David Ouellette has always enjoyed creating things. But as a studio art major in college, he found himself liking the research aspect of art more than the actual making part.
“I have always been interested in the past and loved reading about antiquity growing up. But honestly, I didn’t even know art history was a discipline until I was turned onto it by my first-year Art Appreciation instructor,” he said. “Once I found that out, I was hooked. Before I transferred to Northern Illinois University, I decided I wanted to concentrate on the art of the ancient Maya. As luck would have it, I found that the university had a preeminent scholar in the field, Dr. Jeff Kowalski. He has been an incredible mentor to me over the years.”
Ouellette taught Art History and Humanities part-time at various educational institutions, including Waubonsee Community College, South Suburban College and Concordia University. He then took a tenure-track position at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he was an assistant professor of Non-Western Art History for two years before returning to the Chicago area in 2013 to teach full-time at College of DuPage.
In challenging his students to think critically about the world, he challenges himself.
“I love learning, and there is no better way to continue to learn and develop one’s knowledge than to teach,” he said. “I want to inspire students the way I was inspired in those first art courses. It also allows me to pursue my own professional interests in art, art history and archaeology, which I can bring back to the classroom. It’s my life, and I just love sharing that with my students.”
In return, he wants his students to see the world through new eyes when they leave his class.
“We discuss not only art and its historical context, but also how to understand our visual experiences in the world,” he said. “Art history is not just about pictures some dead guy made at some unknowable point in the past. It’s about understanding the human drive to take ideas and make them visible, make them tangible.
“It’s also about gauging our responses to visual stimuli and really looking at things. I tell my students, ‘The more you look the better you see,’ which may seem rudimentary. But I think by the end of the semester they know exactly what I mean.”
Ouellette is inspired by new ideas, tenacious people and beautiful things, either natural or man-made.
“Luckily, what I have chosen to do in life surrounds me with those things all of the time,” he said. “I get to work with great faculty and students who are full of great ideas and curiosity. I study some of the most beautiful and fascinating things ever made by human hands. I live in a quiet place where I can stay in touch with the natural world, yet I am close enough to a beautiful metropolis full of historical and cultural significance. It all inspires me. I can’t think of a better place to live and work.”