When I look back at my accomplishments in my field, I’m astonished that a little girl born in Taylorville, Illinois, who grew up in the places her mother found to teach and learn, could do so much. This was not a future I anticipated. I went through the University of Wisconsin in Madison intending to be an art teacher and I got my undergraduate degree in Art Education and did my student teaching in Watertown, Wisconsin. As a freshman, in 1960, I pledged a sorority (my mother’s) and one evening, which my husband assures me was March 4th, I attended a social gathering with a fraternity of which he was a member. As he was walking out after dinner he spotted me in another room and turned on his heel to come over to talk to me. He courted me—and did I ever play hard to get!—for three years while he got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in history at UW. He finally wore down my resistance and when we left Madison in 1963 we got married. He applied and was accepted into the Ph.D. program at Indiana University. Jim was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, son of a Professor of English at Purdue, so this would be in-state tuition for us newlyweds. I decided I wanted to get a graduate degree as well, this time in fine art. Following my letter of inquiry, I got a form back asking for the degree I wished to pursue (M.A. or M.F.A., the latter a 60-credit degree) and in which area. Silly as it sounds, I picked M.F.A. because it had three letters of the alphabet, just as Jim’s had three. But what field? This is where it becomes funny and serious and definitely was one of those “so what do you do now?” moments. I didn’t know, so I asked Jim what he thought I was most interested in or best at, and after thinking about it, he said jewelry. And that’s why I put down jewelry on my application. I was accepted into the MFA program but as I recall, the first line of the letter was this: “Dear Marjorie, Your work is very ordinary but we will accept you anyway.” That was the truth but fortunately for me, having been accepted was why I met Professor Alma Eikerman who changed my life. Really. Changed. My. Life. Given the concept of three-dimensional jewelry that didn’t need to conform to being “precious” or “itty bitty” I soared. I bought screen wire and brass tubing at the hardware store. I made big silver rings and huge brass armlets. I knew no bounds. I cut and sawed and soldered and tore apart and put back together and so many things I would never in the world have anticipated I would be doing. She was an incredible teacher and has shown through her students the huge impact a teacher can have. She brought out the best and the beast in me. And I would not have been there doing that if it weren’t for those three little letters (MFA) and Jim’s prescient advice. Little did he know how he was deciding my future, my life, my career and anticipating the enormous effect one teacher can have.
Title of talk --- “So What Are We Going To Do?”
Photo of Marjorie Schick by Amy Myers
Photo of body sculpture “Spiraling Over The Line” by Gary Pollmiller