Peggy Cross, A.S.I.D.

Peggy Cross

As a creative individual, you may be and feel very different from others around you. That is a positive thing. It is who you are. Embrace it. Peggy Cross, A.S.I.D. , Adjunct Instructor , The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

In 1983, I was interviewing for a position with Jacobson’s in Fort Myers, Florida. This role brought all of my life experiences in art and creativity together. This made me uniquely qualified for a job that I had never actually done before. This helped me to realize that I always bring creativity to every endeavor. In 2008, I “couldn’t not paint any more” so I began to paint in a serious way. 

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

I like to share how I came to be an Interior Designer, as well as my belief that Interior Design is so very important in our culture because we spend so much time inside rather than out in nature. I show my students what has and has not changed over the past 25 years, both in schooling and in the profession, by bringing in my portfolio of past student and professional work. I share the joys of working with clients and the satisfaction of completing a space that is beautiful and functional for a client. I also share my stories about what can go wrong. This highlights the importance of contracts, extreme detail, well-prepared timelines and correct math. I also like to highlight the many other areas of design that students could pursue in addition to Interior Design, because everything has a design. As a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (A.S.I.D.) I always forward those communications to students so that they have breaking news from the design world. I encourage students to join the student chapters of A.S.I.D. and the International Interior Design Association (I.I.D.A.). 

What class assignments exemplify your approach to teaching and mentoring? 

I arrange study trips to explore historic venues and museums. I also take them to the businesses of industry professionals such as flooring, windows, kitchen and bathroom experts so that they can experience all facets of the industry.

Other assignments provide research opportunities into other cultures and other more creative design approaches, such as Feng Shui (which I have over 20 years of experience in). Some of these approaches are ancient and provide a link from the ancient to the modern world of design. I also encourage students to create extra-credit presentations about architecture and design when they travel. This is all rooted in the fact that I stress the importance of thinking globally rather than regionally and exploring and honoring one’s creativity as a gift and opportunity to make a significant difference in the world.

How do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their perceived limits? 

Research is major in my classes. It helps students to expand their horizons. They get to explore new ideas and historical perspectives as well as study interior designers, and architects. Without this research, they would have no concept or knowledge of all of these resources for inspiration. I love the excitement that this creates. “I want to know more,” “I had no idea,” “I love this person’s philosophy of design,” are all comments that I hear from my students often. 

I also put students through The Myers-Briggs Personality Analysis so they can more deeply understand themselves and others. I use this as a teamwork-based tool.

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

Be in integrity with yourself. Honor yourself, your ideas, and your commitments. Being in integrity means more than being on time—it involves communication, setting reasonable expectations and doing what you say you will to the best of your ability.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

As a creative individual, you may be and feel very different from others around you. That is a positive thing. It is who you are. Embrace it. Don’t take rejection personally because you have gifts that may not yet be appreciated. Follow your heart.

Consider each person you meet as having something valuable to share and an opportunity for you to learn something. Listen to others. Do not reject new ideas without exploration. There is always more. All of this comes from not only my experience, but my heart.

Anything else?

Teaching is a joy to me—I love my students. I love seeing them expand their knowledge and skill. I appreciate being appreciated. I consider my role to be one of exposing students to everything relevant that is possible to support their own personal and professional growth.