CHS Teacher Turned Tik Tok Star: Geo Rutherford


Geo Rutherford, former Chelsea High School art teacher.

Former Chelsea High School art teacher Geo Rutherford has gained a large following on Tik Tok in the past year. After leaving Chelsea in 2018, Rutherford has expanded her horizons in order to promote her artwork in different ways.

Growing up in a world surrounded by complications, something that Rutherford learned was that the simplicity of art often helps one create an area of calm in an otherwise chaotic environment.

“I was lucky to be pretty good compared to my peers when I was in middle school and in high school,” Rutherford said. “I think it just really encouraged me to pursue art despite not actually being a very good artist.”

Rutherford stepped into the art world in high school by drawing and sketching what she considered fairly easy characters from anime and manga. Rutherford felt like these characters were easy to copy, and were a simple yet valid place to start off.

“If you can emulate cartoons or drawings that are more simplified, then you grow into your abilities to draw more realistically,” Rutherford said.

Graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a BFA [Bachelor’s of fine arts] plus a certification in teaching, Rutherford started her career at Chelsea High School in 2013. Rutherford was a student teacher in the art classroom at Chelsea while in college, and the following year took over as head of the art department.

Rutherford’s decision in leaving Chelsea was based on her wanting to continue her education in art and get her master’s degree. Rutherford just recently finished her degree of fine arts at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee; and while she was there, she majored in printmaking.

In 2020, Rutherford downloaded Tik Tok for the first time, after having it for a little while, she decided to delete it because she felt overwhelmed and out of place. However, after re-downloading the app for another try, Rutherford started to find her place.

“I’m a millennial,” Rutherford said. “I think that age group started to appear on the app right at the beginning of the pandemic, and that’s kind of when I started to spend more time on the app.”

Having so much time on her hands because of the stay-at-home mandates led Rutherford to start posting her art on the app, just hoping to share her art with the world. Her first viral video was the third real art video she posted in mid-July which got 1.2 million views. The video was on a project Rutherford was working on during grad school which detailed a sketchbook full of glass and vintage test tubes.

“The book had to do with things that I found on Great Lakes beaches,” Rutherford said. “And even though the video is pretty poor quality by today’s standards, it was a big hit because I called it a book but it was a box full of tubes and everybody was confused.”

Rutherford shared that she has found out the three ways to get attention on Tik Tok: you either need to make people mad, confuse them, or inspire them.

“With my next few videos after the viral one, I went the confusion route and told everybody about this book that I was making,” Rutherford said. “And nobody understood why it was a book.”

After making dozens of more videos over the course of the next two years, Rutherford, or as known as “geodesaurus” on Tik Tok, was able to gain a large following of 1.2 million followers. This October, Rutherford started a series called “Spooky Lakes” where she analyzed creepy lakes and posted them to inform her viewers. The series was so popular that she ended up getting a book deal for it.

“I have a literary agent and we’re working on getting a publisher for a spooky lake inspired educational book for middle school students that I’m going to illustrate and write,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford’s content is mostly Great Lakes education and Great Lakes artwork. Rutherford has a story to tell and this, along with hard work and amazing art, is one of the reasons why she has gained such a large following over the past two years.

“I intended on just turning around and going back to teaching,” Rutherford said. “I love teaching art at the high school level. [However,] because of Tik Tok, I’m a working artist and I’m making artwork that I’m selling like no other year before.”

While creating Tik Toks, Rutherford is teaching at the University of Milwaukee as an adjunct lecturer, teaching a class called 2D concepts. Rutherford has access to the printmaking studio in Milwaukee during the week, but on weekends she travels home to Madison, Wisconsin. Her art studio is in her parent’s basement and is a huge space that she enjoys working in regularly.

“I set it up during the pandemic and it’s a little hard to find another space that works for it,” Rutherford said. “But I’m spending all my time between Madison and Milwaukee and making it work.”

Rutherford’s journey from a student-teacher at Chelsea High school, to head art teacher, to a Tik Tok star, has been a crazy but adventurous one. If Rutherford keeps up the hard work there is no doubt that she will keep succeeding not only on Tik Tok but in everything she does.

“I think that’s important for young people to realize if you want to go into art, there’s [likely] no money in it,” Rutherford said. “[However,] if you can figure out a way to market yourself, leverage yourself, take a unique approach to the work that you’re doing, and inspire people, then there is most definitely money in art.”