All those words that begin with re seem intended to
return us to a different time in our lives. Taking their cues, here
I go looking back.
Regrets. Comes from the old Norse word “to weep” and the
French regreter, to mourn. Well, I mourn and weep over a lot
of things. Some of them silly, some of them profound. Overall my
regrets have always come when I haven't been prepared like I should
have been. Fortunately, there haven't too, too many of those times,
but when they happen, I say to myself, “You must learn to be
prepared for anything.” Because, sure enough, anything happens.
Like the time I had to figure out how to modify a stairway in a
two-story exhibit in Chicago's McCormick Place at 1:30 a.m. with a
cranky and tired union crew. I knew I should have studied
structural engineering before designing a space frame exhibit.
Bucky Fuller came to my rescue (at least in my head he did).
Reflections. Now, back to 1981, when I began teaching at
Art Center College of Design. I had been invited to join the
faculty by the wonderful Paul Hauge, then chair of graphic design.
He saw the work I was doing and thought I could teach a class in
exhibition graphics. Little did Paul know that from the time I was
12 until I went to college, I worked in a nursery school (talk
about good preparation for teaching at an art school). The Wagon
Wheel Nursery School—founded in Los Angeles in the early 1950s by a
brilliant early childhood educator—was indeed my training ground
for teaching. It taught me patience, storytelling, understanding
and the realization that you have to repeat things many times until
it sinks in. Of course, I said yes to Paul. I actually told him
that I loved to give crazy hard art assignments to the Cheerios (as
the 4- and 5-year-olds were called). We didn't do the usual
handprint turkeys that preschoolers usually bring home to put on
the refrigerator; we did full-on 3-D paper sculptures. Actually,
that's where I learned how cool paper was and that you could do
amazing things by folding, gluing and twisting it. Watch Frank
Gehry make models sometime and you'll know what I mean.
While at Art Center, I was the recipient of a brand new faculty
award, one that is given by the students to someone in each major.
The award was conferred with these words: With the perspective
of eight terms, the graduating students in Graphics/Packaging award
this certificate of recognition and appreciation to youfor
having made an extraordinary contribution to our education... I
remember getting the call notifying me that I was going to be the
first graphic design faculty member to receive this recognition. It
provided me a moment that I often reflect upon with both pride and
humility. That it happened two more times puts me on the edge of
cocky, but I quickly catch myself.
Having taught for all these years, I now have former students
from those early days who are teachers here at the Academy of Art
University in San Francisco. Some of my current students are
students of those students—a veritable family tree of teaching.
Many of my students have gone on to do amazing things, which calls
to mind the way they were as students. To teach is to learn, and I
know how much I have learned from the wonderful students whom I
have had over the years. It's funny, once you have taught someone,
there seems to be a special bond that occurs. You know the
struggles and see the success, and you know the part you played in
that triumph—which brings me to the next word in this exercise.
Rewards. Life is a constant source of joy and struggle,
and looking for rewards doesn't usually produce any results. The
best rewards come when they are least expected or sought after.
Like hearing from a former student who tells you with wild delight
that they got a wonderful job thanks to your help or how much your
teaching meant to them. So by now, I have taught a few thousand
students. Because of nature's gift of a good memory for faces and
names, I remember them all (so don't ask me for a list of all my
former students, because I just might give it to you). That
collection of wonderful people is the biggest reward of all.
Eric Heiman on Richard Schoenwald “Eric, is there a God?”
“Uh...it depends on your beliefs?”
“Eric, there's no God!”
This was my first interaction with Carnegie Mellon University
History Professor Richard Schoenwald in his course, Society and the
Arts. I was a 21 year-old, 4th year architecture student and my
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, graphic design, mentoring, students
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Section: Inspiration -
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For anyone who’s ever looked at someone else’s work and wished they’d done that, Stout’s reflections hit home.
Section: Inspiration -
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