Jim Schuessler, who graduated from LakeVille in 1991, is a well renowned artist and graphic designer who lives and works out of New York. His work has appeared in Food Network Magazine and Time Out New York Magazine. He has done graphic design work for Levis, Calvin Klein, ESPN, and Disney and he designed the logo for the Julliard String Quartet. (You can visit his site here.)
Mr. Schuessler contacted us because has a strong desire to reach out to our current LakeVille students. He will be speaking to Mrs. Johnson's morning art classes at the high school on Thursday, September 5. Additionally, his work will be featured in an exhibition opening on Saturday, September 7 at Gallery 194 in Lapeer. (See the information below for details.)
Mr. Schuessler took some time to answer these questions for us in anticipation of his visit.
Please share some things about where you grew up and which schools you attended.
I grew up in Otter Lake. I went to Otter Lake Elementary and then to LakeVille for Middle and High School. I later attended U of M-Flint and then Ferris State University.
Do you have any specific memories of teachers or classes in LakeVille Schools that had a significant impact on you?
There are a couple of teachers who made an impact on me. One teacher was Mr. Busick (English). He once told me, "Anyone who tells you these are the best times of your life has probably forgotten what its like to be a teenager." That really stayed with me, and I think about that when I talk to kids.
Another teacher who made an impression on me was Mr. Schmid (Band). To hear some kids talk, band was supposed to be for nerds. But there was Schmid, the supposed biggest nerd of all, setting an example that I follow to this day. Nerds are just people who are unafraid to like what they like. For me it was art, and comics and drawing.
The final person I will mention here is Mrs. Clark. She was just so smart and charismatic. She also challenged my thinking. As a senior she suggested I write a paper on existentialism. A lot of it was over my head, but the idea that a person is defined by their experiences and decisions came along at the perfect time for me.
Please tell us briefly about your career. What have been the highlights for you personally?
I got a job at Interlochen Center for the Arts straight out of college. I was a graphic designer in the marketing department. It was there that I got my first real look at what it takes to be an artist. The kids there lived and breathed their art and worked at it day and night. At that point in my life, I didn't understand the effort and dedication it takes to become good at what you do. I looked at "art " as more of something you either had or didn't have, but you really have to work at it.
From Interlochen, I moved to New York City, where I have been for over a decade. During that time I've been a graphic designer, an illustrator, a painter and a pattern designer. I've done work for such companies as Levis, Calvin Klein, ESPN, Vogue and Food Network Magazine.
Math, science and standardized tests get a lot of focus in education right now. Do you have any thoughts about the importance creativity and the arts in education or in a child's life in general?
I think you cannot overstate the importance of art in life, in the community, or in school. I live in an area in Brooklyn that used to be just a bunch of old warehouses. Artists started moving there because you could rent a large space for a cheap price. Next thing you know, the neighborhood gets a cool "vibe" and people start moving there from all over. Now it's a thriving neighborhood rivaling those in Manhattan.
Look at Detroit, the same thing is happening there. The art scene is thriving. Detroit's coming back and the art scene will play a big part. No one talks about that.
I was just in Royal Oak for Arts, Beats and Eats and that's just a big art festival. Art can enrich a community, and I think that is something that is often overlooked and underestimated.
That's the reason that I am doing this art show in Lapeer. Let's get the art scene in Lapeer going. That's not just a call to the artists, its also a call to the community. Come out and show your support, that's the only way it will work.
What's your one-sentence advice for any student who wants to pursue a career in art or another creative field?
Get to work! You need to take charge and build your career, your life and your art. That doesn't mean you need to know exactly what path you are going to take, but it means you have to put in the work.
I didn't figure that out until later in life, and things didn't start working out for me until I did. I know that's more than one sentence, but "Get to work!" is a little vague.
We would like to thank Mr. Schuessler for the time he took to answer our questions and for visiting with our students! Please come out to see his exhibit this month in Lapeer. He will be speaking and attending the reception there on September 7.