Melinda Hurst Frye

Digital Photography

Photography Faculty
The Art Institute of Seattle

Melinda Hurst Frye headshot

My professional background, my current work and my connections all contribute to the same goal—to teach my students about being a professional creative. Melinda Hurst Frye , Photography Faculty , The Art Institute of Seattle
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I don’t think there was one defining moment, more like a series of moments and people. Those ‘defining’ moments happen annually, monthly, even daily. I am confident that I am supposed to be in the arts and education as the exchange of ideas, excitement around creation and dialogue fuels my own inspiration.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

As a creative, my professional background is varied. I pull from it when planning lectures, connecting students with professionals, though mainly I lean on it when discussing the reality of the industry as I know it. My professional background, my current work and my connections all contribute to the same goal—to teach my students about being a professional creative.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

Not really. I don’t have just one assignment that defines my teaching. However, I do feel that the most successful assignments encourage collaboration, iteration and real problem solving in a creative setting. Additionally, any assignments that can build the student’s network outside of the classroom is a success.

Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

While I strive to nurture my student’s creativity, I do not believe in a safety net, and I do believe in the student pushing themselves. No one will do it for them after school. They need to learn how to push themselves now. That being said, I will show them the work of students, professionals, historic examples and my own work. We talk about work in the framework of if the work is a success, dissecting the production, technique, logistics, creative problem solving and concept.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Collaboration connects students and gives them a community while developing the skills for working on a team. Learning how to delegate and play nice is part of professional success.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

My first instinct is that I don’t think it works like that. I have lots of advice that is for different stages and different applications. My advice changes as the student approaches graduation, as well.

I guess my overall advice is to not assume that going to school alone is going to be enough, regardless of discipline or school choice. That students need to connect to their community through participating in events, exhibitions and workshops, they need to relate conceptually and historically to their medium to know what has come before them and where they are going, and they just need to make work. All of the time, make work.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

I am an exhibiting artist and I practice what I preach with involving myself in the photographic community and making work. My joy is connecting students with outside events and happenings. I lead the NY Photo trip where we spend a very busy week connecting with professionals and well-known photographers. Additionally, I was the conference chair for the regional Society for Photographic Education conference that we were able to hold at Ai Seattle, allowing our students to connect with the event firsthand. I am leading a group of students to Portland so they can see what is happening there, just 3 hours south of us, via a studio tour, gallery visits, and an exhibition at a leading advertising agency.