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How Life Inspires A District Employee to Create Art


December 11, 2020 -- Champion Middle School instructional aide Derrick Coles creates art from the life around him and what he experiences as a father and teacher. His oil painting called “Zero Tolerance” is a perfect example. Coles explained how this painting of a woman and child started out capturing his travels to Cuba but then morphed into something else when he turned on the television.

Zero Tolerance “The last four years, we have had an administration that imposed a zero-tolerance policy which allowed federal authorities to separate children from their parents and relatives while crossing the southern border of the United States,” said Coles. “The woman in the painting has deflated and dejected eyes because she is searching for hope and tolerance.”  

Mainstream media does not solely define this artist. Taking walks in the neighborhood and being a father inspires him to create art using paint and even old photographs. “My piece called the Renee was created in 2018 and is a tribute to my wife,” said the father of four. “While the Renee is not a direct portrait of my wife, it is a colorful representation of her and the nurturing care she gives to our children.”

Coles studied commercial art at Fort Hayes Arts and Academics from 1992- 1994. He then stepped away from art for two decades to raise his family. Derrick made a return to art in 2016-17 with an exhibition at the Martin De Porres Center at the Ohio Dominican University in 2018 and was a featured artist in the 2019 Bexley Women’s Club House & Garden Tour.The Renee

Last year, Coles, a District employee of 19 years, was thrilled when he got a call asking him to be a part of the “Shot Tower” Gallery 2020 Alumni Exhibition. “I was ecstatic,” said Coles. “Getting people to see your artwork is hard. As an artist, sometimes, I feel like a needle in a haystack. There are so many good artists out there.”

In March, Coles and 18 other artists who all got their start at Fort Hayes Arts and Academics were preparing for the exhibition to open. Then COVID-19 happened. The night of the gallery opening, Ohio’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and opening night was canceled. “I was so disappointed,” said Coles.

Coles said that he is hopeful that his artwork will be seen at the Fort Hayes “Shot Tower” Gallery one day. In the meantime, he’s teaching students, raising his family, and creating art by what he sees, touches, and feels every day. 

Visit the Shot Tower Gallery Alumni Exhibition "Inspired Reunion" virtually by clicking here.