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Building Bridges

One week ago today, I sat in the RISD Auditorium awaiting the 2015 graduation of my Painting and Drawing Certificate students. Events like this feel bittersweet. I always have a melancholy feeling saying goodbye to so many students at the end of the year. But really, graduation is a commencement, a beginning. 

For students like mine in the RISD Continuing Education Program, chances are this isn’t the first big “commencement” in their lives. Many of them are career people, parents, partners, grandparents, travelers, retired, in transition, former art students…artists…all of them curious. Curious about transforming themselves through deepening a creative process at this stage in their lives. They come to practice, to develop discipline. The rigor of the program builds their stamina for the moment they receive that diploma and they are on their own. No assignments. No deadlines. No weekly feedback.

I have a great respect for anyone with the courage to sign up for a RISD CE class, let alone enroll in a Certificate Program. It takes bravery as adults, coming into this program, to visually expose weaknesses and strengths to a group of strangers. In the studio, there is no place to hide. Everyone’s well established ego is on the line. You have to be willing to be vulnerable, to live outside of your comfort zone. The lessons learned here will enrich every aspect of one’s life.  

I tell my students that one of the greatest things about being in a RISD CE class with students from such diverse backgrounds is what you can learn from each other. I encourage them to strive for their own “personal best”. I source what each student’s authentic direction is and try to honor the wisdom in the room. They can be inspired by the excellence displayed by the experienced student and learn a lot from the beginner’s mind of the new student. When I have the good fortune to be in a room of beginners, I am forced to deconstruct the layers of what I know and present them in a clear, logical progression. This always clarifies something for me…it reminds me where I came from. This is a gift.

Each student at the graduation last week made the choice to give themselves the precious gift of space and time to explore and grow their creativity. However they arrived at RISD, they had to confront obstacles that young funded art students don’t have. The sacrifices they made to do this program, both financial and personal, took a lot of support from family and friends. I am humbled each time I walk in to a classroom and recognize what it took to get out at 7pm on a cold February night, let alone finding a parking place in the snowy streets of downtown Providence.

After the diplomas were given, at the reception, I had the chance to congratulate each one of my students. I am learning how very important this is. Recognizing accomplishment. I feel I have often shied away from that sort of attention upon completing something significant. Now I see that one should celebrate these things and bask, even for a few minutes, in a shared appreciation. The power of this communal positive energy is contagious and often fuels future endeavors. So for anyone who graduated this year…CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! May this good momentum be a bridge to your next accomplishment.

Until next time, recognize and celebrate your good work…CREATE.

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