GLENS FALLS, NY—Will Fowler always loved to draw, but wasn’t sure how that would translate to a paying career. While a high school student, he decided to study architecture in college.
“It seemed like a viable career option because I knew I wasn’t going to make a living selling paintings,” said Fowler, co-owner of Sidekick Creative, a Glens Falls-based graphic design firm. “I thought architecture was the best of both worlds because it was a ‘real’ career and I would get to draw houses, but I didn’t understand how much math and engineering was involved.”
A semester studying architecture made it clear it wasn’t the path for him, but he wasn’t sure what was. In the years that followed, he discovered graphic design and has built a career doing what he loves.
Fowler is one of three creative professionals who will share their stories at Creative Futures, an event at 1 pm Saturday, January 20, geared toward teenagers and young adults considering careers in the arts. Creative Futures is sponsored by the Workforce Development Institute and held at The Hyde Collection.
Fowler, author and illustrator Ira Marcks, and SUNY Adirondack media arts professor Nick Paigo will discuss the arts as a viable career option. Each speaker will discuss his respective field, then offer a related arts activity to teach students about it.
“For students who love drawing, painting, graphic design, working with clay, singing—whatever their interest—there is a way for them to build a career without giving up their passion,” said Jenny Hutchinson, educator at The Hyde Collection. “We think it’s really important for young people to know that graduation doesn’t have to be the end of creativity.”
“That really resonates with me because that’s exactly how I felt,” Fowler said.
Society’s lack of creative outlet drove Marcks to host improvisational comic and storytelling events at regional libraries. “As someone who is really invested in creativity, I sometimes feel like there aren’t enough opportunities for people to be creative,” he said.
The “comic jams” are among several ways Marcks has built a career out of his passion for comics and storytelling. He also teaches classes, creates comic books for groups like the Workforce Development Institute, and makes presentations to schools.
In college, Marcks thought he might get into animation, but couldn’t see himself working for someone on a collaborative project. “I fell back on teaching and working as a teacher’s aide, and I’d make my own comics and post them online,” he said. “I was supporting myself financially as a teacher as I did my creative projects.”
“I realized, ‘You can meld these two ideas of education and your artistic endeavors,’ and I started building a little career for myself, teaching comics and narrative, and getting work creating educational and informational materials using comics as the medium,” he said.
For Creative Everyday, a Workforce Development Institute-commissioned comic book about creative careers, Marcks interviewed more than 200 people.
“It’s really interesting to see people rediscovering things about themselves just by starting a different creative career,” he said. “I’ve always drawn and made things, but never really had a goal or vision; I was always just like, ‘This is what I know to do; I’m going to keep doing it.’ ”
Paigo’s career path was more linear. The chair of the technology division of media arts at SUNY Adirondack loved drawing as a kid, and redrew every comic book or video game he could find.
“I illustrated everything I could, and that turned into trying to draw the human body, still lifes, and pretty much anything I could,” he said. But drawing wasn’t his only skill; he also showed an aptitude for computers. “I could look at something once and figure it out,” he said of video games and puzzles.
When he was in high school, a conversation with his father, a construction worker, changed his life. “He wanted me to work with my head, not my hands,” he said. He remembered telling his father, “I think I want to go to school for art, and he said, ‘Artists are a dime a dozen, but why don’t you try graphic design because you’re good with computers and then you can still do art?’ I had no idea what graphic design was, but I was like, ‘Cool,’ and started researching it.”
“I went to school for it and never really turned back,” he said.
As a graduate student, he served as a teaching assistant. When he started looking for jobs, he was offered and accepted two—one teaching at BOCES and another as a trainer for Apple. A few years later, he applied for an open position at the college, got the job, and has worked as a professor since.
“I want kids to know that they don’t have to give up a hobby or passion just because somebody doesn’t think they can do it,” said Paigo, who mentioned Early College Career Academy and BOCES as ways students can learn more about a career and earn college credits. “There are tons of opportunities out there, in all sorts of fields.”
Creative Futures is a free event at 1 pm Saturday, January 20, at The Hyde Collection. The event is geared toward high school students and young adults, but the content is suitable for preteen and young teens. Parents and educators are welcome. To register, click here; call 518-792-1761, ext. 310; or email [email protected].