Menlo’s Artistic Talent

by Joel Blake '12, Menlo College student

(TOP Amanda Vegas stands with her piece, “Just Hanging Around”. Vegas was the runner-up in a recent “Outside the Box, Inside the Frame” art competition., MIDDLE “Untitled” by Alisha Vegas, winner of the purchase prize,BOTTOM “Untitled” by Brigid Yu, honorable mention)

Menlo College, Silicon Valley's business school, is known for producing many successful business and communication graduates. While economic and business classes are essential to each student's education, there is a rush at the beginning of each semester to reserve spots in all of the available art classes.

“Our art class is one night out of the week, but it gives me a chance to relax and ease my mind,” said Amanda Vegas, a student in Michael Pauker's Beginning Drawing class. “It's definitely a stress-relieving activity,” she said.

“In the 1950s, Judge Russell, the passionate founder and much-loved teacher of the Menlo College School of Business Administration observed that since students primarily focused on business they had little opportunity to network with others,” recalls Dorothy Skala, 83-year old Director Emerita of Alumni Relations who worked at the College for 54 years. Russell realized that he needed something to round them out (“so they wouldn't be boring at parties,” laughed Dorothy) so he hired Professor Patrick Henry Tobin in 1957. Tobin immediately introduced the students to a world of art, music, travel, and history. His lectures and tours are legend. Today, the tradition of the well-rounded student at Menlo College continues with the Outside the Box, Inside the Frame art series and field trips to concerts, classes with Artist-in-Residence Russell Hancock of the Saint Michael Trio, and other cultural events and programs.

“After working in class and seeing my work in an exhibit, it has given me more motivation and inspiration to continue drawing.” Amanda Vegas, Menlo College Student

Many of Menlo's students take advantage of Outside the Box, Inside the Frame art. The art series was created to display the works of talented art students as well to as enrich the campus with beautiful art.

The program, created in 2008 under the leadership of Ann Haight, has hosted several art exhibits on the Menlo campus. The most recent exhibit, which opened on March 12, 2010 transformed the hall in the Administration Building into an elegant walkway of Menlo's finest artworks. The grand opening included a competition offering the winning artist a purchase prize. Not only did the artwork add to the campus environment, but also it displayed some of the students' range of talent as well.

Talent is what teachers Michael Pauker and Mark Wagner hope to develop.

“If a student enjoys drawing, I want to open them up to new ideas about what they are doing,” said Pauker. Pauker says creating conceptual art from scratch is what it's all about.

“It all starts with interest, either you have it or you don't,” Pauker said.

Becoming an artist is not all fun and games. “To create great art, students need to respect the fact that it takes a lot of practice and hard work,” said Pauker. “It's a balance between work and fun,” he said.

When asked what the key attribute of a successful artist is, he paused for a moment and then firmly replied, “Confidence. It requires a great deal of confidence for an artist to reach a highly-successful level.”

“Art is what makes us human. It is a form of appreciating the world through our senses.” Michael Pauker, Adjunct Professor of Art

Pauker has been teaching for two years at Menlo, but he has also been teaching part time at West Valley College in Saratoga and Skyline College in San Bruno. He previously taught art classes at Stanford, Santa Rosa Junior College, and at the California State Arts and Mental Health Program. Many of Pauker's works are in permanent collections throughout the United States. He has works displayed in the New York Public Library and in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Currently Pauker's focus at Menlo is teaching a beginning drawing class.

“I want my students to be able to measure and observe objects, then recreate them within their original proportions,” said Pauker.

Art terminologies and basic drawing techniques are some of the things that Menlo's drawing class students have been learning. Currently the students have been working on “value, or light and darkness,” says Pauker.

The students had been assigned to make a themed piece working with value. The piece was to include two figures and a landscape, and the assignment required that they use charcoal.

Getting her hands dirty with charcoal has never been a problem for Amanda Vegas. Her piece was selected as the runner up in the art exhibition's competition. The winner was Amanda's sister Alisha, who took first prize with her collage piece. According to Amanda, Alisha created the piece in a previous semester's art class with Mark Wagner. The school ended up buying the winning collage from Alisha for one hundred dollars.

Pauker spoke highly of both Vegas sisters' pieces. “I absolutely loved Amanda's charcoal drawing,” said Pauker. “Both of the sisters work tremendously hard, and they do a great job of balancing work and fun in the class.”

“I thought the winner (Alisha) deserved it, and not just because she's my sister,” said Amanda.

It is clear that there is some family talent however, as this is Amanda's first art show. She admitted that she was rarely involved in drawing before Menlo's art class gave her the opportunity to draw. Her sister Alisha has been in several art classes before at Menlo, and she continues to sharpen her artistic abilities.

“A rich life has many dimensions.” Russell Hancock, President and CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, and Artist-in-Residence at Menlo College

“This was my first time in an art show,” said Amanda. “After working in class and seeing my work in an exhibit, it has given me more motivation and inspiration to continue drawing,” Amanda added. “I was really impressed with the whole event.”

Pauker agreed with Amanda, stating that art class provides students with an excellent means of escaping regular types of classes to develop or discover a skill you might never have known you possessed. “Art is what makes us human; it is a form of appreciating the world through our senses. It can be relaxing and fun at the same time,” said Pauker.

While Menlo College prides itself on its Business Management programs, it is committed to developing well-rounded students with a broad range of skills that will contribute to successful careers after graduation. Art provides students with an ability to express themselves in creative ways. The Outside the Box, Inside the Frame program has proven once again that Menlo's business-minded students are exceptional artists and creators as well!

“A rich life has many dimensions,” said Russell Hancock, President and CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, and Artist-in-Residence at Menlo College.