Joan Felcetto Vitale

Fashion

There's no substitute for doing the work and managing your time. Joan Felcetto Vitale , Foundations Instructor , The Art Institute of Charlotte, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

Destiny? It wasn’t one moment in time, but a series of awakenings. My dad was a fashion designer. I always loved New York City—especially 7th Avenue. In high school I worked in retail, doing stock work in the juniors department. I was intrigued by how garments were made, what the buyer bought, and how items moved on the floor. I decided to attend fashion school, where I studied marketing and took as many art electives as I could.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

I share my buying experiences—including both my successes and failures. I pass along what students need to do their job well—for example, the importance of color theory, which is one of my core classes. I make a point of saying that every skill I’ve learned academically has served me professionally in some way. And I sometimes show students what I’m working on and share my process for getting it done.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I like to have students observe, evaluate, and respond. For example, we learn color harmonies. Students create the harmonies while I act as art director, providing guidance as needed. They take an image, apply several harmonies to represent different moods and ideas, and by altering the harmonies they see for themselves how color impacts the image. When students see something for themselves, they learn better. I can ask, “What would you do better?” or “What could your classmate do better?” It helps them see what needs to be done so they can follow through.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Collaboration between teacher and student yields better work. When students understand that you want them to succeed, they’re usually motivated to devote more time and effort to their work.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

If you don’t apply yourself, you won’t reach your goal. There’s no substitute for doing the work and managing your time.

Anything else you’d like to share?

For me, teaching is sharing knowledge and motivating each student.