Homage to my Cornish Teachers

There comes a time in every student’s life when they must publicly credit their instructors. I feel as though I am a student still, even though 40 years has passed since I was at Cornish College of the Arts, because I believe that once you put yourself in the teacher-student relationship, it’s a permanent thing. And “that” is the lasting quality of a good education, if you are lucky enough to find a well matched institution with some good instructors, the experience lasts a lifetime.

I was lucky to attend Cornish when it was still quite a small institution. All the disciplines were still housed in the same original building that had housed them since the college’s inception in the days of “Aunt” Nellie Cornish, founder and champion. And there was a relatively small, tight-knit, group of faculty. The opportunity to foster a personal relationship with an instructor was enhanced by this proximity. Classes were small and personal.

When reflecting on my interactions with my instructors over the years, I have realized that it was often the quick remark, and not the content of the instruction that made the lasting impression. For instance. When I was attending Cornish, one of the great legends of “The Northwest  School of Painting”, William Cummings, was teaching there. The one class I had with Bill was productive and informative, but it was one thing Bill said to me that has remained with me over the years. In looking over my work he said off hand, “there’s room for you in the art world”. This to me was a stronger affirmation of worth and “right path” than any grade in a grade book or degree. Here was a man who knew the contours and boundaries and inner workings of the art world through a lifetime of personal experience and was qualifying me to join. This was “gold”.

I had similar experiences with some other instructors whose support and insight had lasting impressions. I would like to give a nod of acknowledgement here to other instructors who influenced and shaped me. Fran Murphy, Harrison Jones, David Nechak, Albert Fisher, Charles Stokes. All whose dedication to art and teaching were an inspiration.

This early affirmation in my abilities had lasting impact later as I channeled my energies into making a successful career in photography. The simple statement that “there’s room for you in the art world”, resonated longer and louder than any formal qualification.



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