continued from part 1
There's so much more to choosing a career path than deciding what you want to be when you grow up. What I needed at that time in my life was stability, and steady progress. That first college drafting class led me to a job at a civil engineering firm where I worked for 6 years, then to a county tax mapping department for 8-1/2 years. In time I managed to squeeze in a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree, served on a small village Planning Commission for a few years, then landed a job as a Planning Administrator for Lapeer MI. I went on to earn a Master of Public Administration degree, became AICP certified as a Planner, and was promoted to Planning Director where I’ve been for the past 10 years. That’s 30 years or so in a nutshell. (Update: I retired in October 2015.)
In 2005 when still working as the Planning Administrator, the then-director launched a project to obtain a building in our quaint little downtown right next door to the historic Art Deco PIX Theatre, with the intent of turning it into an art gallery. We worked out the design with an architect team, a management strategy with the City Commission and Downtown Development Authority, and got grant funding from the state for the building renovations. When I say “we”, it was mostly my boss, the ever-dynamic Matt Modrack who now works for the City of Brighton MI. (update: dadly, Matt passed away in 2016.) I was just very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to be a part of such a special project.
In October 2015, Gallery 194 opened its doors to the public.
A few months later, I took my first art class in over 30 years, Charcoal Figure Drawing. My inner artist had caught a glimpse of daylight from inside the subconscious closet where I had stuffed her, and was beginning to wake up and stretch.
Over the next few years I signed up for a few more classes through the Gallery: Studio Oil Painting, En Plein Aire Oil Painting, Pen and Ink Drawing, Acrylic Painting, Mixed Media …. I participated in some community art projects and art-related fund raising events …. joined a few on-line artist groups …. gradually became more confident to experiment with more media and put myself out there as an artist …. And so, here I am.
Since coming out of the art closet and showing my work over the last couple years, I've had a few people ask me, "What's your background?" I'm pretty sure that question generally means did I go to art school, and if so where, or was I self-taught? It's really not easy to answer ... the short answer is sort of "a little bit of both, and a whole lot of other things." Is that a good enough answer? I'm not sure. I don't want to bore people with information they weren't really seeking. But I can write it here, since as I previously mentioned, no one reads this anyway.
I was an artsy kid. Always drawing, and received recognition from teachers and in art contests enough times to understand I had some talent. In first grade, it was a postage stamp design for the town of Chicken Alaska. In fourth grade, it was my poster for a Thanksgiving fundraising event. Teachers made lovely comments when I illustrated reports and other assignments beyond what was required. In 9th grade, a couple of my pieces were selected to go on to a regional art show, and one received an honorable mention. In 10th grade, one of my pieces was stolen from our HS art show. Stolen. Who the heck would steal a 15-year-old's artwork? Today I wish I still had that drawing, or at least a picture of it. My art teacher compared it to Georgia O'Keefe. I didn't even know who she was at the time. I also wish I still had the 3-d oversized fabric sculpture I made of an ear, complete with macrame earring, which I gave away. At the time I didn't care. By age 15 my interests were starting to go in other directions ...
Any fleeting ideas I had about going to art school flew right out the window when I foolishly decided to get married, way too young.
I've also always been into needle & fibre crafts, which I attribute to genetics. My mother is an accomplished seamstress. (Someday I will tell her story; it deserves its own post. Or several.) I learned how to sew and crochet and embroider before I was 10. Then later, macrame - (hey, it was the 70s!), jewelry making, quilting ... this is how I satisfied my creative urges for many years.
Along the way there were a few college classes, a stint in the Army, and a few more college classes. I was focused on the Graphic Arts curriculum at local community college until I tried my hand at Architectural Drafting. When your drafting teacher tells you that your work is better than his, and then offers to help you find a job, you take notice. By that time I had a baby and a crumbling (abusive) marriage, and a drafting job sounded like a ticket out. So I took it. I worked full time at a civil engineering firm and earned an Associates Degree in Architectural Drafting in my spare time. During that time I also got divorced, moved back in with my parents, fell into a depression, met a new guy, climbed out of depression, bought a house, married said new guy, gained 3 stepdaughters, and tried to figure out what to do next.
to be continued ....