Storyboard: Jeff Riley

ArtCenter runs in the family

ArtCenter was always talked about in our house. Years ago, my wife Miriam and I took our daughter Jessica to visit Hillside Campus when she was just a small kid. Fast-forward many years later, and I am proud to say she is now an ArtCenter graduate.

ArtCenter was not on Jessica’s radar during high school but visiting the College as an adult had a profound effect on her. On the day of that first visit, something clicked. The student gallery work was so impressive to her. Jessica came to realize that she could be a part of this extraordinary collective we are all so proud to be a part of.

At the time of applying, Jessica lacked some basic computer design skills. But she wanted to pursue her education despite this gap in her formal training. It was not easy. She was staying with us most of the time in the Inland Empire and faced a horrible commute on top of an insane workload. But she stayed focused and her technical skills improved. She went from having essentially no computer design fluency to being able to construct fully functional, stunning projects. All within a few short months of starting her first semester.

Understandably, Jessica was emotional when she finally received news of her acceptance. I was more apprehensive. How could we make this work? Jessica knew we had to come up with a certain dollar amount to make her education a reality. The remaining uncertainty was all rooted in the question of where, as in Where is this money going to come from?

A month later, Jessica received a second letter from the College. Upon reading it, she was in tears. I was worried. Had they made some sort of mistake and un-accepted her? The letter was actually letting her know that ArtCenter had approved her for a very important and game-changing scholarship. These were tears of relief, not sadness. Jessica wouldn’t have been able to attend ArtCenter were it not for the amazing scholarships offered by the College.

When Jessica began her ArtCenter education, the philanthropic groundwork established by former ArtCenter President David Brown and announced when I was a student in the 80s had become firmly established. As someone with fundraising experience, I admire the forethought and the amount of time and effort ArtCenter put into laying this foundation. I’m thankful for that; Jessica is, too.

At its core, ArtCenter is the same amazing place I graduated from in 1990, but it was great to revisit it all from a parent’s point of view. I saw things from a new and more relaxed perspective. As a student, you’re totally immersed in your work and hardly know what’s going on around you. As a dad, I felt protective of my daughter because of all she was going through. When I saw the pressure that she was under I felt bad and remembered how challenging it was to deal with this crazy workload. But I understood there was a purpose at work, that we enter into this state of pressure voluntarily and stick with it because we wish to change who we are on some level. Watching Jess was a strong reminder of all that was so important to me about ArtCenter.

Before she graduated, Jessica did a full semester of study at Tama University in Japan. While she was there, her mom and I had a chance to visit. We were invited by her professors, Penny and Dan, to sit in on a class. It was a great reminder of the feelings I had when I was a student.

Due to Covid-19, Jessica’s graduation was the first ceremony in the College’s history that wasn’t accompanied by a formal, in-person commencement. Of course, my wife and I were mostly just beside ourselves that she was graduating. We were looking forward to seeing her graduate in person, but the online version was moving and powerful. It left us emotional and very proud of all she had accomplished.

The ceremony in some ways was preferable to a more traditional graduation. Those who tuned in were greeted by the sight of families reacting, overjoyed, many in real time, to the news that their kids had achieved a milestone accomplishment.

I’m proud of Jessica for crossing the finish line. These days, we talk a lot about work. We bounce ideas off of each other, and in the end, we both learn a great deal from one another. She is now working for an experiential marketing firm in Southern California, and I couldn’t be happier for her. During moments like these, I’m proud to be the dad of an ArtCenter grad.

As for me, I’ve had the good fortune of being able to pivot when necessary over the course of my own career from photography to graphic design to being a creator (with my wife) of a boutique wine brand. None of that would have been possible without the foundation I received during my time at ArtCenter. It’s been an amazing journey.

Jeff Riley
BFA 90 Photography
Creative Director, Rubix
Co-Vintner, Firewater Wines

At its core, ArtCenter is the same amazing place I graduated from in 1990, but it was great to revisit it all from a parent’s point of view...

Jeff RileyBFA 90 Photography
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