Interview with JESSICA ROSE GASPER By: Janel Spiegel


First off, please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into Art?

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was…different. My imagination was quite extensive, from being a teacher with a chalkboard for my dollies, to planting jelly beans in the woods with a crystal ball in hand, and building playhouses out of cardboard boxes. I remember knowing how to color inside the lines, and that my elementary art teacher would show my artwork to my peers frequently as an example of what a project ‘should look like. I’ve entered every poster contest I could get my hands on, trying hard to impress my parents by gaining media recognition as early as first grade. Yet, in high school, I truly started to grow as an artist. Scholarship competitions, classes at the Baum School of Art, local juried art shows, murals, and commissions in my community were some of the things I pursued as early as sophomore year. In fact, anytime I could escape class to be creative I was there!

When I began my undergraduate at Kutztown University, after transferring from Arcadia University where I studied Speech Communications with the goal of being in mass media, I started to understand myself a little more each year. It took six years for me to receive a BFA in Communication Design, with a concentration in Advertising, and a BS in Art Education. I live without regret, and I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up in my career.

What made you decide to choose The Alternative Gallery?

I’m the type of person who either can’t fall asleep because the gears are always turning or wakes up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas for conceptual series for my personal portfolio, and who scribbles out contemporary lesson plans for school projects that I hadn’t even seen on Pinterest. So, when I took a tour with Brandon Wunder through the Cigar Factory/Alternative Gallery, and felt my soul wake up after seeing other artists’ work on the walls, who produce that same mindful madness, I instantly threw down a deposit. It was an out-of-body experience, really—I felt like I was finally “home” with a family who would actually accept me for ME.

Please tell us about the Artwork you do?

I always had a passion for Art—I didn’t think much of it until I started to do it for myself and not just as a job. It comes natural to me. Some people say it’s a gift. Others call it talent. For me, it’s been a blessing…but it hadn’t always been that way. The artwork I’ve done as a teen has morphed into a more mature young woman, and it reflects in my portfolio.



What personal achievements have you been working towards?

  • There are many, many things I would like to achieve. My list includes the following goals, hopes and dreams:
  • Finish my Master’s in Education at Wilkes University, then take continuing credits at Kutztown University in Art.
  • Write and publish a text book on the “Fusion of Art & Design” for Art Education majors, which includes tried-and-true project examples I’ve done in the classroom
  • Publish a portfolio-style book of the many local landmarks I painted in Carbon County
  • Have an online presence, besides Etsy, with a “storefront” to sell and ship prints of my work all over the world! It’s a work-in-progress 🙂
  • Move to Hawaii, or at least a warm beachfront property for my Pet Portrait business and/or sell a “sunset/sunrise series.”

Why did you decide to do Pet Portraits?

I decided to do Pet Portraits after I realized how much I loved my pets! I wasn’t allowed to have pets as a child, so when I moved out on my own, I wanted unconditional love, and I feel so lucky to have found it with my two dogs, Molly & Bailey, a mixed breed of red panda/bulldog/beagles. I never knew (or had the chance to find out) just how much an animal could change my life for the better. I was in a dark place until I bought my fur babies—bringing a dog’s personality to light, through painting and drawing people’s pets, is a beautiful thing, and it touches my heart when I see a client’s face after capturing the character if their beloved animal(s).



Who are some of your favorite Artists?

Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher are probably my favorite well-known artistic geniuses, but the artists I adore most are my students. They inspire and impress me on a daily basis, and I truly feel lucky to be their teacher—it’s like being a rock star and inviting your fans to the stage to jam with you, but instead of instruments, we use art supplies, LOL.

Who inspired you professionally?

My high school art teacher, Ron Debias, was an amazing artist whom I worked hard to impress, and I hope to instill a similarly intense fervor in my students as I enter my 4th year of teaching at Lehighton Area School District, developing an innovative Communication Design program, exclusive locally.

My other main inspiration comes from music. There is certainly a serenity in silence, but by listening to passionate musicians like Maynard James Kennan in Tool, Eddie Vedder in Pearl Jam, Shannon Hoon in Blind Melon, and female artists like Jewel, there is a light inside me that shines through my art unlike no other.

What advice would offer to people in Art, Education and Life in general?

A creative person is able to imagine the most unimaginable. They are able to pretend, play, and pursue their dreams. Yet, it is those who make turn their goals into a physical representation through art, and the like, that deserve respect for following their heart.

Contrarily, one can easily press themselves into a mold of creating works that people will buy, making art that looks aesthetically pleasing, when really, Art is so much more than something that seems “realistic.” As I near the end of my twenties, teaching art to the most tech-savvy generation yet, I’ve started to break out of that muffled, muted mold. My classroom motto is: Dare to be different, but stay true to yourself. After all, we live in the most socially synced society in history! As Dr. Seuss said, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Who would be your dream person to work with?

I’m living the dream already! I choose to work with the future artists of America—my students.

How do you think Arts Fest 2015 will help the Lehigh Valley?

I think Arts Fest 2015 will awe and inspire visitors from the Lehigh Valley, which in turn will help the area become a more beautiful and appreciated place. My students are excited for it, and I hope to see them and other youth of society soaking in the stimulating music, art, and other artistic ventures at Cedar Beach Park September 11th, 12th, and 13th.

What projects will you be working on next?

  • Projects in my vault that are almost complete include:
  • A “Classic Monster” series (Frankenstein is finished, Wolfman is nearly done, and the Bride of Frankenstein is next!)
  • Mannequin modeling & makeovers for haunted houses, specifically Halls of Horror in Palmerton, PA (
  • Dave Matthews from Dave Matthews Band, and other celebrities/musicians I admire and respect most
  • The 27 Club
  • A “Chasing the Sun” series
  • New lesson ideas for school-related projects, such as a “Selfie Shuffle Stack” in my Photography class at Lehighton High School and a “Top Model/Project Runway” competition in my Visual Communications class
  • …I could go on and on, LOL









Here are some other interviews by Janel Spiegel

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