K-State graduation year: 2015
Degree: Master of Fine Arts
Current employer: Indiana Wesleyan University and Indianapolis Art Center
Position: Adjunct Professor of Art and Teaching Artist
How many times, if any, did you change your major during college?
I changed one time during undergrad. I switched from Art Education to Graphic Design and Visual Art. After a couple of weeks in an intro to ed. class, I knew that k-12 education was not for me.
At first, choosing a major was very confusing. I was interested in art, and knew that it was something I was good at, but I couldn’t see how I would make a career of it. I was always more interested in studio art than graphic design, but because design interested me as well, I chose a double major. I felt that adding graphic design would give me more options after graduation, and it has.
I was a member of ADAI (Art Directors Association of Iowa) an organization for graphic designers and artists that held monthly events and exhibitions. I was also very involved in swing dancing. I did this multiple times per week and it was always my primary social outlet. During grad school I was involved in Pussycat Press Printmaking Society which held regular social events and fundraisers surrounding the art of printmaking.
I completed a graphic design internship during undergrad at the Iowa Events Center. While I did not enjoy it, it was a valuable experience. I learned that working for a large organization doing graphic design was not a path I wanted to take. While I still enjoy graphic design, I do it strictly as a freelancer. During grad school at KSU I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant. I taught many courses as instructor of record and assisted in several others. This was among the most valuable work experiences I had as a student. Not only did it pay for my graduate schooling, but it taught me almost everything I know about running and maintaining a print studio. It is the most related to what I do now.
My “first job” was and is more like a combination of many part-time and temporary positions. After grad school, I moved to a new city and began sending out applications to every university and art organization that I knew of in the area. Some of these places had job postings, and some of them did not. I sent my CV, work samples, student work samples, teaching philosophy, and cover letter to every area university with an art program. It took at least two full weeks to complete my first full round of applications, and each semester I check back in with area universities about adjunct openings they may have. In the spring 2016 semester I began teaching printmaking and art history courses at Indiana Wesleyan University. I got this job as a result of an unsolicited application I sent to their department head. They had not posted an opening, but were considering hiring an additional adjunct. I was fortunate enough to have very good timing in this case. In the semesters I do not teach at IWU I teach classes at Art Centers around the city. I began at the Indianapolis Art Center by applying to teach a youth summer camp. I did not particularly want this job, but I hoped it would lead to other things, and it has. I now teach a variety of printmaking classes for youth and adults at the Art Center.
Each day is different, and week to week my schedule varies a lot. Some weeks I teach night classes to adults, and other times I teach weekend workshops to youth and teens. When I teach at the University, I am typically there 3 days per week. Outside of teaching, I put a lot of time in planning for the courses I teach. This is usually done at home, and often on my own time.
I enjoy being around other artists, and seeing what the students make. I most enjoy having one on one conversations with students about their work.
I consider myself an artist rather than an art teacher. Teaching is something I do because I like it, and because it provides me with some of the resources I need for my studio practice. Because teaching is so time consuming, it often eats into my studio time. Finding a balance between the two has been a real challenge. On top of all the teaching I do, I have a professional studio practice which involves a great deal of writing, reading, making art, proposals and applications, and attending conferences and exhibitions.
Even though an M.F.A. is not necessary for being an artist, my time in graduate school helped me to grow in many unexpected ways. It was an irreplaceable experience, and has opened a lot of doors for me. That being said, the jobs that I have had are not exceptionally high in pay, and I am thankful that I did not have to pay for my graduate schooling. If you decide to pursue an M.F.A. with the hopes of teaching at the college level afterward, then go to a school or university that will fully fund your graduate schooling. At Kansas State I received a full tuition waiver and Graduate Teaching Assistantship with my acceptance into the program. Not only did this equip me with three years of valuable teaching experience, but it did not leave me with the crippling debt that so many graduates face today. I had a few options for graduate programs and ultimately chose Kansas State because of the funding it offered me. I had a really positive experience at K-State, and afterward I had the financial freedom to pursue a number of different things such as residencies and building a studio in my home. While it is not the most glamorous piece of advice, it is one that has had a huge impact on what I have been able to do since graduating. Get funding for graduate school!