Tag Archives: school

!nsp!re – Walking Away From Your Dream

I wanted to share this article from Allison Ford on The Gloss. In it, she details her decision to “give up on her dream” of becoming an actress. Her words and perspective resonated with me; and I think anyone who has struggled with career choices could benefit from reading her story.

Here’s the thing: You can have more than one dream. So many who pursue a career in the arts become obsessed with the one thing they THINK they want that they become blind to all the other possibilities that are out there waiting to be explored.

This situation is exacerbated by parents and teachers who encourage students to “follow their dream” and “pursue their passion” despite being able to (sometimes) see that the student is poorly suited for the path they are choosing.

When I was young, I wanted more than anything else in the world to be an architect. It took a while for me to understand that unless I could muster some interest in math, my career as an architect was an empty, pointless pursuit. As it turns out, I loved the IDEA of being an architect; but not enough to put in the hard work it would take to become one.

That situation repeated itself with music. Again, I had a huge passion for music, living and breathing records, tapes, and going to see concerts. My parents bought me a guitar and after two years of practice, I had gotten to be… atrocious at playing guitar. I was unable to parse that musical dream into distinguishing between loving music and playing music.

And then, finally, there was art. Always art; since early in elementary school. I dove deep into sketching, painting, sculpture, oils, watercolors, graphics, batik, etc. I was going to be a great artist. Except for the fact that I wasn’t a great artist. I was fine but far from exceptional. That was a hard pill to swallow.

Once I got into theatre, I fell in love with scenery design. I had a teacher who encouraged that love and I made up my mind to be a set designer. My reasoning was that it was sort of like architecture and relied on my art training as well. But again, that dream died.

It died when I saw The Police on the Synchronicity tour in 1983 at the Houston Summit. That night, I saw moving lights for the first time (they were in their infancy). I didn’t know what THAT was – but I knew I wanted to do it. So on my way to becoming a lighting designer, I left at least four dead dreams in my wake; and I regret it not one single bit.

As it turns out, my chosen career combines elements of many of those discarded dreams into one pretty sweet package. Had I known that could happen 30 years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble starting down paths I then abandoned.

But each of those paths added to what I ultimately became, so they were worthwhile after all. I still engage my passion and love for architecture, music, and art; in my career and in my life. So, ultimately, they don’t feel like discarded dreams – they’re just elements that added to the whole.

Pursuing your dreams has to be done with diligence, care, and thoughtful self-examination. Note that I said dreamS. You can have more than one!



Today, the first day of spring, is also Arts Advocacy Day. In case you’ve missed it, the arts and humanities are on the chopping block in the proposed federal budget.

It comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that I’m a huge advocate for the arts. I found this link incredibly useful in that it offers a variety of ways to reach out, respectfully and thoughtfully, to your representatives. Your reps (remember, they work for US) need to hear from you regarding your opinion on matters that important to you.

If being in band shaped you into a better math student (and it probably did – they’re closely related); if being in theatre helped you overcome a fear of speaking in public; if sculpting helped you decide to become a mechanical engineer – then you benefited from an arts education.

If a play made you think, or a dance made you feel, or a painting made you question, or a symphony made you weep – then you have been touched by the arts.

If those things are important to you, your family, your children, your community, our culture and society, I urge you to connect with your elected representatives and explain specifically WHY it’s important that the arts remain a part of the federal budget.

There are a variety of links on the page that explain in greater detail what I’m talking about. Click on each one to gain a greater understanding of how the federal money is distributed, used, and matched.

Click here for the Arts Advocacy Toolkit.

Click here for Americans For The Arts.

future cre8tors – Things You Don’t Learn In School

Just a quick share today of this article, “12 Things They Don’t Teach You In School About Being A Designer” by Jeff Archibald on Fast Company. I found that all of these resonated with me in some way. The article did make me wonder why these things are glossed over in an educational setting. Do instructors not want to broach them? Are they unnecessary for learning?

I understand that higher learning is intended to be conceptual and to teach one how to learn and to grown knowledge. At some point, though, graduates have to get jobs (no matter which design field). Tips like these, as simple as some of them may seem, do not likely occur to a graduating student. I wish every school in every degree offered a single-semester course called something like, “Your Career, In Reality”. It would be geared towards giving students actionable advice about their chosen careers. It would feature people from their respective fields imparting knowledge about their careers; pitfalls and obstacles on they way, things they didn’t expect, what they like and don’t like, etc. I believe something like this would be invaluable to students. I know I certainly would have appreciated it!

!nsp!re – National Teacher Appreciation Week

This week (May 6-10, 2013) is National Teacher Appreciation Week. I had several teachers in my early education that inspired me tremendously. Two of them, perhaps not surprisingly, were art teachers.

In 10th grade, at Pelham High School (in Pelham, Alabama) there was Ms. Martha Doyal.  In 11th grade, at Dulles High School (in Stafford, Texas) there was Ms. Maresh.

I bring them both up because I think about the lessons I learned from them fairly often. While I no longer do oil or acrylic painting, or make batik prints, or draw in charcoal or conte crayon; I employ the principles I learned from them on a daily basis. Ms. Doyal questioned and challenged me constantly, in the best way possible. Her questions were designed to make me think; to make me see things more clearly; to drill deep down into the details.  Ms. Maresh’s influence was the opposite. She taught me how to lose myself in the work, to not get too deep into the weeds, to feel when the moment was right, and to not accept boundaries (self imposed or external). I do all of those things almost every day. I gauge whether or not I need to get deeper into an issue or whether its best to stay back and view the situation from a wider angle; I ask questions to understand more clearly; I continue to challenge boundaries. The only place I learned how to do these things that I do nearly every day was art class.

There were two other teachers that had a significant impact on my life. One was Ken Dyess, head of the drama department in high school. The other was Jay Burton, my lighting professor in college.

I got involved in drama through my girlfriend at the time (Sara Gaston, a wonderful actress). She introduced me to the “drama jocks”. My background was art; and I volunteered to help paint the set for “Barefoot in the Park”. Through several different conversations, Ken Dyess saw something in me that no one else did; and asked me if I would be interested in trying my hand at designing a set. That initial design gig (for “The Miracle Worker”) allowed me the experience of combining everything I love (art, architecture, and color) into one cohesive whole. Ken Dyess no longer roams the planet but I am eternally grateful that he saw my capabilities where I had no idea they existed.

By the time I headed to college, I really wanted to be a scenic designer. Jay Burton changed that (with a timely assist from The Police Synchronicity Tour, where I first saw moving lights). Through his lens, I learned where my true passion was. Thanks to his classes and his approach, I discovered an endless fascination with light that exists to this day.

The common bond between these four teachers was that they looked at me (and I’m sure their other students as well) and they didn’t see who or what I was at the time. They saw my potential future self. They saw what we could be. And they provided the guidance, the direction, the instruction, and the carefully placed words of wisdom that allowed me to find my own way down the path they could see. They possessed an incredibly powerful gift and they shared it with me; and I’m grateful to them every day for it.