The No. 3 artist in Pittsburgh has a black belt, played drums in a country band, and teaches at Baldwin

Graphic design teacher James Wodarek does contemporary art in his free time.

Eliza Swanson and Allison Huschak

Graphic design teacher James Wodarek has a black belt and once was the drummer in a country band that played at Heinz Field. He’s also an artist whose work has been exhibited worldwide. 

Now, according to City Paper’s Best of 2022 readers awards, he’s the No. 3 visual artist in Pittsburgh.

Wodarek is a contemporary artist who started his art career at a young age. 

“It’s what I’ve always done,” Wodarek said. “Everyone has their passion and their thing. Art is my passion.” 

Wodarek placed third in the City Paper awards behind multi-year winner Bob Freyer and second-place Baron Batch, a retired Steelers running back who has become well known as an artist via social media. 

“It’s nice to be included because Pittsburgh is a very competitive art community,” Wodarek said. 

Baldwin art teacher Toni Rogiero described Wodarek’s art style.

The band had some high-profile moments: One of their songs, “Countrified,” was played at the NHL all-star game, at a NASCAR race, and on the TV show Nashville. 

“Mr. Wodarek uses a variety of media in order to create his work and the works fall into a pop art style,” Rogiero said, “I like how he ties in what is relatively going on in our society and the world, but not in a heavy way. It stands out because he does things differently than an ordinary artist would.”

Wodarek has contributed to over 45 exhibitions and is still making art. Wodarek holds a gallery show annually in New York City and will have a new collection shown in January. 

As for his other interests, Wodarek has a black belt in ninjutsu and is a certified tai chi instructor.

“Once I got into it I just loved it and kept going,” Wodarek said, “I think they’re both forms of mindfulness.”

As a musician, he was the drummer in The Stickers, a band that featured his brothers and that was an opening act at a country music concert at Heinz Field. Though Wodarek hasn’t performed in years, the band had some high-profile moments: One of their songs, “Countrified,” was played at the NHL all-star game, at a NASCAR race, and on the TV show Nashville

At Baldwin, Wodarek teaches graphic design, digital illustration, and digital photography. He also is the sponsor for the yearbook and chair of the Fine and Practical Arts Department.

Wodarek’s art helps shape the art of his students. Senior Payton Mackey, a senior editor in the yearbook club, believes that Wodarek has impacted Baldwin’s art program and students. 

“I think he has shown kids that art is what you make it to be,” Mackey said, “He has changed how kids see photography as a whole just by showing his passion for it.”

Rogiero agreed. 

“Mr Wodarek gets the utmost creativity and craftsmanship from his students,” Rogerio said.