I have been involved with Ryman Arts since I was a junior in high school. Now, nine years later, it is particularly heartfelt and somewhat daunting that I reflect on how the program has shaped me as an adult. I was only beginning to understand the possibilities of a career in the arts and with the few art classes available at my high school, those possibilities still seemed unreliable. My art teacher Alex Schultz at the time, had, as he had for several years prior, been contacted by Ryman Arts and was given all the necessary resources to make the application process available to those students interested in studying classical art skills beyond the fifty-minute, 3 days a week, class time offered at school. This is not to say that the application itself was easy. Rather, what I would come to discover about Ryman Arts was a call to action- a challenge to look beyond my skill and see how I could improve.
The program’s passionate and diligent outreach presented me with the challenge to apply and so I did. I wrote the most honest essay I could about what being accepted would mean to me. I stayed up several nights and drew a still life of an old saxophone, a shirt, black slacks, and a pair of old shoes. I beat myself up about that drawing and wondered if it would be enough. A few weeks later I received a letter from the program stating I was accepted. Also in the envelope was an itinerary. The next two years spent in the program were a blend of early mornings, class-critiques, life-drawings, homework, camaraderie, guest lectures, and a constant diet of wonderment. Yes, it was all hard work. There was juggling to do between high school assignments and work due every week at Ryman Arts. Even my mother devoted each and every one of her Saturday mornings to taking that forty-five minute drive to get me to class on time.
However, despite the hard work and effort demanded of the program, it is the work itself that I remember above all else. Above all, the late nights hunched over drawing boards, and after the trains, busses, and groggy parent rides, it is the sight of fifteen unique pieces of work pinned on walls and held up on easels that I remember. I remember the class critiques and instructors opening our eyes to where our strengths lay and where we could improve. I also remember giving way to a stronger sense of reflection.
I graduated from the third and final course of Ryman Arts equipped with a strengthened sense of self. I was prepared to take on the challenge of college. I entered the fall quarter at the University of California, Irvine and it was instantly apparent that the work ethic I had developed at Ryman Arts would not only guide me but that it was also the leading reason why I was walking the University’s halls at all. I currently work in the film and television industry as an assistant director and the imprint on my character left by Ryman Arts is utilized everyday. I carry a certain part of Ryman Arts with me still and with every new opportunity or challenge I feel the entirety of the program and everyone involved, past, present, and future, supporting me. To be a part of Ryman Arts is to be a part of a community that values education and hard work.