“The Galasso Institute of Art, Design and Life”: The One-Year Alternative Graduate School Adventure!

April Book List

Have you ever wanted to go back to school but not have to deal with the burden of college loans? I’ve been getting the itch to learn more lately. For those who don’t know, I’m an Art Educator. I’ve been teaching High School Art for 11 years between two districts in the State of Connecticut. My undergraduate degree is a BFA in Digital Art and Design from 2002 (LIU Post) and my graduate degree is a MS in Education from 2005 (U. of Bridgeport). A lot has changed in the last 10-15 years, both in the Arts and in Education – especially in how technology has influenced both. I would like to enhance and enrich my skills. However, I don’t want to get caught in the endless web of education loan debt again. Paying off my loans was a very freeing experience last year and one of my personal goals is to become debt-free someday.

I’d like to create a period of focused study to improve my skills in the Arts, in life, and to help me develop more of my own personal style. I know that when I seek out new learning opportunities in the Arts, my classroom instruction becomes more enriched. I learn more, they learn more, so it’s a win-win situation. I’d also like to establish my Art and Design business more and start creating my own artwork more consistently.

I was inspired to do this project by a chapter I read in a book called The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. The project was titled The One-Year Alternative Graduate School Program. It’s not meant to replace a traditional degree but serves as an alternative to one. Not all learning has to be within the confines of a degree program. What I like about his setup is that it hits a variety of areas of learning – from just taking care of yourself, to more specialized areas. For me I wanted to see what it would look like if I created a one-year life experience for myself? I already write curriculum for school. What would my own personal curriculum created by me look like? If I could learn anything in the world, what would I want to learn over the course of a year?

I’ve decided to borrow his framework and modify/build off of it for my own interests and needs. Here’s what I came up with. I post this for accountability and engagement as well as lay the foundation of my new website/blog. I hereby title this project The Galasso Institute of Art, Design and Life. (Members: 1)

The Galasso Institute of Art, Design and Life:
The One-Year Alternative Graduate School Adventure!

  • Practice Self-CareOne of my vices is online media surfing. Like most 21st century people with smartphone technology, I wake up and check the news, and my social media newsfeeds, and I go to bed doing the same. Then I realize, hours of my life have flown out the window! I’m hoping this project will help me with my time management. This will give me time to a) get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, b) cook organic/paleo meals and focus on eating better, c) making time to work out and engage in activities I enjoy. When I sleep, eat and work out – I’m a better human being, and it provides me time to make my Art.
  • Become a member of NPR: Put the NPR homepage on my browser start page. Listen to WNPR in the morning to keep up with the news.  –  I really like NPR because unlike most news sources, it’s more middle of the road. I really enjoy how you get to hear people’s personal stories, they ask for multiple sides of an issue and allow the listener to make their own choices. I also enjoy their arts and culture programs. Plus it’s important to support public media. They’re facing possibly huge Federal cuts. I became a member earlier in the year and plan to donate more later in the year.
  • Develop a Workout Schedule – I hurt myself while hiking last Fall and I’ve put working out on the backburner since getting out of PT. I want to develop a regular schedule rotating cycling, yoga, hiking and gym time. Always alternating activities and practicing good cross-training as to not burn a muscle group out.

