Storyboard: Frank Lanza

Making sense of the gifts I’ve been given

There weren’t many distractions when I was a kid. There was no television, no internet. At the most, my friends and I would listen to serials on the radio. Of course, we had plenty of time on our hands.

Invariably, I would end up asking my Mom what to do with all my free time. Finally, she took an action that would set the course for the rest of my life: she put a pencil in my hand, and said, simply, “draw something.” In many ways I am still just a kid, wielding a paintbrush instead.

Years later, I was stationed in the Air Force on the East Coast, far away from my comparatively utopian home near San Francisco. My area of expertise was called “schematics,” which essentially boiled down to charting and graphing various radio/radar points for American military outposts. It wasn’t quite working with an oil and paintbrush, but hey, I was serving my country.

Shortly before America was nearing the end of the Korean War I would hear about ArtCenter through a woman named Carla Martel, the school’s registrar at the time. She told me about this incredible art school tucked away in the Hancock Park neighborhood of L.A. That was all I needed to hear. Carla warmly told me that she "would take care of me” (thank the Lord for the G.I. Bill) and proceeded to make an appointment for me to take a look at the school after I returned from service. 

To this day, from the moment you walk in the doors at ArtCenter, there is a certain kind of energy in the air. It’s this infectious passion for the process of pure creation that makes you feel as though you’re breathing rarified air. ArtCenter is a place where kids who aren’t always sure how to best use their gifts as makers can find an outlet for their expression and hone a discipline that will make them not just artists but also invaluable citizens of the world.

Your peers at ArtCenter inevitably become people you lean on the most. My peers and I came together, not through having a party on the same floor every night but through the demanding nature of the work itself and the thrill of devising a solution together. Our goal was not just to rise to the standard that the instructors set for us but to transcend it. To get praise from even one professor was considered to be major. I had always considered myself an artist, but my time at ArtCenter forced me to look inward and develop critical problem-solving skills I never even knew I possessed. I came as a creative, and I left as someone looking forward to having agency in the world.

I guess that in the end, everything I learned at ArtCenter is the main reason that going to work often feels like play for me, evoking that old maxim that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. There weren’t many days where I didn’t feel immensely grateful to be a part of it all. That’s why I continue to give back. Because ArtCenter gave me a foundation. And to be frank, it’s been a wonderful life I’ve lived, and the College has been a big part of it. 

Frank Lanza
BFA 1957 Advertising Illustration

ArtCenter is a place where kids who aren't always sure how to best use their gifts as makers can find an outlet for their expression and hone a discipline that will make them not just artists but also invaluable citizens of the world.

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