MY ART STORY by

Susan K. Dailey

Fort Collins
Colorado

S.K.Dailey_Lewiston 1979.jpg

Woman painting on floor in classroom.

Susan Dailey giving a "Tree Painting Demonstration" at McSorely Elementary in Lewiston, Idaho, as part of the Artist-in-Schools residency in 1979. Photo courtesy of Idaho Comission on the Arts - Archive Photos

Not too long ago, John McMahon, the artist services program director for the Idaho Commission for the Arts, started preparing for the upcoming 2016 Idaho Art Commission’s 50th anniversary. He was looking through some old and somewhat moldy slides in a tray labeled "1979 Artists-in-Schools Program." He came across several slides with the name Susan Dailey on them, so he searched the web to see if I was still an artist. When he found me, he was kind enough to clean up and share some of those old slides with me, and told me about the 50th NEA anniversary happening this year! Seeing the old photos, an unexpected “blast from the past,” was cause for reflection.

Back in 1979, while still in college studying for my art degree, I applied to participate in the new Artist-in-Schools program that was offered through the NEA in partnership with various state arts councils. After graduation, I sent applications to programs in several western states and Idaho responded. I had the opportunity to participate in three residencies there: Lewiston (Spring 1979), Parma (Fall 1979), and Georgetown (Fall 1981). I also participated in two artist residencies through this same program in Nebraska; in the towns of Bassett (1983) and Gordon (1985). As a young artist, these residencies helped me gain valuable experience: the opportunity to practice my art and teaching skills in school and community settings.

Those early experiences got me started and kept me focused on an art career. I continued to pursue my art and have been a professional artist specializing in murals and mixed-media public art installations for many years now. As a public artist, I find the various processes involved in creating the artwork, from concept design to installation, to be very exciting! I have the opportunity to collaborate with community members to visually interpret, reflect, and express their ideas, histories, and dreams into a meaningful community symbol. I get to work with people of all ages and from all walks of life. The scope and direction of a particular public art piece often takes on a life of its own, becoming a visual voice and source of community pride.

Thanks to my early Artist-in-Schools experience, teaching and working in schools has always been a component of my art career. Thank you so much NEA, and happy anniversary! May you continue to enrich our lives for many decades to come!

Susan K. Dailey
Fort Collins, CO