Ms. Riaz comes “full circle”

It’s a “full circle moment” for Ms. Nez Riaz ’14, the Dana Hall Art Department’s newest member. For six years, Dana Hall was Ms. Riaz’s school home and provided her the opportunity to nourish her art career. She credits the teachers, students, and specifically the Art Department for opening her eyes to her passion and dream to be an artist. 

Growing up, Ms. Riaz was never the child who would constantly be doodling or painting. It wasn’t until seventh grade that she was finally able to embrace her confident and artistic side, when she transferred to an all-girls environment, a move that was “really great for [her].”

In eighth grade, Ms. Riaz did a project on Shepard Fairey, the artist who designed the “Hope” poster for Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. In her research on Fairey, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), she discovered that art could be more than just a passion, but an occupation. From that day forward, Ms. Riaz dedicated herself to art. In the Upper School, Ms. Riaz immersed herself in the Art Department and set her sights on getting into RISD. When she talked about the day she found out she was admitted, a huge smile spread across her face. “I remember how supportive all my classmates were… even girls I wasn’t friends with… Girls just rock!” she beamed. 

At RISD, Ms. Riaz delved into her art, graduating with a BFA in illustration. There, she also had her first teaching experience as a teaching assistant, discovering that she enjoyed and excelled at instructing students. Ms. Riaz is only at Dana for the year, taking over for art teacher Ms. Kassie Teng, who is on leave for the year.

Ms. Riaz said, “I don’t think I would teach at any other school except for Dana Hall. They have given me so much in terms of my art career, and when Mr. Fraz approached me, it was like, wow, what a great opportunity to do a full-circle moment, and hopefully, give a little bit of what the Dana Hall Arts Department gave me…”

Even though this year looks very different from when Ms. Riaz was a student, she still remembers clearly the progression that Ms. Teng taught. In her Studio Art, Drawing and Painting I and II, and independent studies classes, she tries to think of what helped her as a student and employs that in her teaching. Knowing the Dana Hall atmosphere, she can sympathize with the students’ stress.

Ms. Riaz hopes to cultivate an environment in the art room, which can be an escape for students to express themselves. She also hopes to inject fresh outlooks into the Art Department, adding digital art into the curriculum, which also complements the fact that students are remote for the time being.

(Image: One of Ms. Riaz’s illustrations. See her website for more of her drawings.)

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