I came up with this story concept during a gathering of friends, classmates and fellow artists. We’ve been getting together as often as possible after a hiatus of about 40 years for several reasons. At the core of this group are the former students of Ed Togneri, Bill (Willoughby) Elliott, Herb Cummings or Frank McCoy at Southeastern Massachusetts University (which became the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 1991). Many of us are from the Bachelor of Fine Arts Class of 1975 and were painting majors.
It’s very interesting how, as we aged, we began to reach out to each other on Facebook. As we reconnected, we learned that some of us were fortunate enough to secure full-time faculty positions while others went into alternative fields such as marketing and advertising.
When we had our first reunion a couple of summers ago, it was amazing to hear, not only how similar our life and career paths had been, but that we also shared how these four instructors — Togneri, Elliott, Cummings and McCoy — had shaped us as artists and impacted our lives.
Under their instruction, guidance and friendship, we advanced, each in our own way or as fate allowed, into the world of art that we so wanted to be a part of. The consensus was that, regardless of what we achieved or what we were still seeking to achieve, few if any of us would change our journeys or abandon art or allow it to overwhelm us.
Here is the point where the idea to write this article came from. At that last gathering, enjoying food and drink, socializing and some excellent and much-needed critiques, I saw how the loving, giving and patient spouses, partners and companions who were there were the reason we continued as practicing artists.
We have not walked this road alone. They are honest critics, ardent supporters and so much more.
In our conversations, we were united in our perspective that, if we were asked by young and aspiring art students for our now sage council, our collaborative advice would be to never, ever quit. Believe in yourself. Find someone who will sustain and support you on your journey and cherish them.
When I approached the group with this idea, I was a bit taken back by their response. They didn’t want to publicly share their thoughts or experiences but eventually, a couple of them did volunteer their feelings on the subject.
One was Adrienne LaVallée, a Portland, Maine resident. She is a practicing artist whose talent and drive has allowed her to support herself with her work.