I was talking to a painter at Hatch Street Studios the other day who turned out to have studied at the same Art College I had, just a year or two after I graduated. We had not met before. As we talked about our art school, the Swain School of Design, which has since been absorbed into the University of Massachusetts in what is now known as the College of Visual and Performing Arts in New Bedford, we realized how much we had in common. It was affirming how our experiences as young artists at Swain had molded us and how very grateful and fortunate we were to have had the educational experience there.
Swain was a transformative, special kind of place, where an amazing, devoted and talented faculty came together who brought even more visiting artists and designers at the top of their fields. We numbered barely 200 students at any given year, and it seemed as if so many great minds had come together just for us. I have since been reflecting on gratitude, specifically a full measure of gratitude for my chosen path that went through the fertile ground at Swain.
At another studio at Hatch Street I chatted with one of my former Swain faculty of the painting department, Severin Haines. Sig, as he is known, is a naturalist painter of landscape subjects that are springboards for refined and brilliant color exploration. We had Sig for painting and also for a special Color Theory class that met in the old stone stable that was our library. I remembered with my fellow alum Sig’s discussions and the rapture we all held for gorgeous color. When looking at our color study projects the group often fell into an orgasmic orgy of oohs and aahs. Color was King, and we pledged fealty to its power.
Now I teach painting to beginners and advanced students. The understanding and sensitivity to color I developed at Swain is central to me every day I teach. I think it is important that as a teacher I share my own formative training with students, to reveal the lineage that has brought me to them. So today my gratitude is full for the teachers who taught me to see, helped me find my voice, and gave me the confidence of knowing I was meant for this.
I could not be the artist I am without Sig Haines, David Loeffler Smith, Dick Dougherty, Ben Martinez, James Bobrick, Leo Kelly, Nicholas Kilmer and the others who made the magic happen at Swain School of Design.