  • Read 108 books – What graduate school program is without reading? This ends up being about 2 books per week, with one of them being an Art related book. This will keep me learning about new things but also keep me from wasting a lot of time social media news surfing. I read a lot of non-fiction but I want to add in some fiction as well as some classics too to enhance my sense of culture outside of the visual arts.
  • Explore the Visual Arts. Can one truly be a Renaissance Woman? I’m on the quest to find out. I’d like to take each month this year and dedicate it to enhancing my skills in a different medium: updating my Digital Art Skills, Drawing, Pottery, Painting, Mixed Media, Photography, Sculpture, Urban Sketching, Fiber Arts (I want to learn how to yarn bomb something!) Then I’ll take out three months to synthesize what I’ve learned and develop a personal style. I won’t go at them in this order – but pick up a new medium as I feel until I’ve crossed them all off my list. My background being in Digital Art and Design – one question that will drive my project is, “How can my Design aesthetic translate to different Art media?”
  • Travel – Road Trip New England to See/Experience a variety of Artist Communities
    My funds are limited this year for Summer vacation I may take my Subaru Forester on a road trip/multiple day trips to see different parts of New England I’ve not been to yet and see how the Arts are alive in our communities. Now that I live in Central CT, both Boston and NYC are equidistant as well as being surrounded by Hartford, New Haven, and other Artist communities locally. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Philly are just a drive away. This gives me a chance to explore what’s in my own backyard.
  • Get in touch with my roots I’ve signed up for an Adult Ed. Italian Language class. (I’m 3rd Generation Italian-American on both sides.) I also have the Duolingo app on my phone. I’m looking into getting involved in Italian Heritage groups, as well as learning about my own family’s origins and history. Part of this will also be digitizing old home movies, and photos from the past and cataloging them, meeting with family members and archiving stories. The ultimate goal would be preparing a trip in the coming year or two where I’d not only get to see what I missed in Italy during my trip in 2015, but I’d be able to visit where my ancestors used to live. Maybe even through technology connect with distant relatives?
  • DeClutter my lifeAs I’ve gotten older, I realize I’ve accumulated a lot of “stuff” that doesn’t serve me anymore but may serve someone else better. I’m going through my apartment to relieve myself of that stuff via EBay and help make money along the side. I’ve also become a collector of “stuff” to make Art out of. (Those canvas package deals and Michaels coupons are unbeatable!) This could not only help me clean my apartment, but make new work to put in my Etsy shop. I really admire the tiny house movement and think minimalism is cool. I couldn’t go all out because I need studio space – but I definitely can adopt some of their principles into my life.
  • Establish online storefronts and get involved in the Makers-Market sceneI’d like to establish an Etsy Shop, for my handmade work and digital prints, a Smugmug shop for my photography work, and pick up more design commissions work throughout the year. I’ve been researching online at the moment and I’d like build up enough work to participate in both the New Haven City Wide Open Studios and Hartford Open Studios this coming Fall as well as some of the artisan art/craft fairs during the holidays.
  • Improve my skills/knowledge in things not visual arts relatedIn addition to Italian Language classes, I’d like to deepen my knowledge in how to use and apply essential oils as I’m a DoTerra member, I’d like to take guitar lessons again and rekindle that love of playing music I learned as a kid and as a teen/college student. I’d like to delve into spirituality and my connection with God and people. I’ve experienced a paradigm shift in my faith where I’ve become more open minded in my thinking and I’d like to dig in and learn more about the faiths of the world and how they connect with one another. I’d like to engage in solo travel while I’m still single with no kids – and experience what that feels like. I’d like to develop a personal fashion style. I’d also like to learn how to simplify my life and seek out debt-free living. I’m getting closer but I’m not where I want to be yet.
  • I’d like to give to a charity at least once a monthI believe helping others helps the world and is part of the circle of life. So each month I’ll look for opportunities to give and make a donation to a good cause.
  • Go out and Experience Art – Each month I plan to at minimum: a) visit 1 museum, b) visit 1 gallery opening, c) check out another form of Art: see live music, go to a performance, go out and watch a movie in a theater d) spend an afternoon one weekend per month at Barnes and Noble, get a coffee or tea and read the current Art and Design magazines. (I used to do that a lot when I was in my early art career and I miss it.)

So what is my plan for April?

  • Start forming good habits: Practice self care, develop a workout schedule, start regularly listening to NPR.
  • Read 8 books: I have some books I’ve taken out of the library that I want/need to read. Half are books for work as I’m re-designing/updating the Digital Art and 2D Design curriculum where I teach. The other half relate to interests.

– How to Sell Your Art Online by Cory Huff – I got a head start on this last month and just finished this over the weekend. I thought it to be a great resource to update my knowledge about running an Art business.

