10 Questions for our alumni
Michelle Froh, BFA, Studio Art (Printmaking), 2005
1. Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?
I had to stay in the state of Michigan. I had dreams of going to the Art Institute of Chicago, but the cost was too high. I visited the Calder Art Center and was so impressed, at that point it didn't matter anymore, I was so excited to attend GVSU.
2. How or why did you choose your major or main emphasis area?
I chose art as a major way before I started at GVSU. I had done AP art classes in high school and had a great support team around me that encouraged me to be an artist. However, at the time those same people didn't really understand what a BFA was or what it would bring me in the working world, so I originally went to go into graphic design. I quickly changed to illustration after the first year. Then, after one class of intro to printmaking, I realized I was supposed to be a more process-based artist and I switch my emphasis for the final time.
3. What advice do you have for future students thinking about colleges?
Don't go unless you are sure that higher education is for you. Take a year off, travel or work before you leap into it. If you are convinced that you want to continue then find a school that is changing with the times, and that helps you learn what you are interested in on ALL levels. You are still a baby when you are 18, and making such an expensive choice should be taken very seriously. Make sure that you are going to receive a well-rounded education and that you will be able to see, experience, and grow entirely different than you could ever imagine. A college that focuses on interdisciplinary approaches is a must.
4. What advice do you have for current students thinking about careers?
Work. I worked many different jobs the whole time I was in school. It taught me how to balance all aspects of life and to respect how much an education can get you if you take it seriously and apply it to the outside world. I believe that "career" is a vanishing concept. I think the most important thing is to be flexible and accept that education is only part of the picture and that experience is the most important.
5. What did you do after graduating?
I could write a book. So without getting too much into the details. I'll do a quick rundown. I stayed in Grand Rapids for about a year, then I moved to Seattle. I stayed there for two years, working all the time, but never on my art. I decided to give up on Seattle and the US at that point, and I moved to Prague. I met my now-husband, who happens to be French. We decided to move together to France where I found myself without papers, no knowledge of the french language, and pretty alone. The best part was, I started to make art again. For the money, I taught English for the national education system in Marseille. It was really intense, but it forced me headfirst into the language and the culture. In the meantime, we got married had two kids, and moved to the Pyrénées mountains, where we have been for 8 years. We bought and renovated a stone old barn. We also bought 37 acres of overgrown forest which we are clearing and cultivating into a permaculture wonderland.
6. What are you doing now?
After 9 years of being in France, I have become completely bilingual and I am THE full-time art teacher at the two local middle schools (ages 10-14). So after all is said and done, I used my degree! It's my third year teaching at these schools, and I love it. I am also a member of an art association where we have quarterly art shows and host workshops.
7. How have you used the skills you developed in your field of study in your life and/or career after GVSU?
I love how versatile my education was. I appreciated my time at GVSU a lot, so much so that I feel fully able to teach art in a different language to probably the most difficult age group. My drawing and design skills have proven to be beneficial in many aspects my life. In general, I feel that the creative learning process I went through at Calder made me able to take on anything.
8. What is the best advice you got from an instructor at Grand Valley?
It's been 14 years, so it's hard to remember. Maybe it was just the look on Ed Wong-Ligda's face when something was off. Or, when Brett Colley and I had a verbal dispute in front of the senior seminar class. The advice wasn't so much in words but in the actions that the professors took and in their overall patience and encouragement.
9. What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?
Printing. Using the presses, and the smell of the printmaking rooms. Also, I worked at the front desk as a student secretary, and that job made me feel really part of the community that was at Calder. It gave me a true sense of belonging.
10. Anything else you would like to share with our Visual and Media Arts Community?
I was awarded the Oxbow fellowship in my fourth year. That experience was pivotal for me and changed everything about my practices as an artist. I'm so grateful for that experience and I am still very close with the friends I made there so long ago. I even got to have a critique with Jerry Saltz, it went terribly, but still!
Image credit: Michelle Froh. You can visit Michelle's website at https://frohclaudot.wixsite.com/illustrations, follow Michelle on Instagram @frohclaudotart, and like Michelle's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/frohclaudotart/.
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