It was a complete fluke I ever ended up in Evelyn Askey's high school art class. I suppose I can thank Kelli, my 8th grade best friend, for that twist of fate. Sitting next to her filling out my 9th grade class schedule, I needed an elective. Kelli chose art. So I chose art. You don’t know how many times I wonder where I’d be now if she had chosen agriculture instead.
Ms. Askey was one of those teachers that truly loved every part of her job. She was passionate about art and sharing it with her students. She took us on field trips to art galleries, she arranged tours of artist’s studios. She cried when Georgia O’Keefe died. She cared about the art community and she cared about her students. She cared about teaching. And we all knew it.
But most importantly, she believed in us. And having someone believe in you, that you can do something, that you can be someone, is a very empowering gift. Knowing what I wanted to do with my life and having such passion for it, made every other part of my life easier. I worked harder not just in art class, but in all of my classes. Art club became my life, art class was my reason to get up in the morning. I asked for extra assignments, I stayed after school. I carried a sketchbook everywhere I went. I wrote advertisements for school dances, sold donuts to earn money for an art club trip to New York City. And I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Me and Ms. Askey at my high school graduation. That's my Gramma in the background in the top photo.
Ms. Askey encouraged me to work harder, get better, do more. She submitted my artwork to national competitions where I won blue ribbons and gold keys. And with her help, I earned a scholarship to a college I would have never been able to attend otherwise. She wrote me letters of encouragement the first year I was away. Letters which I will cherish forever.
Sadly, she passed away a few years ago. And when the news let out that she was dying, I hear she received an outpouring of letters from her students. All thanking her for changing their lives, and encouraging her to somehow beat the cancer she was battling. You better believe I had a letter in that pile and I was grateful to have had the chance to let her know how much she meant to me.
Every day of my life I am grateful I walked into that art room. Every single day.