As a young girl I watched my artist father paint beautiful strokes of color and life on walls, paper, and canvas. I longed for a canvas of my own. Although my dad is a muralist and painter with over 60 years experience, my parents encouraged me to pursue more lucrative career choices.
The words lawyer and doctor were hurled at my head all too much. They feared a hard life of a starving artist for me. My mother is a financial planner with her own business. I am so proud of her for working hard to get what she wants. Growing up with entrepreneur and artist parents has influenced me a great deal. I have always wanted my own creative services company, a beautiful blend of art and business.
It must have been my fear of ending up with no money that lead me to pursue a business degree at the University of Michigan. In this program consumed with numbers, finance charts, and networking ideas, I longingly watching the art students working on drawing projects. I told myself that I was doing the right thing, the smart thing for my future. I told myself that I would always have time to paint later, and learn myself.
I decided to take whatever art and art history classes I could on the side, but remained immersed in the business school environment. I was the artist that had somehow fooled them all, got accepted into business school, and actually was doing well. Go figure I was good at math and statistics, and seemed to have a knack for business thinking. Even though I hated the calculations and overall just hated accounting. Period. Still, I pushed on.
It could have been a major life altering disaster when I got pregnant with my son senior year at UMich and almost quit school. I was ashamed and scared of how my life would change, but with the help of my family I got through it. Who would have thought that I would get the best grades of my life that Y2K year? Straight A’s is what no more partying and mad studying can do to someone.
I graduated on time with the help of my fabulous friends. They loved taking turns with the baby so I could attend class, go to the store, or go to the bathroom! If not for my sister circle at school I never would have survived the initial phase of becoming a mother. It brings tears to my eyes to this day when I think about how much those girls mean to me and my success. To have people in your corner is the best thing in the world. It felt good walking across the state with my little superman.
Business school led to consulting work at Andersen LLP and then Huron Consulting Group. Long hours, great pay, awesome folks, too much travel, and way too much stress is how I can describe my time in the financial services industry circa 2001. By year 6 – I was pulling my hair out, neglecting my family, and looking for a way out. I mean, they wouldn’t even let me play with the font color on reports! No creativity allowed. I knew it was time to move on the day that I broke down and cried in my boss’s office. (yes, for reals)
Taking the Good Will Hunting approach to learning, I started teaching myself graphic and web design. I owe a great debt to the IT guy Charlie, who gave me design software (that fell off a truck) and a way to express my creativity in the world beyond painting. My first client was my mom. My talent and work continued to grow from there as I amassed more fans and painted my ass off. Got an online design certificate from sessions.edu later that year, and was on my way. I still wanted more.
After almost 2 years of hemming and hawing, I contemplated leaving my job, changing careers, the affects on my family, impact on my kids, and on my life. Finally I chose to go back to school for a Master of Arts Management degree from Columbia College Chicago. My mother had some choice words for me “Muff, don’t quit your job!” (lol she calls me Muff, yes) Then I called my dad with the news. Agonizing over my decision came to a halt as my father’s words of encouragement rang in my ear “you can do anything you set your mind to Martha,” and I knew I would be OK.
The knowledge I received from this school has been invaluable. The professors and students at Columbia are the kind of people that I crave being around. Because of them, I was able to produce a music TV show, design an entire website for the TV department, intern at a major TV station in Chicago, and network my ass off!
Although my mother had discouraged me from changing careers in the beginning, she quickly recognized my true desires and talents. She saw that my dreams were happening for me and continued to hire me for her own design projects! With her support, both emotional and financial in every way, I was able to complete the program.
My final thesis project at Columbia is my business plan and idea for Custom Canvas Art Gallery, an online art gallery of member artists vibrant paintings and prints. While presenting my final thesis to the graduate committee, I was offered a job mid-presentation! Of course I said yes to extra money, yes to teaching others, and ‘HELL YES’ to their belief in me and my dream.
Honored and humbled to be part of the team, I held back tears after the presentation as I called my father with the good news. It was as if all my hard work and sacrifice had paid off. I came to the school with no production experience, and left with a producer job at WGN-TV, a dream art gallery in the works, and a new teaching gig.
Just call me Professor Wade. =)