Schroeder Cherry, dressed in all black and wearing a blaseball hat, stands behind a large folded cardboard scene with one of his handmade puppets. In the scene, a preacher in a blue suit, arms outstretched above the word, "colored," faces rows of seated individuals in a full church above the words, "whites only."

Teaching Artist Profile: Schroeder Cherry

Image of Schroeder Cherry courtesy of Charm City Fringe

Arts for Learning Maryland’s teaching artists are incredible—in and out of the classroom! In this new blog series, we’ll be highlighting our artists and exploring their work, perspectives, and approaches for guiding and inspiring students.

Schroeder Cherry is a talented painter, puppeteer, and collagist, and a 2024 Baker Artist Award finalist. His amazing work with puppets has been featured on a PBS Craft in America segment. Schroeder brings his puppets to life all across the state, inspiring students at all grade levels with educational and engaging performances that open minds and inspire viewers. Whether working with students or creating art in the studio, Schroeder reflects on the world around him to make work that blends metaphor and narrative, asks questions, and motivates viewers (and himself) to think deeper.

Three mixed-media pieces by artist Schroeder Cherry: the first features a painting of young boy in red with slices of watermelon. Playing cards, keys and wire surround the boy with the words, "future voter." In the second, a young man sprouts from a can of Old Bay seasoning along with buttons, razor blades, shells, potter shards, and a key, with wire radiating from the entire piece. The third shows four drummers outside of rowhouses by the sea. A key rests at the top of each drum.

As Schroeder puts it, “Creativity is thinking, and thinking is creativity. If we expand understanding of what is and can be creative, the need for it becomes so clear. There is creativity everywhere, in every decision we make. Personally, I’m wired to make things, and I’ve been encouraged and supported since childhood in growing as an artist. I’m thrilled to help young people explore that as well.”

A collage consisting of a painting of a young man sitting on a sea wall, his back against a thick post supporting an ornate iron gate. Keys, evenly spaced, float through the clear sky. Playing cards and foreign currency are attached to the frame that surrounds it.

In schools, Schroeder performs fun, educational, and participatory puppet shows using hand-made hand puppets, rod puppets, and wooden cutouts. In his performance, Underground Railroad, Not a Subway, students learn about the Underground Railroad, how it operated, and the hardships that many overcame to make the historic network possible through the story of a boy who escaped from slavery. The powerful performance includes a call-and-response chant, bringing students into the show.

In the studio, Schroeder uses mixed media to create beautiful, thought-provoking pieces that encourage the viewer to ask questions and make inspiring connections. From cutting into wood and painting to working with canvas and sewing, Schroeder’s pieces jump off the wall (literally) and into our imaginations by evoking a feeling of wonder, of curiosity, and of hope. For example, his Future Voter series of paintings depicts soon-to-be voters in abstract worlds full of keys in the sky, playing cards, American flags, and more—all surrounded by fragments of picture frames pieced together in a stunning collage that makes viewers think.

Whether in the classroom or with his own work, Schroeder is always asking what’s the intention? with the art being created and experienced. “Asking this question encourages young people (and myself) to think deeper about the meaning behind the things we create and see,” he explained. “There is no right answer to the question, but in asking it, we’re further exploring our creativity and our relationship with our work.”

When asked what he might suggest to students or fellow artists, his answer is simple: learn from those around you.

“I’m always taking note of student responses to my performances, eavesdropping on attendees viewing my work at art galleries, and watching as friends and colleagues create art in mediums different from my own—whether it be theater, music, or visual art,” said Schroeder. “There are so many ways of creating. I love finding an energy I connect with and learning from it. It’s so important for kids to learn to be imaginative so that they can deal with and navigate life.”

Information about all of our teaching artists–including Schroeder Cherry–and their impactful programs can be found on our website.