By Ashlyn Kelly
What is your professional and educational background?
I did my undergrad at Xavier University in Cincinnati. I studied studio art there and sculpture, and then I did my MFA at Boston University, where I studied sculpture. Since then, I’m a professional artist, so I make work at all times – I have a studio in Dorchester. I also have been teaching. After I left grad school, I did a sabbatical substitute at the University of Dayton. Since then, I have worked at Framingham and Brandeis as well. I teach sculpture and ceramics, as well as digital media installation over at Brandeis. I’ve done like random other stuff on the side, too. ... I also spent some time in between undergrad and grad school in Korea.
What brought you to Framingham State?
I was in Dayton, and I knew I didn’t want to stay in Dayton. I love Boston and knew I wanted to come back. So I took a leap of faith and moved back here, knowing I really wanted to teach and was hoping I could find a good It. My own educational background and my experience teaching at UD really gave me an idea of the type of students I wanted to work with and the type of classroom that I wanted to be in as well as the type of department. I wanted one that ... felt like a community. I wanted a school where I felt like the students were diverse. I’m Korean American – I grew up without a ton of diversity, and so that type of diversity is important to me. But diversity also in terms of the way we will think, economic background and ... different life experiences. ... It’s something [students] can bring to the studio and that’s something that I love. ... It’s something I really liked about Framingham as well. Just from hearing that the students wanted to be there. They put the hours in. They weren’t afraid of hard work.
How has COVID-19 impacted your job?
There have been massive changes in the way I teach and approach things – both the type of projects and the materials that we’re using but also the way that we have discussions, the type of artists that we’re looking at, how much time I’m spending with students. It’s actually taught me a lot about teaching and where I excel, but also the areas that I really struggled with that are exacerbated in an online format. I’m used to teaching where students are working in front of me – we’re working physically with things that are in space and there’s not so much concern about making a mess, number one, but also being able to see what’s happening. So something like demonstrating, or pointing to something, talking about space and having something in front of us versus sharing a screen, trying to explain, and trying to see depth that way. And so the funny thing is that I think it has allowed students to think about space and the importance of space a little bit differently because it’s so hard to do this type of class virtually. I try my best to meet with people individually but it takes a different amount of time as well. It’s one thing to have a question on the Qy about it – it’s another thing to schedule something and then remember the question and take the photos so we can translate it over the screen – that’s a bit different. The last thing is the sense of community and that’s really important in my classroom because we can talk about some difficult concepts. ... So it’s important to feel comfortable with, of course, me, but also with each other, and that’s where the magic happens in a classroom. There’s just kind of like this communal sharing generosity that’s happening and it’s a little bit difficult for people to get to know each other over the screen.
What do you like most about working with students?
I would say working with college-age students. A lot of times, they are in transitional periods of their life. And so they’re dealing with a bunch of new information and experiences from the present, but also this long period of life. They were very confident in who they were – you’re 18, you’re kind of an adult, but you have an idea of what you know and where you came from that’s also played a large role in who you are. So already you’re dealing with this transition point of identity. And then the way that can come into the classroom – thinking about identity and thinking about how point of view affects what you make but how you see something, and how you start to question something that you take for granted. ... And I think that that’s what’s really great about working with this age group of students is that they’re already starting to question things and perspectives that they had and that translates really nicely into the classroom. ... I love hearing the frankness that people had – the honesty and the way they’re able to kind of infuse their personality or their personal experiences ... because they’ve got this confidence. There is just an openness ... to having these dialogues.
What would students be surprised to know about you?
The difficult thing is that the students probably know a lot about me. We talk a lot about ... who we are and what has influenced us. ... [It’s assumed] that being an artist is like a 100% thing – it’s a lifestyle, not just a career. The same thing with teaching, but that I also have a lot of strange other hobbies and interests on top of that. Like yes, art comes as the center of things, but I find influence from areas that I guess typically people like to think are very separate. So things like I like sports a lot – I love fishing. I get a lot of stuff from fishing. My hobby is like the stock market. I love reading about stock market trends and a lot of that stuff informs my work as well. So I would say that you know I love pop-country music. ... I have a black belt in Taekwondo.
What is your number one piece of advice to students?
My number one advice to students is to ask for help. Obviously, when ... something’s going wrong, ask for help, but also, when it comes to a career path and you want career advice or talk to someone that knows – make those relationships with people. I think you would be surprised how many people want to help you and are willing to help you if you reach out and take the time. But I have found that some opportunities I’ve gotten, some of the best advice and quick solutions, have come from asking someone and not being afraid that they’re not wanting to talk to me or they won’t want to help me out. I think that you’d be surprised that if you’re a hard worker and you’re honest and sincere, a lot of people do want to help.