OES Spotlight: Dustin Price

OES Spotlight: Dustin Price

Dustin Price did not take a direct route to OES, but now that he’s here, there is no place he’d rather be. As a fine arts instructor, he previously taught in schools all over the United States. “I was a tenure-track visual arts instructor,” Price said. “I taught at all sorts of schools, from doctoral universities, to community colleges, to rural liberal arts colleges. I was an associate professor at a college in Flint, Michigan and was there during the contaminated water crisis.” After that, Price took a position as chair of the Fine Arts Department at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Then he decided he wanted to take a year off and just be an artist.

He went home to his family’s 5,000 acre cattle ranch in western South Dakota. “I have a 2000 square foot studio with an attached apartment there, and I can walk outside and see the badlands on the horizon. It’s very isolated, windy, remote, and beautiful.” But word soon got out that he was back in town, and Price was offered a teaching position at the nearby university where he got his undergraduate degree. “They asked me if I would teach just one class, and that sounded refreshing, since I’d been a department head in Iowa. So I agreed, but two months later I was teaching a full load. And then Covid-19 happened.”

In the meantime, Price had reconnected with a partner who was living in Oregon. “We did the long-distance thing through Covid, but I promised her once it was over, I would move there.” And that’s what he did in 2023. “I left my job and came out here. It wasn’t a tough sell—I love the Pacific Northwest. I have a soft spot for Portland. I went to Washington State University for my graduate degree and I always wanted to move out here.”

Before leaving town, Price applied for a position at OES, thinking it would be a long shot. “I was driving a U-Haul truck into the city limits and my partner said, ‘As soon as you get here, you're going to get a job. Just watch.’ And I said, yeah, whatever. We got into the city limits and OES called for an interview,” Price laughed. “Two days later I was pushing boxes out of the way so I could do the online interview and two days after that, I was on campus interviewing. So it happened fast. It was serendipitous.”

When Price started at OES, he was a half-time Upper School arts teacher and half-time EC3 Design Center coordinator. He is now teaching 75% of the time and spends the remaining 25% coordinating projects in the EC3.

One of the most challenging classes he teaches is 3D Design and Prototyping. Price said that teaching technology, software, and 3D design simultaneously can be difficult, but also rewarding. He shared, “One of the things I love about OES is that all of my classes are university style. And the campus is set up like a college campus. I have to create all of my own curriculum, but I’m a nerd about that stuff. I love designing curriculum—coming up with cool stuff for the students to do has been fun and exciting.”

Does he think that 3D design is drawing more students into art? “Yes, over the past 17 years I am seeing more STEM individuals coming into the arts area because of 3D printing, laser cutting, and things like that. It’s like creating a bridge into some of those math and science areas.”

When asked what his favorite thing is about teaching at OES, Price responded, “Everything that I got burnt out by at the university level—the lack of support, the toxicity, the lack of community—none of that is present here. When I got to OES, it just totally blew my mind. I can’t explain to all my former colleagues how amazing it is to not only feel fully supported with what you want to do with the curriculum, but also given all the tools that you need, all the support, and then, this really amazing community.”

“The students surprised me,” Price continued. “You know, I came into this role with some stereotypes, having never worked with teenagers before. And everything that I was worried about has not come to fruition. The students at OES are incredible. I see students doing university-level work all over the place. In many of my classes, I am running the exact same curriculum I was running with undergraduate students. And the students here—I try not to tell this to them too much—they’re doing, on average, a little bit better than the undergrads,” Price laughed. “It’s super amazing,” he concluded. “The students at OES are so dedicated, focused, and hardworking. I love coming here every day.”