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Foundations in Art

The John Cooper Art Barn, Bob Mosier, Structure and Sculpture, Past and Future

The John Cooper Art Barn is undoubtedly an important piece of The Woodlands History, nestled independently at the back of the school, from the beginning, the barn has been a hive of creativity, a beating heart brimming with curiosity, inspiration, discovery and experimentation.

The John Cooper School was opened in 1988 to just over 1200 “pioneers”, The Woodlands Founder Mr George Mitchell, who had reserved 43 acres of land for such an educational facility, cut the ribbon and the school was officially open.

The art barn has a soul of its own, perhaps because it stands alone, perhaps because it’s been used to promote independent thinking and originality since it was built. Opening the doors of the grey, cedar clad barn, there is a surge of artistic excitement and a motivation to create.  This inspiration continues and builds from room to room, each with its own purpose and personality. Remnants of past artistic endeavors can be seen high on the shelves which stretch all the way to the ceiling, boxes, drawers and racks full of useful, artful components and collected bits and bobs line the walls, paintbrushes, tools, sawdust, art glass, metal, rope, and an abundance of countless, ambitious works in progress.  When the rooms are busy with students there is a buzz of energy, a busy, industrious enthusiasm, an excitement of working in the arts, an expressive, forward-thinking intensity. 

Visual Arts Chair Bob Mosier has been at the John Cooper School since 1999, and this dynamic creative atmosphere is his doing. Over the years he has taught everything from drawing fundamentals, to painting, fiber arts, ceramics, printmaking, photography, sculpture and digital arts, to name but a few. “Art is about teaching you to think” he states, “a good teacher shouldn’t be sweeping every stone from the path, we learn from our mistakes and experiences. It is about problem solving skills and nonlinear thinking”.  His approach is not one of teaching art but teaching techniques, “art is something from within, which we can express once we know how to use the techniques to do so.” He states. This has led Cooper students to specialize in techniques such as welding, forging, and using power tools as well as heavy machinery to create. “I teach students to focus, to look and observe, to see what is really there, not what they think is there”.  

Bob Mosier explains that his philosophy in teaching art creates a connection between all the subjects studied at school, that art is all encompassing, it’s music, literature, food, science, puzzles and conundrums, movement, dance, location, environment, space, it’s not an isolated subject, it’s an expression of who we are as individuals.

The John Cooper School has a wonderful array of sculptures on campus, two are by Bob Mosier, who has degrees in both photography and sculpture, the rest represent the work of individual students or groups of students working together. Each sculpture begins with a drawing, then a 3D maquette is made, measuring around 11”, and then it builds and develops along the way telling its own story and becoming part of the school’s history. The two Mosier sculptures being - “Ascend” a welded steel sculpture consisting of a tower of abstracted steps and books which lean together, representing the student body and formation of a group, an homage to the class of 2007.  “Convergence”, also welded steel, is situated in the central courtyard of the school, abstracted forms of tuning forks, crystalline structures and a rocket ship about to launch, was created in 2016. Two important sculptures with important narratives addressing ambition and the value of community. A selection of these pieces are featured in the book “The Woodlands Outdoor Sculptures: installations from 1974 – 2009”, written by Anthony Motto.

Many Cooper alumni students who have studied in the art barn under Bob Mosier’s guidance have moved on to do great things, thanks to his unique approach. Developing and designing everything from prosthetics to computer apps, as well as being established practicing artists.

I was fortunate enough to tour the school, the art barn and the sculpture collection with Bob Mosier, and it is obvious that he is a much-loved respected educator, students greet him warmly whenever he is around. Finishing up his last few days, before retirement, it seems only appropriate that he and the art barn should exit as one. “I will miss being in the room with the smartest people every day” referring to his students.

An artist never retires, and there are many, many materials and new techniques to be discovered and explored, “I’ve never found a material I didn’t like” says Mosier, who is himself, an internationally exhibiting artist, his exploration has taken him from welding steel to current experimentations in fiber art, using the media of freeform machine embroidery, which he builds up in multiple layers of threads. Working with 3 – 4 sewing machines at a time, the threads are treated like paint to create depth and form in his soft, sculptural pieces. Mosier’s current schedule includes studio time between 4.30 am and 6.30 am, where he works from his home studio surrounded by nature, his horses and dogs. 

The art barn, which has been part of the creative journey for so many, will be replaced by a larger, spacious, up to the minute department adjacent to the exquisite Performing Arts Center. The memories made in the art barn, mini-mesters, open houses, and creative ambience will relocate to the new space, using the existing educational art foundations and philosophies as a building block. Once deconstructed, the beams from the building have potential to reemerge as a series of sculptures, it seems only apt that Bob Mosier would express his artistic voice and creativity in reinventing these beams which are part of the original infrastructure.

We can’t wait to see the new department and expressions of talent, inspiration and artworks created within, and experience the great oak that this little acorn has become.

  • Bob Mosier and The John Cooper Art Barn
  • Bob Mosier with his sculpture "Ascend"
  •  "Convergence", made from welded steel by Bob Mosier
  • Bob Mosier with the iconic Art Barn
  • A glimpse inside The Art Barn
  • A Sculpture made from natural and man made materials
  • A studio full of creative energy
  • Touring The Art Barn with Bob Mosier
  • Works in Progress
  • Sculptures in mixed media
  • A Bob Mosier fiber art wall sculpture
  • A quilt created from t-shirts, appliquéd and printed fabrics
  • Bob Mosier with his sculpture "Ascend"
  • An array of projects in different stages of completion
  • Shelves full of creativity
  • Welding Equipment used to create metal sculptures
  • Kilns for ceramic works
  • Another work station in The Art Barn
  • The wonderful Art Barn!
  • A Sculpture made from natural and man made materials
  • The wonderful Art Barn!
  • Bob Mosier and The John Cooper Art Barn
  • Sculptures in mixed media
  • Bob Mosier with a turned wooden piece