BEHIND FAME15: My Thank You Speech + The 1st Brochure Fame15 Ever Designed

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Love What You Do.
— Engraving on a plaque given to me upon high school graduation by Holly Baker, my junior high art teacher

It is no accident that I am a graphic designer. I feel like I had a guiding force my entire life, making sure that I would get to the spot where I am today. After all these years, this is my chance to finally thank all of the people who helped to make my dream a reality: my art teachers.

Around the same time that I could hold a crayon on my own, my parents dubbed me an artist. Move forward a couple of years and Mrs. Dudash, my elementary school teacher, validated their claims. I still remember the excitement I’d feel as she’d wheel her cart into the room on “art day” – which, unfortunately, only came once a week. At that young age, I didn’t realize why I liked “doing art,” only that it made me feel good when I did it. Really good. And the other kids said I was good at it. Good at art. Maybe I’ll put that on my resume. Sara Ruth: Good at Art.

Mrs. Dudash recognized my budding passion and gave me as many opportunities and guidance as she could. I’m not sure where she is, but I must say – thank you, Mrs. Dudash. Thanks for giving that extra bit of attention when you could. It made an impact.

Fast forward a little more and enter the emotionally charged pubescent years. My God. Those were rough. Glad to be on the other side of THAT. Ms. Baker was my art teacher during those times at good ol’ J. Frank Faust Junior High School. At that time, I cannot tell you how necessary art class was for me. That’s when the art room became a safe haven, and art was a release and an escape from all those feelings and frustrations swirling around in my brain. Art was a means of figuring out who I was becoming. Ms. Baker guided that release and exploration – always present, but never overbearing; always challenging, but never critical. She allowed art to be a sort of therapy that, to this day, still brings me solace. Thank you, Ms. Baker (well, now I can call you Holly) for helping to keep me somewhat sane in those days.

When I began high school, I regrettingly took a year off from my school’s art program to explore computer network programming. No, I’m not joking. For a split moment I thought about the salary potential of a programmer vs. an artist and figured “why not?” But… yep…it was awful. I got through by the skin of my teeth and, at the end of that year, came crawling back to the art program, begging to make up for lost time. I had realized that I was serious about art – specifically graphic design – and was ready to start prepping for college and an art-centered career.

My high school art teachers, Mr. Martin and Mrs. Etter (who was our neighbor and had known me all of my life), allowed me to double up on art classes so that I could make up for the year I had missed. By my senior year I was back on track and had enough credits that I was able to drop some annoying Gen. Eds. (converting them into study halls) and, between those moments and my AP Portfolio Art Class, spend what felt like half of my days in the art room. In Portfolio Art, the sky was the limit. If you could think it up, the teachers would give you the resources to make it happen. I explored all aspects of fine art including screen-printing, pottery, pop art style paintings and, finally, graphic design.

Being able to dive into graphic design in high school absolutely solidified what I wanted to do for a living. With the guidance of Mr. Martin and Mrs. Etter, I applied to three schools for design: Carnegie Mellon, Penn State, and Kutztown University (the last of which both Mr. Martin and Mrs. Etter had attended). At the time, these three schools offered the best degrees in graphic design in Pennsylvania. I ended up getting accepted to Kutztown University’s Communication Design Department. It wasn’t my first choice, by any means, but little did I know that it would be one of the most influential decisions of my life.

I know that I drove Mr. Martin and Mrs. Etter nuts. I was all over the place trying to grow up, figure out life (at 16/17, LOL), and do art. Sometimes I think that Mr. Martin could have herded a pack of cats easier than corralling me. I just can’t imagine where I would be without them, though. They knew the path I needed to take to do what I wanted to do, and they made sure that I stayed on that path. Sometimes I resisted, sometimes I was ornery, but I got to where I needed to be.

Once I got to Kutztown, the guidance and support of my career continued. Prof. Karen Kresge (we’re still in touch), Jeff Miller (who gave me an internship at his ad agency), Kate Clair, Denise Bosler… all helped me get to where I am now.

So, to sum up this very, very long blog post.... Sure, art takes some inherent talent, to an extent, but talent can very easily go to waste. These teachers made sure that my talent wasn’t wasted, and that I could do what I love for a living. Ms. Baker gave me a plaque upon high school graduation that reads: “Do what you love.” I still have it. I’ve toted it around Pittsburgh wherever I’ve moved. Well, Ms. Baker, I’M DOING IT! Here I am, not only working as a graphic designer… but I’m a designer for my own agency. Thank you. Thank you to all of you for making sure I got here.

And as promised… here it is. The design for Fame15’s first brochure. Designed by me in 2002, in my high school art room. Seems pretty appropriate that it’s about Andy Warhol.

Sara Ruth2 Comments