December 16, 2006

It’s a done deal!

Thursday afternoon was the official ‘retirement’ party at NSCAD for me. I must say, although I didn’t expect it, and certainly didn’t want it to happen, I really enjoyed the event. There must have been about a hundred people there, faculty, staff and student union. Lots of food and decorations with subtle lighting in the drawing studio where I usually teach. I was given carte blanche (by my faculty friends) to do whatever I wanted, more or less, like breaking into the food line, sitting where I wanted (moving someone else’s things off “my” chair) and such.

The “ceremonies” were friendly and thankfully brief. Not only was I given a Long-Term Service Award in a beautiful walnut frame, but was surprised to receive a magnificent azalea plant and also a handmade box with inlaid NSCAD traditional design, filled with drawings by the Fine Arts Faculty. I was very touched. The comments were complimentary and honest, mentioning the students’ protest to my forced retirement. One student offered a tribute to me that was read by the head of the department. Alex showed a list of all the classes I have taught over the years, never missing a semester: fall, winter, summer. (It was impressive, although as part-time faculty, that was a financial necessity.) He also mentioned it was hard to believe I was ready to retire, with my youthful spirit and abundant creativity. Then another instructor took the microphone and said she once came into my classroom and saw a “hot young chick” bending over another student’s work. When the “chick” turned around, she realized it was me. “So”, she said, “Leya is not only young in spirit but also in body.”

The event left me with a very warm feeling towards something that is not my choice. This is a big change in my life. Probably I will be asked back at times to teach, given classes when they are available, maybe, but basically it is a change in my income, in my security, and most important, my identity. It’s hard enough to be a self-supporting artist, to wait for sales, to ride the fickle market, receive praise and criticism from the viewing public, acceptance and rejections often equally. To teach at NSCAD University carries status. At least I can say I did, and, if the rules change, may again. I’m too young, in every way, to be put out to pasture.

Posted by leya at December 16, 2006 07:44 AM

I’m too young, in every way, to be put out to pasture.

That is absolutely true! What a nice tribute to you, but I can imagine that it was a bit bittersweet. I'm glad they gave you a fitting tribute, but I still think they should make these rules change! It seems to me that you've never fit the mold, so there's no reason for them to start cramming you into it now!

Posted by: Rachel at December 16, 2006 11:46 AM

Thank you so much, Rachel. It helps to hear you say this. It was, indeed, a bittersweet event. And still hard to accept completely.

Posted by: Leya at December 16, 2006 12:48 PM