RUTH ADMIRE, ART EDUCATOR- REACHES FOR RETIREMENT AND LOOKS BACK ON HER ARTISTIC JOURNEY.
I ‘found’ art education during college even though I had showed promise as an artist in my youth. The transition wasn’t smooth but it taught me to rely on my intuitions and trust my inner voice, two valuable lessons that I lean on frequently. I reflect on this transition constantly as I see my students on their personal artistic journeys. I know that there is a time for everything and that the real danger is to stop moving forward. Dottie Green once told me ‘Creating art is like riding a bicycle. You will pick it back up when the time is right.’ Architect, Carson Wright (one of my first employers) told me ‘Artists don’t create because they have to. It is because they need to.’ These persons (and their words) unknowingly became my first ‘guides’ as I began my journey as an artist.
My journey began in interior design, a move resulting from challenging myself to find the blissful state that seemed to surround my college roommate. And I did! Courses in interior design at University of Florida and MDCC opened the floodgates. I was in love with making art and design. How had I missed this? The University of Miami (BA 1972) polished it off adding a new dimension, Graphic Design. Ahh… the psychology of design and its effects on humankind now intrigued me.
I tried my hand at the art of administration. I designed and implemented Art Immersion Days for Beaux Arts, designed programs and a product for artists with special needs for Very Special Arts and chartered a chapter of Kiwanis and Aktion Club for youth with special needs.
I became a painter, commissioned for watercolor portraits of homes. The cool part was that a number of these paintings were visual collections of memories of a past family life in the home.
My ‘real’ jobs began in interior design but I switched to education to better suite my plans for a family and there I remained via FIU (1978). That transition wasn’t smooth either. I really missed the design field but Jacquie Hinchey and Susan Maguire became my new ‘guides.’ I drew from their strengths and soon I was in love with teaching. The DAEA provided me with many new friends and support. I remember our meeting around a picnic table in the courtyard at the Museum of Science in Coconut Grove exchanging ideas. Can you imagine?
Fast forward to now and past an 11 year ‘retirement’ to raise my children, further art ed. classes, courtesy of Clem Pennington who refused to allow me to take any more classes without entering the Masters program (MS 1992), a dive into animation at IFAC, now Miami University of Design (Specialist 2003) and National Board (2005), I have been teaching art at Miami Northwestern now for 19 years. I am stunned how much time has passed. In 1997 I was 1 of 5 art teachers. Northwestern was home to PAVAC, the county’s first dedicated art program and a huge new building with lots of promise. Teaching there wasn’t easy. The rough patches were many and my new ‘guides,’ Lilia Garcia, Bill Chiodo, Ray Azcuy and Betsy Kaplan, buoyed me.
Now I am the only art teacher at Miami Northwestern, the PAVAC Visual Arts Artistic Director and Dual Enrollment Professor for FIU studio arts. Coming from a family immersed in community advocacy I brought in programs and projects connecting my students to the greater Miami-Dade community. I sought a wider worldview rather than an insular educational experience with the aim of forging networks of ties for both my students and the school. Past the usual array of an art teacher’s endeavors including clubs, contests and shows, I designed a collaborative mural project for my students and residents of Camillus House. So inspired by the experience, one resident-artist wrote a poem and read it at the opening reception.
Later I wanted to devise an art project that mimicked the business world and The Masterpiece Spoof was born, a mural contest that included students in every aspect of the event. This contest ran annually for 3 years and engaged 100 students each year. Teams of student artists vied for best spoof on famous art masterpieces using sidewalk chalk in the school courtyard while others planned and administered the event. That was our first big newspaper coverage.
As my program continued to grow, I garnered 2 new ‘guides’ Shiela Womble and Cecilia Gutierrez Abety. Arts 4 Learning and Miami Childrens Initiative now became valuable assets for my program and my students benefited from them as well as from various community based projects with local artists including Adonis Parker and Eddie Rawson.
But perhaps the highest point in my teaching career came when I designed and commissioned the building of an art gallery at Northwestern. I sought and received funding from the Sain-Oarr foundation. I partnered with DAEA with Mortimer Hechavarria as my facilitator. My design partners were artist, Eleazar Delgado and friend, Josh Kingston. And my community voice was Susana Baker, The Art Experience. At the school level, Natalie Baldie, PAVAC Lead Teacher made things happen. From concept to form the gallery became reality 3 years ago complete with a Grand Opening. And grand it was - with 6 local great artists (Eduoard Duval Carrie, Eleazar Delgado, Luis Valle, Monique Lassooij, Robert McKnight and Baye) and PAVAC alum, who are always included, showing along side my students amidst trays of passed appetizers, a jazz band, escorts and a ribbon-cutting program! Wow, I was proud and honored by all the support.
This community inclusive gallery, BullsEye, continues to mature with each show and its exhibiting artists touch the artistic journeys of my students in ways that could not otherwise be reached without a community component. The gallery is now also used as the set for filming (PSAs, interviews, film shorts), for luncheons, and for visiting celebrities (recently, the president of Harvard) adding further dimension to the gallery experience.
As I reach for retirement and look back on my artistic journey, I am humbled by the breadth of experiences and the people that contributed to who I am as person and as an artist and as an art educator. It has been a richly rewarding journey and one that will open a new chapter in a little over a year’s time. I carry within me strength, light and I’d like to think, some wisdom garnered from this journey. I face this new chapter reminding myself to trust my inner voice and to ‘see’ the opportunities before me, helping to create new dimensions in my life.