chris Roll (Lakeland, FL)

M.A., Art Education, Buffalo State College, teaches art at Sleepy Hill Middle

I am an award winning 2-D mixed media artist, and a visual arts teacher, living in Lakeland, Florida. In 2013, I earned a Masters Degree in Art Education from Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY. Currently, I am completing my fifth year as the visual arts teacher at Sleepy Hill Middle School, Lakeland, FL, where I was award Teacher of the Year in 2014. In addition to teaching middle school art I also teach evening Classes for Adults and Teens at Polk Museum of Art. I am excited to return for my 3rd year as a Summer Camp Instructor. I’m confident we will have fun together this summer with hands-on lessons inspired by field trips to Florida Southern College, Lake Morton, and by interacting with the museum’s collection of art in a way that will challenge, and inspire, the artist in each of us!

* Source: Posted Aug 29, 2012 . Rick Olivo. The Ledger,