“My Life in Art” by Ann Lalik
I make art because it touches a place in my soul where nothing else can go. I teach and serve as an art administrator because I want to share this passion with others. It is a blessing and a privilege to do what I do.
I was raised in an artistic family, attended community art school from the age of four until I went to college, attended a fine art college for both my BFA and MFA, and then worked at the Baum School of Art for twenty-two years. My point is that, until the age of forty-seven, I always lived and worked with a 100% artistic population (just to clarify, my husband is not a working artist but an artist at heart). Call it sheltered, lucky, or peculiar, but I really didn’t know any other way of life. I didn’t know what it was like to live and work in an atmosphere where art was not the primary focus of everyone’s life, and truthfully, I didn’t often ask myself why I did what I did. It all happened so naturally.
I’ve been talking about this a lot lately because I never thought about how unique my environment was until two years ago when I started on my new path at Penn State Lehigh Valley. I found a wonderful community and a new challenge there. This campus, which had little art to speak of at its small property in Fogelsville, made the celebratory move to Center Valley in 2009. It acquired a building with more than three times the square footage and with that, room for visual art studios and an art gallery. After securing the job of gallery director and arts coordinator, with the charge to initiate the art gallery and art program, I realized why I do what I do.
For one thing, I realized how much I love starting new projects, as I did at the Baum School. But this time it was different because for the first time in my life, I found myself immersed in an organization where ART was not the focus of every person’s existence. Although Ann Williams, the chancellor, gave the gallery and studio a tremendous amount of support, it was hard for me to adjust to the notion that ART was not the primary function of the organization. I had to work with people who were passionate about biology, engineering, and, OMG, football…but not ART.
Why I do what I do? After less than two years of working hard to infuse the arts into the campus, I saw the light. The student-run newspaper now has regular articles about the gallery exhibitions; the Engineering Club is planning to build a piece of equipment for the art students to use; the studio art classes are well received by the students; many of the faculty and administrative staff have provided financial support, research, and equipment to the art gallery; and most of the campus seems to agree that the arts are making the campus a better place. The Lehigh Valley community has embraced the arts at Penn State Lehigh Valley as well and show their support through gallery attendance, continuing education art class enrollment, and financial support.
Advocating for the arts and crafting programs, exhibitions, and studio spaces are exciting to me. Even the more mundane activities, like generating budgets, contracts, and curricula, have all contributed to the rich experience I have been fortunate enough to enjoy in both the community art school and the college arena. I can’t think of anything else I would rather do!
Ann Lalik is Gallery Director and Arts Coordinator at Penn State Lehigh Valley, Center Valley. Prior to this position, she was Director of Educational Programs and Gallery Exhibitions and Executive Director at the Baum School of Art in Allentown.