– The Great American Staycation by Matt Wixon 

– The Power of Off by Nancy Colier

– The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani 

– The Creative Core book Series by Jim Krause: Visual Design, Color for Designers and Lessons in Typography 

– Design: Logo by Paul Howalt and Von Glitschka 

I’ll report in a future blog post at the end of April about what I thought about the books and how I think they will be helpful to my goals and also help others.

  • Get in touch with my roots – My Italian class starts this week for 8 weeks. That’s a great start!
  • Explore the visual arts: This month I’m digging into my Digital Art and Design roots. I’m reading a ton of design books to help build my curriculum at work, so I hope to build upon my skills and update areas where technology has changed. Maybe even getting more comfortable with a drawing tablet? I also I hope to have a new logo / website design established by the end of May. I’m going to start investigating my own logo first, and then my website.

So what do you think? If you have any ideas or feedback, please mention them in the comments below. You can also follow my Alternative Grad Adventure on Social Media through the hashtag #GalassoInstitute.

New Growth!

A little jade plant I’ve been propagating. Jade is usually given in Asian cultures as a housewarming gift, or to a new business, symbolizing growth, renewal, wealth and prosperity.

The First of March is here and I decided to set some new goals! It’s two months after everyone’s made and broken their resolutions. (I’m hoping by waiting a few months I have a better shot!) It doesn’t really have anything to do with Lent starting today, but I guess it doesn’t hurt. I just feel like the first of any month is a good time to start something new and announce it publicly on your blog!

My blog has been on hiatus the last almost year and a half as I’ve not only switched servers, domain hosts, but also apartments! Since moving to Central Connecticut, my new Art studio has transformed from a table in the kitchen in my old apartment to a full room! It’s almost set up the way I want it and I’m starting to think about all the things I’d like to make. Like many creatives I find I have all these ideas but never find the time to make anything. Today that changes. As my favorite designer, Milton Glaser says, “Art is work”. You have to make the time. We also live in interesting times and I feel called to make Art – Art that brings joy into people’s lives. I’ve been reading books and researching what it takes to build an Etsy store and how to make enough quality work to hit the Makers Market/Craft Fair circuit…

I’m also in the mood to re-market my brand. I’m not feeling the Art Deco logo represents me anymore.

Old Logo

When I think of myself as an artist and a human being I don’t see myself as “New York / Gatsby”. I love New York, and I love Art Deco style and everything – its smooth gradients, lean geometric shapes, and sense of modernism – but it’s not who I am to the core. I want something that reflects more of who I’m evolving to be. I used to exclusively do just graphic design. Now in addition to that, I’m starting to branch out more into mixed media, I love my urban sketching. I enjoy drawing and painting and trying out new things in clay, and I’m starting to fall back in love with my first medium – photography. This adventure comes with a new twist! I need to transfer all my manual SLR knowledge in my head to my new DSLR and see what it can really do for me! It means I need to sit with my camera and start reading my manual!

In terms of my website, for now I’ve chosen a generic WordPress theme but hope to customize more once I have some solid blog posts in…

I also have this vision of my website turning not only into a repository for my portfolio – but a blog that teaches and inspires in the things I love the most. I love art, and I also love organic sustainable living. I enjoy riding my bike and the cycling life, cooking, nature, hiking and I discovered I have quite a green thumb! I’ve also caught the travel bug and I’m always trying to add stamps to my passport or at least explore my backyard a little more. I’m delving into yoga and mindfulness more and seeing how that fits within my art-making practice. I also think it would be cool to create a series of Youtube videos and demos that helps inspire others to create and delve into the visual arts. I just need to figure out how to set up that rig…

So essentially – a creative life blog!

…will you join me on this adventure?

Please plug in your email on the right sidebar and subscribe to my blog. You’ll get all my updates and find out how things evolve over the next year! One of my goals is to post weekly, or at least bi-weekly, so stay tuned for what’s next! In the meantime you can follow my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Till next blog…ciao!