The best work flows from your own genuine interest and passion. Laura Hohlwein , Faculty , The Art Institute of California—Sacramento, a campus of Argosy University
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
I’ve always been someone who loves making art, loves writing, loves teaching. My father was an art professor and my mother was an English professor, so higher education has always been a fundamental part of my world. I don't know when I stopped worrying about whether I was going to be an artist or a poet or educator, but I no longer see the need to choose. All my interests are part of something bigger—engaging with life and with others in the most meaningful way possible.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
My decades of experience as a creative writer and professional artist inform my class discussions every day. Even though most students aren’t aiming to be fine artists or poets, I profoundly believe that the creative processes involved in those explorations create skills that are meaningful and transferable to most creative professions. In the case of writing, that means creating a sensitivity to story, substance, and meaning. In the case of fine art, it’s learning to play, invent, and control the elements and principles of design. I hope students can see how much fun I’m having teaching them, and consider doing it themselves someday.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
A texture project I assign in Design Fundamentals exemplifies a basic idea I have about creativity: that creative people should learn to do two very different things very well— play and edit. In this project, students roll out butcher paper over tables. Using black and white mediums of every kind, they cover the entire surface, draw over or add to each other’s work, and crunch, tear, or glue the paper. They generate all kinds of visual and physical textures and reconnect with the simple pleasure of playing. Then they cut up areas of the texture to create a typographical piece, editing the raw material to produce a clear effect.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success?
Life is collaboration. Collaboration is messy, and it can create interesting dynamics. People tend to be either leaders or followers; trying out different roles can expand a student’s range. It’s a great lesson to learn, since in life you’re sometimes asked to work outside your comfort zone. I think in general that it’s critical that we engage, as often as possible, with people with other interests, beliefs, and approaches.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
The best work flows from your own genuine interest and passion. The first step in any creative endeavor, whether for yourself, a client, or your company, is connecting with the purpose of making the product on a personal level.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m enormously lucky to teach such an amazing variety of courses, to work with talented students and our impressive and genuinely supportive faculty.