Our Teaching Faculty
Education is the center of what we do at Cultivate. As a team of artists and educators, our goal is to ignite children's passion for fine art through superior teaching. Through one-on-one, small group, and differentiated instruction, our faculty members know and appreciate each student's unique interests, strengths, goals, and multiple learning styles.
Our caring and supportive faculty is composed of certified art teachers and professional artists, more than 80% of whom possess advanced degrees and credentials in education and/or arts.
We approach our educational practice with a shared mission: to help every student grow and succeed, and to cultivate community, creativity, and growth.
Claudia Pimentel (she/her) is a Peruvian-American illustrator, comic artist, and Education Director at Cultivate in Grand Rapids MI. She received her BFA in Digital Illustration from Kendall College of Art and Design, after which she worked as a freelance illustrator, before returning to KCAD as an adjunct professor in the Digital Art and Design and Foundations Programs.
Claudia has worked as an educator in Grand Rapids since 2017, in higher education and in public schools with special needs students, honing her focus on and understanding of neurodiversity, multiculturalism, and the importance of varied learning and teaching styles. At the heart of her role as an educator is the belief that all students should have access to enriching, comprehensive, and empowering education, facilitated with empathy and confidence by those guiding them.
As an illustrator, her love of storytelling shapes her teaching methods and style, with her work a constant love letter to the process of The Narrative. She strives to deliver the message of the importance that stories have on the individual and collective identity, and that how we communicate within community and with ourselves fosters the growth that empowers us all.
Claudia is our Director of Education.
Alec Zemper (he/him) is a self-taught oil painter and teacher living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work focuses primarily on representational portrait, figure, and landscape painting. Alec has spent the past decade traveling and teaching drawing and painting in many places, including Oregon, New York, Italy, and northern India.
He currently works in the art restoration department of the Michigan State Capitol and spends summers as a drawing and painting instructor at Interlochen Center for The Arts in Northern Michigan.
Alec teaches adult courses in the spring, including Charcoal Drawing for Beginners, Introduction to Oil Painting, Oil Painting from Observation, Portrait Drawing, and Portrait Painting.
Shannon Mack (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She describes the origins of her work being derived from “of-the-moment” presence, in effect, leaving behind time capsules of the human experience. The layers that exist within her work are attempts to meet the moment with sincerity, each a foundation for the next, until a resolve is revealed.
Mack’s most recent solo exhibition was held at Muse Gallery in Grand Rapids. She has shown work at Kendall College of Art and Design’s Alluvium Gallery as well as Mudhouse Art Residency in Crete, Greece. She holds a BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design.
Shannon Mack is our life drawing facilitator.
Jackson Wrede (he/him) is a local fine artist in Grand Rapids, specializing in oil painting, contemporary realism, portraits, and pop art. He grew up in the Chicago suburbs, but moved to Grand Rapids in 2019 to attend Kendall College of Art and Design and graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts degree in 2021.
Jackson works full-time as a commission painter.
Jackson teaches adult courses, including Introduction to Watercolor, Landscape Watercolor, and Plein Air Watercolor courses.
Gail Long (she/her) is an artist whose current work explores the natural world through textiles.
Gail received her BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and her MA from Grand Valley State University.
She has participated in both virtual and in-person exhibitions, and her work has been featured in multiple publications, including Create Magazine, The Huts Magazine, and Painting Our World.
Gail teaches our fiber and textiles courses for K-12 students and adults, including Introduction to Fiber Arts, Textile Collage, Sustainable Mending, Botanical Embroidery, Freeform Embroidery, Mini Loom Weaving, and more.
Natalie Lewandoski (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist and art educator who works with paper collages, illustrations, and clay. She received a BFA with a concentration in ceramics, and an art education certification from Northern Michigan University.
Natalie believes art is an avenue into all subjects, and that art enriches our daily lives. She teaches art to add depth, find connections to the natural world, explore identity, and provide hands-on experiences. Natalie delights in providing resources to families outside the classroom or studio space by creating newsletters and social media posts containing resources and topics of discussion.
Natalie’s favorite part of teaching is being surprised by the intuitive aesthetic and design choices students make, especially by those who have yet to hone gathered skills. She enjoys encouraging students to follow their natural knowing and continue to listen to their own unique vision and understanding. Teaching students to be nimble in their creativity and problem solving is one of her greatest joys as an educator.
The themes found in her artwork are self-care and life experiences/memories of family and friends, nostalgia, simple joys, textures/patterns, and abstraction of organic shapes found in nature. Her work is extremely tactile and layered. She describes her work as, "unapologetically wholesome." She lives and works out of her home pottery studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband and two rowdy aussie dogs.
Aidan Donahue (he/him) is an educator and artist who is passionate about growth through creative expression. Aidan has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California - Los Angelos in Sociology and Economics, and a Masters of Science and Education from John Hopkins University, and was also named the Secondary English Special Education Resident of the Year. Having taught multiple ages and subjects, he cultivates inclusive environments where artists of all backgrounds use their new skills to take risks.
An abstract artist and former educator, Aidan paints every day to nurture his wellbeing. His work is driven by his intuition, making it a highly sensory and tactile experience. This is reflected in his mixed media usage and bodily reference within portraits, figures, and anatomy studies. Above all though, his work centers on color as a means for understanding and imagining.
His expressive abstract style focuses on color, mark-making, words, and the human body; this work was exhibited at his shows "Contradictions" at the Aggregate 136 Gallery and "Abstract Fiction" at ArtPrize. When not painting or teaching, he enjoys reading, gardening, and good conversation.