Alumnus Spotlight: Nick Giles

Nick Giles | Jean-Michel Basquiat mural by Cretin-Derham Hall Senior Oliver Rogers
Nick Giles | Jean-Michel Basquiat mural by Cretin-Derham Hall Senior Oliver Rogers

2007 graduate teaches visual arts at Cretin-Derham Hall

Nick Giles, 34, a 2007 graduate of Inver Hills Community College, is a visual arts educator at Cretin-Derham Hall, a private Catholic coeducational high school in St. Paul. Nick is also a Cretin-Derham Hall alum, having graduated in 2003. He earned an Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) degree from Inver Hills and went on earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in K–12 Visual Arts Education from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls.

Nick loves teaching art, and he covers a wide range of subjects with his students, including graphic design, drawing, painting, ceramics, photography and more. The best aspects of his job as a visual arts educator are the connections he makes with his students.

“I am not the top educator in my field, but I really think the connections I make with my students to make them feel like important individuals are far more important than feeding them content,” Nick said. “I think my students can leave my room with an appreciation of who they are, what their work is, and a sense of enjoyment from the arts.”

Benefits of studying art at Inver Hills

“Inver Hills is an institution based on personal connections and guidance with small class sizes, caring teachers, and a cozy campus. Without those attributes of Inver Hills, I wouldn’t be the successful adult I am and where I am in life today.”
— Nick Giles, 2007 Inver Hills Alumnus, Visual Arts Educator at Cretin-Derham Hall

Frida Kahlo mural by Cretin-Derham Hall Senior Danny O’Connor

More about Nick…

Nick is married and his wife, Maddy, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, earning her PharmD in 2013. Maddy works as a pharmacist at Prime Therapeutics in Eagan, Minnesota. Nick and Maddy have a 12-year-old calico cat named Gilmore.

In his free time, Nick enjoys woodworking and graphic design projects as well as working with stained glass. He coaches the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders boys Ultimate Frisbee and girls volleyball teams. He plays league Ultimate Frisbee, volleyball and basketball. Nick and Maddy reside in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Nick Giles Q & A

Nick Giles
Nick Giles

What is one thing every art student should know?
There are so many opportunities and careers available in the arts, not just being a full-time, practicing artist. Don’t be scared about the stereotype of the “starving artist.” You can be so much more.

What is your favorite artistic medium?
Too many to choose from. Going into education, I was taught to be a jack of all trades, and I have taken that into my lifestyle. I love throwing on the wheel still, creating drawings, shooting photos, making stained glass, and designing and building anything with my hands.

What do you like best about teaching art?
Being able to make students realize that creativity in the arts is as important as core subjects like math/science/English, even though the general public may not recognize it.

What is the most challenging aspect of teaching art?
With art being so subjective, you have to have your fundamentals down to explain why something might be great, good or bad, or how to improve it. Everyone has an opinion, but being able to teach students how to back up their opinions is as important as having them.

Three words that describe you as an art educator:

What advice would you give students thinking about making art or art education their career path?
If you have a passion for people and spreading what you love, then it could be a perfect fit. But don’t forget that having patience is important, along with working with others, under appreciation from the general public, and long hours. Some of those aspects are overthought when you just think of the joy of teaching kids.

Who is your favorite artist?
Chuck Close is one of my favorites. He has multiple disabilities that he has to work through and that perseverance makes his work even better. He makes large-scale portraits of only people he knows, because he has “face blindness” and doesn’t recognize people. He is also a quadriplegic and has a special setup to create his works.

I also enjoy Vincent van Gogh because of his story as well. Being so avant-garde in his style, and he was way ahead of his time. Shunned by artists, shunned by the people, never selling a painting, personal struggles and after his death becoming the most famous painter of all time.

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Nick Giles 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee and basketball
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Hawaii and visit the sets of Lost
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Three-week trip to Europe, five countries and visiting historical places and seeing famous art/architecture
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay off debt and family members debt 2) Build vacation and forever home 3) Quit job and be a full-time artist
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Game of Thrones
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Avengers: End Game
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Leave a positive lasting legacy within my family and community
  8. Your national bird if you could have one: Grey owl
  9. Dream occupation: Hollywood set designer/builder
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Kevin Garnett
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Consistent 300-yard drive in golf
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Making people realize what science is and knowing that climate change is a real thing, and also that climate and temperature are two different things…
Learn more about the A.F.A in Art and art courses at Inver Hills by contacting:

Rob Kolomyski
Painting and Drawing Faculty

More about the Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) at Inver…

Designed for transfer, our Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) degree allows you to establish yourself in one of three fundamental artistic pursuits: Art, Music and Theatre. Our Art department provides instruction in six important focus areas, including ceramics, drawing, glass, photography, 3D artwork, sculpture and painting.

Both the Music and Theatre departments deliver opportunities to participate in live performances, the former in ensembles, the latter in college-production plays.

1 Comment

  • I work with Mr. Giles and he is a blessing to the Cretin-Derham Hall community. He is personable and works well with students and staff. We are fortunate to have him.

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