When I was first in college, way back in the 1970s, I was an Art major at the City University of New York. Four years of drawing, painting and sculpture in the classic tradition – pure bliss. The day before graduation, you’re a young artist, full of potential; the day after graduation, you’ve got a completely unemployable BFA degree.
All I wanted to do was to make Art the way we were trained to make it. I didn’t want to teach Art, I didn’t want to do commercial Art (now called graphic design) and I didn’t want to be a gallery assistant. Sure, I toyed with the idea of getting an MFA, but I had no income. The thought of becoming yet another New York starving artist was not appealing. So, I decided to set Art aside for a while, get a full-time job and go for a Master of Science at night. It was in a totally unrelated field: Information and Computer Science, but one in which I knew I could get a good paying job.
A lucky break lead from one of my professors at Columbia University led me to a 6-month consultancy at the United Nations to set up a database and email system (remember this was 1984!). Somehow, I turned that short gig into a 30-year career in the international arena. They sent me all over the world and I even got to live in Kenya, Botswana, and Rwanda for a decade. The career in international informatics was fantastic and I loved the lifestyle and the financial rewards. But I had no real passion for computer science.
Upon retirement, my goal was clear: time for Art again! But ouch!?! I couldn’t just pick up a pencil and draw because my hand simply wouldn’t do what my mind wanted it to. I had to go back to STEP ONE. I needed a flexible program to refresh my old skills and learn new skills. That’s when I discovered Montgomery College, both the Community Arts and the regular undergraduate Art courses. Even though I am noncredit, I basically undertake the same fundamental course of study in drawing, painting, and sculpture that the undergrads take.
I thought it would take 1-2 years to regain my skill level to what it had been when I was a 20-something. YES! It came back! And now, even better, I have a lifetime of experience and knowledge to bring to Art, which would never have been possible otherwise. If I had only done Art, I’d probably be burned out by now but instead, with the help of MC, it is all fresh. After I took just 1 or 2 courses, they published one of my drawings in the Community Arts catalog, and it was such a tremendous boost, encouraging me to submit work for shows. Now I truly feel like a re-emerging artist, and I’m moving towards my original goal.
Next week: Can Art Be Taught?