The first graduate program class I took was taught by Yale Factor at The Field Museum. It was an amazing class; we spent every Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. working with this incredible museum as our classroom. We had a space to work in that was apart from the exhibition space but we could also wander around and use artifacts, exhibits or spaces as subjects of study. On the first day we got a behind the scenes look at all the storage of the museum and the labs that the archaeologists worked in. It was during this tour that I found Dena. She was a talkative redhead with a deep tan and I can even tell you what she was wearing: a white T-shirt, cutoff shorts and sandals. She looked my age and I knew I had to make her my friend. “What time do you think we have to stay until today?” I asked her, looking at my watch. “I know it goes until 4:00 but it’s my birthday and I have tickets to the Cubs game.”
“First of all, happy birthday.” She said, “secondly, I LOVE going to Cubs games! What a fun way to spend your birthday. Just tell Yale that it’s your birthday and ask him if it’s ok that you leave a little early. He seems cool.”
We spent every Friday after that working side by side, “oh my God! I’m a high school art teacher too!” We signed up for a couple more classes together after that and I’m sure we annoyed the rest of the students with our no-pausing-for-air conversations with each other.
We are still friends and we will both tell you that Northern Illinois University has an excellent art program. We will also still annoy you with a no-pausing-for-air-conversation if you hang out with us.
We always worked in somewhat similar styles using acrylic paint on paper with a limited color palette. However, after graduate school Dena kept working. She got shows in little cafés and art centers and then got invited to join the 33 Collective in Bridgeport. Her artwork has even been displayed in Spain. I use her as an example to my students of how working many hours on your artwork will pay off.
Since I went to NIU for undergrad school as well as graduate school I get emails from the Alumni club about networking events in the city. Last week was a meeting at the Chicago Arts Club in the Gold Coast. It’s a private club and neither of us are members nor do we anyone who are so it was decided that we had to go so we could see a space otherwise off limits to us. The decor was lush and gorgeous, “can you imagine trying to keep this carpet clean?” We met a couple of young ladies in undergraduate summer study programs, we noshed on fancy horsedevours, and we played “who do you think this artist is?” While admiring the art collection there.
After the event we walked to The Pump Room, because neither of us have ever been there.
we looked at the iconic photos of celebrities that used to line the walls of the restaurant but are now outside the bathrooms (and noticed there are a lot of doubles). Then Dena took a picture of the hotel’s entrance chandelier and I took a picture of her taking a picture. Which was hilarious to me after sipping on one of the delicious cocktails we ordered.