I started taking classes at Fleisher Art Memorial as an adult in 2012. I started Fleisher in the process of starting my life over. I was depressed because I could not find a job and was discouraged to do all these things most people can do like drive a car, do paper work, use an ironing board etc. This is because I have Aspergers Syndrome (high functioning autism). My soul was wounded.
The first class I took at Fleisher as an adult was silk screen. I signed up for screen printing because we never actually had a screen printing class at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) when I was a student there. Now PAFA has screen printing classes. I went to PAFA at the turn of the 21st century. The printmaking classes I took there were woodcut, etching, lithography, and print media. I fell in love with printmaking except lithography which was too labor intensive and confusing for me at the time. I found printmaking a liberating way to express myself hence, I could make images of anything I wanted. In most of the classes I took, we had to draw or paint from a model or still life. I was a painting major.
I fell in love with silk screen and the environment right away. I found screen printing quite liberating with all these possibilities. I was impressed you did not have to write backwards like with practically all the other printmaking techniques and the easiness of using more than one color. There was so much nostalgia in that room.
I took Prints in Progress there when I was 11 years old and the “Prints in Progress” sign was still there. Prints in Progress was a children’s art program at Fleisher which involved printmaking. We did silkscreen there. I was in the teenager class even though I was eleven because of my art talent. I was socially awkward and had trouble fitting in with my peers. I was always trying to get into their conversations even though I did not understand what they were talking about. I was unable to read social cues well, but knew I was treated different from by my peers. We were in completely different worlds. When I first took silkscreen, my prints in progress teacher was one of my classmates so we got to bond as adults and classmates instead of child and adult. Since my mind has matured a lot since PAFA, I took lithography and appreciated the process and labor intensiveness of it. I took advantage of it as a work out.
I had met lots of interesting cool people and have had all sorts of interesting conversations and learn a lot from each other. The best thing is that I can take any class I want over and over. Many of the other students do too so I really get to know them and the instructors. Hence I took silkscreen over and over. After gaining enough confidence in screen printing, I joined the 2nd state community to screen print in their open studio. In addition I took an amazing Printmaking class at Fleisher for advanced printmakers and the students had a show with the instructors who came in to that class to do demos. I am now teaching printmaking in my private art lessons and hope one day to teach a printmaking class at Second State press or other places utilizing what I learned at Fleisher.
Anyway, I found my community to make prints to express myself and learned to express myself through other types of art. I took photoshop, paper making, comics, ceramics, ceramic tile making, framing, kiln glass, lithography, fiber arts, and some sculpture classes. I had fun photoshopping my large pet aguiti rat on the street to make him look like a wild rat. For mix medium sculpture and kiln glass, I had fun making my favorite TV and video game characters with the mediums I was taught. For paper making, I had a ball writing quotes expressing frustration with the world. The comic book class refined my drawing skills for the graphic novel I’m working on.
Every instructor I had at Fleisher I learned a lot from.
Not just that, but I have used what I learned from Fleisher to teach other people and for my own studio art. The comic book class refined my drawing skills for the graphic novel I’m working on. I also use photoshop a lot now. The best thing is some of the classes are free while the others are a very reasonable price.
As I learn more art styles, and techniques, I grow more confident. I have hung up art work at student art shows, volunteered at the Print love in, Dear Fleshier, Harvest Hoe Down, and sold art at ArtSpiration. I find Fleisher has became such a community for the students to promote their art in the Holiday Art sale and occasional parties like the spontaneous happy hour after the 2016 student show.
Through meeting other people I have learned trivial social skills like what music is socially acceptable to play on my iPod in class (also depends on the people). I have learned from others various art clubs to belong to, marketing, places to sell art, art programs to get your MFA, places to purchase printmaking supplies, etc. etc, and much more that involves art. I also learn about other cool things to do too. I am now getting involved with various art clubs and participate in their group shows. I participated in the Di Vinci Gallery and starwheelprintmakers. I applied to two grad schools and decided to go for my Master’s in English in hope to incorporate my creative writing with my visual art talent.
I feel my independence and self confidence has come a long way since I started Fleisher. Also when I first started Fleisher, I was depended on others to hook me up with a job, for example, I got my silkscreen instructor to talk to the manager of the children’s art program for me about the job position for the art teacher assistant because I did not feel I could do it myself. Back then, I was unable to write cover letters then. Also I was scared of promoting myself because I feared I would get shot down and make a fool out of myself. Now I can easily contact people with cover letters if I want to promote myself. This is because I have the tools. All I need to do is ask or search the right person to contact and send a cover letter, resume, CV, etc to the person. The only thing I need is people to look over my essays and statements, but who doesn’t. I originally wanted to leave Philadelphia, and start over but taking classes at Fleisher and how art oriented Philly is are the reasons I want to stay in Philadelphia.