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  • Emily Passman

College, Art, and Off to See the World

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

College was not on my radar or in “planning” my life. I really had no clue. My first college experience was at a small “junior college” in Franklin, MA. Dean Jr. College. When I “enrolled” - I am not even sure there was an “application” process. They asked me my “major”. What did that mean? Ya mean, what do I love the most? Art! Yes, I guess that will be my major! I was so immature. What a lucky “accident” that was! That year, there happened to be a collection of teachers in the art department at Dean who had all recently finished the Museum School at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. An energetic, highly talented, and committed group. A drawing teacher, a design teacher, and a strict and relentless painting instructor. I learned artistic discipline, perspective, how to see, how to draw, and to be on time and care. (Doors closed when classes began, and no entry allowed after). Just what I needed.

The grading process was extremely strict! We’d spent hours on bone charts for “figure drawing” class. Mr. Fulgoni circle with red sharpie when there was a “smudge”, or something out of proportion. There were 11 art majors and I spent two years with these other creative types making art, working harder than ever before and learning the language surrounding creativity. I was in heaven. For my final project I chose to study “photo-realism” and painted the family cottage with my parents 1950 Plymouth in front. I used a slide projector to get accuracy and had never worked harder on anything so far in my life.

My painting teacher encouraged me strongly to apply to the Museum School in Boston. He helped me with my portfolio, and held my hand through the process. I was rejected and very unhappy about it. WHY did I not go on to apply elsewhere? I “should” have gone to Mass Art. (That’s one of the life-long “should” I have held on to). Why did I let this rejection be the stopper? It’s easy to blame adults for not guiding me. Maybe they did.

Over that summer I went to Martha’s Vineyard, lived in the family cottage and taught kids art at the Chilmark Community Center in a small cabin behind the main building which was built that summer, and smelled of fresh wood. They included me in the ordering of the art supplies and I felt mature, happy and fulfilled. It was my little art cabin and I loved encouraging and helping kids make art.

My love for teaching painting to others was felt earliest when I got jobs as an arts counselor in summer programs on Martha’s Vineyard, and still to this day the environment which makes me feel the most connected to my artistic and creative truth is in a studio doing demonstrations, speaking about what gives me joy in the painting process, and how I see.

I had no fall school plans, no continuing education ideas, and was at a loss for what to do. At the end of the summer I left on a “Grey Rabbit” bus, a hippie bus, an old Greyhound converted into piles of mattresses, lounging areas, and about 15 other 20-somethings, all strangers to me, which I remember feeling safe and excited about! Besides family camping adventures, It was my first trip across this beautiful country. Through the swirling pot smoke I learned to juggle, made friends, and trusted my adventure. My parents were supportive of this, though very worried of course. The last thing my mother did at the send off at the train station was to hand me a box of condoms and reiterate what a cult is, and what to watch out for.

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