I never thought I would end up teaching. Truthfully, the thought never even crossed my mind.
I was born into a lower middle-class family. My dad immigrated to Los Angeles by ship in 1914 with his mother and sister because his father, a doctor and politician from Oaxaca, was assassinated during the Mexican Revolution. My father thrived in Los Angeles and became a musician, pilot, skier and inventor of innovative plastic packaging. My mom passed away when I was 13, but both parents encouraged me to be in touch with my artistic self. Throughout my K-12 education, I was searching for another kind of family which I finally found in ArtCenter’s Saturday High Program.
As a student, I Ioved the humanities as well as geology, anthropology, and archaeology. I took classes at Pierce Community College in Woodland Hills while attending ArtCenter at Night courses. In 1972, I applied to ArtCenter and was accepted the following year.
Immediately after graduation, I established a design office in the San Fernando Valley with many notable clients. I also had a separate painting studio on Skid Row where I worked on weekends. This was back when you could rent a 2,000 square-foot loft for $250 a month. A longtime friend invited me to teach at Otis/Parsons in 1980. I’d never taught a day in my life, but I got great reviews from the students. ArtCenter contacted me to teach two years later. Once my contract with Otis was up, I started teaching at ArtCenter in 1984.
In 1986, Paul Hauge offered to turn the Graphics Department over to me as he was establishing the Communications Department at ArtCenter Europe alongside Hal Frazier. I was flattered, but remained uncertain. After all, I had my design firm, and was still devoting whatever spare time I had to my fine art endeavors. David Brown invited James Miho to come visit ArtCenter as a possible candidate for Graphics Chair. He said he would take the position only if I would work with him part time as Associate Chair. I accepted that position in 1986 and closed the doors of my design firm a year later.
As a full-time teacher and administrator, I realized how much I loved teaching and have always found a way to foster personal connections between myself and students. I am deeply invested in their lives and careers, as are all teachers at the College. ArtCenter is my family; it’s that simple. This sense of family is not always something one experiences while teaching at a large university with over 10,000 students. When I walk into an ArtCenter classroom, I’m ready to have a joyous experience.
I get nothing out of teaching through fear. That’s not the kind of environment I’m interested in. Many of the teachers at ArtCenter were students there like myself and are close friends whom I deeply respect. Like myself, they weren’t studying to become teachers. They were simply exposed to an education you literally can’t find anywhere else, an education that gave them the ability to impart their knowledge to others.
I warn my students on the first day of class: I know most of the faculty in the Graphics Department, so be careful what you say about them! That’s how it is with family. My only job is to pass the torch to the next generation of educators. They are the lifeblood of ArtCenter’s ongoing evolution to create, influence and change the world for the better.
We live in a time of xenophobia and division, which presents a daunting human challenge. I feel we must get back to the basics of how connected we all are. One humanity. There’s never been a better time to be a creative. Our graduates could become social workers or politicians, should they choose to. That’s how much I believe in them. It is their tremendous creativity that gives them the flexibility to redefine themselves throughout life.
I feel I’ve been “branded” by ArtCenter. Pull up my sleeve and you’ll see the orange dot. It’s something I’m proud of.
BFA 77 Advertising, MFA 90 Grad Art
Adjunct Full Professor at ArtCenter, Graphic Design and Humanities and Sciences