By Susan Bernard

For much of my professional life, I have been a writer. And, while I have taken many avocational classes in different disciplines, I had never thought of pursuing the visual arts because as an adult, my drawing skills–which I equated with artistic ability–were childlike, and I didn’t enjoy taking classes in which I didn’t excel.

However, just prior to my 60th birthday, I experienced an epiphany of sorts, and realized that my ego was strong enough to pursue interests in which I might be average. So, when I looked through the Continuing Education brochure, and Suzanne Temp’s collage class jumped out at me, I signed up. Suzanne was a great teacher, and I finally learned that an inability to draw didn’t preclude me from creating inventive collages.

Four years later, after pursuing a wide array of wonderful art and craft classes  and workshops, at SMC and elsewhere, I signed up for Carmelo Fiannaca’s mosaic class. I not only was stunned by the possibilities of this art form, but found Carmelo to be a kindred spirit, a terrific teacher, and a very supportive advocate of my latent talent. So when he asked me to submit my mixed-media violin to the first ever Continuing Education Art Exhibit at the Bundy campus, I agreed.

I was pleased when the violin was accepted, but at the time I thought I was participating solely as a tribute to Carmelo because as a writer, and later an author, I had learned to pursue my craft for years at a time without a lot of external validation. Once my piece was in the exhibit, I truly was surprised how much pleasure it gave me.

As I said to my contact Alice Meyering, who is the program coordinator for Community and Contract Education and was instrumental in developing the exhibit and overseeing it, “As a newbie artist, I had no idea how motivational and inspirational my inclusion in the show would be. And, I am so grateful to you – and everyone else who was involved – for making this happen.”

Last week, when I arrived at the community education office to pick up my violin, which had been displayed for five months–I was delighted to meet Michelle King, the director of the department, and Jocelyn Winn, a staff member. Their enthusiasm and Alice’s about the response to my violin, and the success of the exhibit was so gratifying.

Before I left, I learned that the new exhibit officially will be unveiled on September 2, thefirst day of the fall semester. As I walked to my car, I hoped that the participating artists will have as wonderful an experience as I have had. And, I also hope that at least a few self-identified non-artists who view this exhibit will have a transformational experience, realize that every one of us can produce art, and sign up for a class, which just might change their lives.

Susan's Violin

  1. Cami Black says:

    What an inspirational story! Makes me want to take an art class. Although I’m creative in other areas, I’ve never really tried to do an art project. I love the violin!!

    • Alice Meyering says:

      Susan is a great example that it’s never too late to discover the artist inside all of us!

    • Susan Bernard says:

      Thanks so much! I’m so glad you “love” the violin. Actually, we have a lot in common. I, too, never tried an art project before I started taking classes. And, now I’m so thrilled–on so many levels–with what I’m accomplishing, and the community of like-minded people I’m meeting. I’m sure you’d have a similar experience!

  2. Barbara Chalmers says:

    The violin is exquisite but so is Susan’s fearless foray into the unknown. Hopefully her words will inspire others to take those first steps and find new paths to joy in their lives.

    • Bruce Smith says:

      Beautifully said, Barbara! Thank you.

    • Susan Bernard says:

      Thank you Barbara! I can’t even tell you what a kick I get out of how well the violin turned out. It’s the third instrument I’ve made, and the most complex. And, because of the curves, F holes, scroll, pegs, and neck, I had to redo it over and over. So, when I finally was done, I not only breathed a great sigh of relief, but laughed aloud because I suddenly realized that in dwelling on the parts, I had missed the impact of the whole–which delighted me.

      And, I appreciate your understanding that it’s not easy for anyone to take steps into the unknown. But, I truly have learned how great the rewards are when we learn to overcome our fears and positively deal with our discomfort!

  3. Candice Hartung says:

    What a beautiful example of discovering the artist within – and enjoying new ways of expressing your creativity. The violin is “art with heart” – congratulations!

    • Susan Bernard says:

      Hi Candice,
      Thanks ever so much! I love the phrase “art with heart,” and it truly reflects this violin. Some of the pieces–the cameos, flautist, gold treble clef on the back, and a number of other pieces–are from my mother, and sister-in-law who both have died, and my 97 year-old mother-in-law. So, they have great meaning for me.

  4. Alice Schulman says:

    Susan’s violin is wonderful, as is her joyful embrace of the unknown. I also found the visual arts in my 50’s and love to see artists unfold like Susan has.

    • Susan Bernard says:

      Thank you Alice! It is gratifying and exciting to discover new passions throughout our lives, isn’t it? I believe that our passions enable us to join new communities of like-minded people as well as finding joy and fulfillment. I’m hoping other people who comment will mention their new passions–particularly in the arts. Since this blog is supposed to encourage communication within the continuing education community, I’m hoping people will feel free to share their own experiences.

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