The Presence of Angels: Pursuing My Studies in the Visual Arts

Michelle Casey, "Rise", Collage, 8 x 10 inches, April 2014

Michelle Casey, "Rise", Collage, 8 x 10 inches, April 2014

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” (John Holmes)

Do you believe in angels? I believe in the presence of human angels in our lives. Every now and again one steps in and forever changes our fate. My life as an artist would have never come to fruition if it wasn’t for the help of one such angel.

My decision to study art was a long time coming. By age 16 I was certain that I wanted to become an artist; it wasn’t until I was 27, after much time spent catering to the needs of others that I finally decided to pursue my studies in visual arts. By that time, I’d already been rejected twice from a local college’s commercial art program so I decided to take another route by applying to a university fine arts program; at the time it seemed like my last hope. Deeply committed to the task, one of my biggest challenges was filling out the application form – it completely overwhelmed me. Working as a secretary then, I engaged the help of my university-educated co-workers to help me decipher and fill out the form. My husband assisted me in editing a required accompanying essay outlining why I wanted to study art. The next daunting component of the process was submitting and partaking in a portfolio interview. I had several pieces I’d made but I needed to create much more work so I enrolled in evening art classes to build up my portfolio. To help with the interview my husband and friends conducted pre-interview rehearsals with me to build my self-confidence; this was crucial because much rested on my ability to sell myself and my work. I have to admit I was still nervous before the interview, but knowing I’d put together a sound application boosted my spirits and mentally prepared me for the session. The interview went very well; I answered each question with sureness and passion and felt that I’d convinced the interviewers that I’d be an ideal candidate for their program.

You can imagine my surprise when I received a letter from the university stating my application had been revoked; according to them it had arrived late. Having put much time and energy into applying, I was devastated. After a pep talk with friends, I headed to the Registrar’s Office to straighten out the misunderstanding and explain I had indeed hand-delivered my application on time*. When I got there I was unable to convince the clerk otherwise. With a heavy heart I left the building and sat down on its front steps silently crying. My dreams had been dashed a third time and I was ready to give up. Just then a young woman (I had met months earlier from the university’s counseling office) approached me; she had noticed my distress and enquired as to what was wrong. I tearfully explained my dilemma upon which she led me into the building and had my application reinstated within minutes. To doubly secure things she called the fine arts department and found out that I’d passed the portfolio interview phase. She informed me that this was a good sign that I would be accepted into the program. I can’t begin to explain my elation upon receiving news of my acceptance into the visual arts program – it was a dream come true!

Weeks later I visited with the young woman who had helped me and she told me she rarely ventured outside on the buildings steps for break. On that day, however, something compelled her to go and she was glad she had. I realized what a miracle it was that this veritable angel was there when I needed her. I saw it as a sign that I was destined to study art against all odds. From that day forward, when things are challenging in the field, I look back to that time and draw much strength from it. I remember no matter what happens, that I belong here. Even today the powers that be continue to work their magic for me. I’m grateful for the presence of angels and even the occasional well-meaning ghost in my life.

I know first-hand what a daunting task applying for university or college can be for those of you who don’t have the privilege of having family or friends to guide you. Something as simple as filling out a post-secondary application form can be the thing stands in the way of you and your dreams. If you don’t know where to begin, it’s easy to want to give up. If you find yourself in this position, I recommend you gather all your courage and seek the information you need from knowledgeable sources. In doing your research, the Internet is an invaluable source of information as are college and university counselors. Taking a tour of an institution’s facilities will also help you network with the program’s teachers and students who may further aid you in your quest for getting into a program. And remember, I’m here too if you need any further insights in this area

* Note: Instead of personally hand-delivering your application, I advise you send it in a post-marked format that ensures it will be signed and dated upon receipt. That way there is no question about the time of delivery.


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