Designer / Artist / Educator / Mentor
IN THE BEGINNING: FOUNDATIONS IN ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN
Like most young people, I followed the wishes of well-meaning guardians and set art making aside to study something more "practical". I was good at math, good with my hands, and good at drawing. So, my early professional background is varied in design and architecture, stemming from my first exposure to drafting at Mark Twain in Brooklyn, then architecture classes in Stuyvesant High School. At the School of Architecture at Carnegie-Mellon University, my skill for model building was noticed. Before completing a degree, I started working full-time for firms in Pittsburgh. I worked as an architectural model builder for various firms in Pittsburgh, and then Boston. While in Boston, I became the first, sole full-time model builder at Payette, and it was my professional home for several years.
LEARNING FROM COMMUNITYHowever, I felt the urge to expand. The years from 2009 to 2012 mark an important period when I joined the Studio for Interrelated Media (SIM) at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston for my BFA in Multimedia and Performing Arts. I say “joined”, because the program was unlike any other community I had ever been a part of. The program had an eclectic mix of students who were painters, DJs, movement performers, writers, singers, photographers, sculptors, videographers, etc. who all gathered together, produced and performed shows, and supported each other as a family. “Shared experience creates community,” was the mantra of the studio. Being a part of SIM not only helped me explore my art, but it opened my heart to people beyond my generation and changed everything I had thought about how people young people learn independently, and from each other. This later greatly influences my pedagogy as a professor of architecture.
AS A DESIGNER FOR MARKETINGIn the years following, I became a mother and worked successfully as a graphic designer in Marketing for the Connecticut Science Center, crafting their evolving brand, while working on my own independent photography and installation projects. It was there that I became much more conscious of the design of persuasion, and the intricacies of crafting messages for influence in both text and image. It was also there that I began to craft materials for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, which was the other crucial inspiration for me to return to architecture as an educator.
AS AN EDUCATOR OF YOUNG ADULTS
In 2016, I jumped on an opportunity to teach architecture at University of Hartford for the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture; a position I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from. As a faculty member, I taught all new students woodshop safety, architectural graphics, architectural design foundation, and electives in model building and graphic applications. I also managed the Woodshop and Digital Fabrication Lab. In those roles, I was inherently a part of every architecture student’s college experience in the university, and in a sense, a member of their studio family.
With a hunger to explore alternative pedagogies, I like to combine my experiences in arts and design into methods that frame architecture as messaging that engages all senses. Thus, I combine traditional architecture exercises with exercises found in art and dance; whether is it literally moving large objects to define form and space, framing form and space with our own bodies, or walking through spaces to observe qualities of light and sound that lead to feeling.
As an educator, my mission is to reach students that social systems typically neglect. I was not a model student, as a young person from little means and an emotionally unstable single-parent household. But as an adult in my forties, I could not help but wonder what would have been if I had been provided different guidance at an early stage. My goal is to give students not only the college experience that I didn’t have, but the one they need for now and their future. With my combined experiences, I practice teaching to empathy, with empathy, for empathy. So, I draw on my personal experiences as a student of architecture and design, in contrast to those as a student in art in SIM, and also as a student of life.
AS AN ARTIST, IN A TIME OF DIVISION
In 2017, I was invited by SIM to give a presentation about what I was doing with myself after graduation. I presented a happy story of merging my architectural past with a “SIM” attitude in my teaching. During the Q&A session, one of my former professors asked me, “When you were here, you were prolific, in all sorts of media. You made these very personal works... ones that made me cry. Do you miss making work that move people to tears?” That question has haunted me since. Have I been selling myself short? Is there more art for me to make beyond the occasional travel photography shoot?
After the passing of my mother in 2018, death, cancer, healthcare, and evolving parent-child relationships, are themes that have been actively on my mind. In the 1980s, I grew up as an only-child to a single mother in Brooklyn, NY. For as long as I can remember, my mother was in and out of hospitals over the course of her life for various ailments. As a child, I left my mother in tubes on a bed in the emergency room of Coney Island Hospital while I took the bus home alone with her belongings. She battled breast cancer twice, with a mastectomy and lumpectomy, and at the age of 76, her life ended due to complications with pancreatic cancer. Left behind is a memory trove of years of hospital visits, healthcare questions, and observations of others to draw from. Looking back, I realize that narratives are at the core of my art practice. Although these narratives are very personal, they touch upon common feelings and emotions that all humans have. Since all humans have these experiences, I am revisiting my art practice to explore these themes to generate works that strike a chord; to highlight our interconnectedness, particularly given the current divisive social climate.
I have since completed my MFA in interdisciplinary art and my thesis Evidence of Memory—a study of loss, grief, and memorializing. While I have relocated to New York, I plan to return to teaching, while pushing my art further.