studiotwentysix2 the art + design of tom davie

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Royal Flush

In the next post or two, I’ll fill you in on where I’ve been and the groovy things that are on the horizon. In the meantime though, I recently went through some of my old files and found this essay written for chronicle.com in 2003. I was just beginning my second year of graduate school, and at the time this was written, had just made the decision to pursue teaching. It’s rather lengthy, however, it was really interesting to be able to reflect on, and criticize my thoughts of four years ago.

You may love it, you may hate it, you may think it’s a waste of your time, but I offer it nonetheless. If you have a response, leave a comment or send me an email.


Tom Davie
Graduate Student, Visual Communications
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Fifteen years ago, I was staring down my life-long dream of becoming a major league pitcher. I was consistently being showered with awards and praise. I had the confidence of a Royal Flush and the intensity of a Pit Bull. It was apparent that failure would be the destiny of every opponent. All things were possible.

Before my ego inflates so large that it requires medical attention, I must admit that fifteen years ago I was playing Junior League baseball. My arms and legs were too long for my torso, I wore glasses that were strapped to my head and was thirteen years old. The praise I garnered came not from national sports magazines, but rather uncles and grandmothers who came to watch my six-inning games. I loved playing baseball, but as time passed it was unfortunately not to be.

What does baseball have to do with pursuing a profession in academia? Nothing and Everything.

I no longer play the game I loved, and yet have never forgotten the passion, intensity and fun that was experienced as a child. Baseball taught me to rely on others to achieve goals and helped foster a strong work ethic, characteristics I now apply to a career in fine art and graphic design.

From 1997 through 2002, I worked at two graphic design studios located in Ohio and California. My responsibilities included the creation of a wide variety of corporate communication pieces ranging from identities to packaging and web sites, with clients as diverse as Fortune 500 Corporations to individually-run non-profit agencies. This studio time was spent developing my skills as a designer, listener and negotiator. I enjoyed the ever changing set of limitations and cost restraints; these limitations help define the personality of each project. However, the daily battle with clients over maintaining a quality product was one hurdle that was seemingly never overcome. Constantly defending the work’s integrity began to toll on my professional faith. So before the desire to create thoughtful work at a high level was lost, I decided to return to school and revive my creative muse, and so I did.

Upon completing a strenuous year of relocating, intellectual advising sessions and many an all-nighter, I am now eight months from completing a Master of Fine Art in Visual Communications at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was never my intention to return to school in anticipation of becoming a college educator, but that now appears to be my direction. It is no easy decision to abandon the professional field, considering I would now likely qualify for a senior position and a commensurate salary. However, it pains me to consider my professional legacy consisting of corporate logos and brochures. I would rather develop student minds and abilities, and prepare them to excel in the profession they are about to enter. While I am excited to begin a new path, there are concerns.

It would be lying if I did not admit my fear toward conducting a job search in such a battered and unresponsive economy. I entered graduate school in the fall semester 2002 in anticipation the economy would be in an upswing at the time of my graduation. While I remain cautiously optimistic that there will be tenure track opportunities to be had, I am not kidding myself. It is realistic to believe there will be several hundred applicants looking to fill a single position. I can only hope to have done enough scholastically and professionally to be considered for one of these available faculty positions. I must remain confident that as long as my resume is error free and my printer has ample toner, I have as reasonable a chance to find a job in academia as any of my contemporaries with a minimum of eighteen years of education. Or so I hope.

If I do have a slight advantage, it’s the freedom of being able to relocate at a moments notice. It’s true that I’ve seen more of the country through the rearview of a loaded-down automobile than I care to admit (I am still adjusting to the culture and weather shock of moving from San Diego to Chicago.) My family and friends gave up on me years ago to stay in Ohio, but as long as I make it home for the holidays there isn’t too much grief. Moving, however, is not my highest priority or ambition.

My major objective for this job search is to find an institution that houses highly respected faculty members, students, who regardless of their talent level, love what they are doing and are willing to work hard to achieve their goals, as well as, an administration that believes in and strives for excellence. I refuse to compromise my philosophical and ethical values when it comes to accepting a faculty position, and intend on interviewing the university as intensely as they interview me. I need to feel comfortable that they believe in my abilities, and in return I will remain loyal to them. The institution that I ultimately agree to terms with must be dedicated to the arts, technology, philosophy and history. The graphic design faculty much be conscious of the rift that currently exists between academia and working professionals. Many professionals feel that a majority of the students graduating have not been adequately prepared to handle the day to day workload that will be expected of them. I would like to encourage a healthy balance of theoretical and conceptual exploration along with the monotonous and uninspired projects that all designers encounter. I am also interested in exploring personal studies, such as reestablishing the importance of hand-made artwork in a business society that insists its collateral to be produced fast and in abundance (and if you are curious, no that is not my thesis.) Selfishly, I look forward to finding an institution that I am proud and excited to be a part of.

Once again I find myself staring down an opponent, except the outcome of this encounter is not so certain. I have the confidence of a Full House and the intensity of a Bullmastiff. Failure may ultimately be my destiny, but as long as I feel thirteen years old...all things are possible.

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