I was thrilled to find out my artwork and subsequent career trajectory have been added to the Women’s Studio Workshop web site. What is my connection to this group, let me explain . . .
In the Spring of 1983, I was a junior in college at SUNY Oswego majoring in studio art. One of my professors told me about two women she had met recently, Tatana Kellner and Ann Kalmbach, who were starting a non-profit studio for women artists to work out of somewhere near Woodstock New York and were looking for a summer intern . . . and would I be interested in driving to Rosendale to meet them and have an interview of sorts. Sure, I agreed. I remember thinking if my professor thought I was the right person for the job, I didn’t want to disappoint her and tell her otherwise. Besides, I was 21 years old and what else was I going to do for the summer?
I remember meeting Ann for the first time on a very rainy day in May in the “old house.” I must have brought some of my student artwork with me and a good attitude because she invited me return for the summer to intern. I would be sleeping in the attic next to the paper making studio-I know, a paper making studio in an attic-what could possibly go wrong? And I would earn something like 6 college credits. No, I would not be paid, but I would have full use of the studio. As it turned out, I was their very first summer intern, a source of pride if I am to be completely honest.
I can say this now after all these years: I was scared to death driving back there for the summer and kept wondering what had I gotten myself into. I remember arriving at nighttime and feeling my way around the now empty house as everyone had left for the day. Here I was all alone, a very naive girl from central New York, living in the attic of an old house where I would often wake up to someone rummaging around my room looking for their dried sheets of paper. I knew nothing of women’s art or their struggles with the art world (this was a few years before the Guerrilla Girls) and was totally unprepared for the experience of working with complete strangers. Oh yeah, and I don’t remember hearing anything during my interview about helping to build the new studio; I’ll never forget the day we poured the cement floor for the new building at Binnewater-half way through the truck dumping the cement, the skies opened up and it started raining cats and dogs. What a mess!
But, as I look back on this experience, I now see I was one brave young girl who didn’t let fear or nerves stop me. I knew I had something to learn from these women and I was determined to show them they made the right decision in offering me the internship. I remember working very hard, making good friends and finding myself emerged in a culture of caring women for which I have not know many times since.
I look back at this experience and can see all the difference it made in my life. I learned bookmaking from Susan King, the resident artist that summer and then went on the teach book arts at the Massachusetts College of Art and SACI International in Florence, Italy. Like Ann and Tatana, I earned a MFA (and a PhD) in art and art education and have taught over 6000 of my own students over the years with their sage advice and good humor riding on my shoulders (sorry about spilling the red pigment on the attic floor . . . . ) and I can say with all the certainty I can muster that I wouldn’t trade this experience in for the world.
Thank you Ann and Tatana for believing in me, for helping me find my voice, for pushing me to do my best work, and for all the efforts you have made over the years for countless other 21 year olds who are just as scared as I was but who want a chance to grow and challenge themselves. Let me know if you ever need me to talk to a young person who is thinking about interning at WSW for a summer. I’m happy to share my experience with the next generation and let them know how eternally proud I am to be a member of the WSW extended family.