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Follow Your Dreams & the Rest Will Come

Brief Q & A with Associate Professor Lamar Peterson
June 2, 2020

Artwork by Lamar Peterson

Artwork by Lamar Peterson
A Young Man with a Fish, 2016

            "I tell students to follow their dreams and in the long run you’ll find a way."

The Department of Art is pleased to congratulate Lamar Peterson on the promotion to associate professor with tenure. An artist and educator, Lamar came to the University of Minnesota from New York City, where he has an established career as an artist. As an educator, he strives to encourage students to commit to the practice of art and always be open to conversation and exploration of ideas. With painting as his medium, this Fall, students can find Lamar teaching ARTS 3120: Intermediate Painting and ARTS 5120: Advanced Painting.

We took a beat to connect with Lamar to learn a little more about him, hope, and fostering a lifelong love of art. 

Q: How did you know you would become / or decide “I’m an artist?”
A: Well, always the “Art Dork” in high school and not a particularly great student, I knew I wanted to be creative. I went to college for architecture where I learned math was not my strong suit and at which point I also learned that I was dyslexic. This helped me clarify my creative path. Despite my parents’ concerns for my future livelihood, I decided to follow my dream and become an artist.  
 

Q: What inspired you to become an arts educator?
A: I moved to New York City after I earned an MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design.  A key driver to earning an MFA was to be able to teach at the post-secondary level.  While my primary focus when I moved to New York was to be a working artist, teaching art—whether a formal or informal setting—was always something I just did, do. As an educator I enjoy the give and take with students and I just like art and like to talk about art. 
 

Q: What brought you to the UMN?
A: I came to the U of MN to further my career as an arts educator. It was a good opportunity, despite the cold winters; I’m originally from Florida. I enjoy the weather this time of year here, along with so many cultural and arts events, and farmers’ markets.  Since coming here, I’ve had the opportunity to grow as an educator—learn by doing and have encouragement from mentors such as Clarence Morgan and Joyce Lyon. 
 

Q: What is your favorite class to teach & why?
A: Advanced painting class is my favorite class to teach, it’s my medium. Students are dedicated to their practice and learning. I enjoy the dialogue and conversations with advanced students, helping them learn by doing and talking about ideas.
 

Q: What do you hope students come away with from your classes? Have you seen “aha moments” with students?
A: Across the board, I hope they become lovers of art in the future, realize the importance of art and support and value artists, even if they never become an artist. I’ve definitely seen many “aha moments.” It’s great to see young artists finding their way as they grow their skills and artistry. I’ve had maybe a dozen students move to New York City to pursue the arts and even thrive there. I tell students to just follow their dreams and in the long run you’ll find a way.
 

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or song/lyric?
A: Aretha Franklin’s “Try a Little Tenderness” – recorded before the more famous Otis Redding version. Seems like we could all use a little more tenderness right now.

Thank you for your time and congratulations again!