When I was in high school I was a socially awkward, chubby, volleyball playing artist in a new school where I knew very few people. During my sophomore year, I entered the art room second period thinking that I was going to spend the rest of my life being a veterinarian or zoologist. Then I met Mrs. Prince. She was a kind hearted educator with a love for gardening and art history. This past week she passed away after battling a long illness. It’s only now that I realize how much she affected my life.
Over three years in that large third-floor art room, Ruth Prince and I became friends. When we were alone, we were on a first name basis and laughed daily. She suggested what classes I should be taking, not only the drawing class that she thought I would do well in, but also the sculpture and painting classes that I wasn’t as comfortable in. She pushed me to get better. Because of her, I know about negative space and that some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings were….. not flowers.
Gardening was more than just a hobby for her. Her garden was famous in Western Michigan, and people came from miles around to see it. I looked forward to spring every year because I knew she would bring in flowers from this garden for us to draw and paint. She would take us on a field trip in the spring to see this amazing garden. My love of botany and flowers started in that garden, and in the art room while drawing gardenias and listening to Enya.
During my senior year, when I spent three of my seven class hours in the art room, she gave me pamphlets for Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I instantly fell in love with the concept of going to art school. She supported me wholeheartedly even though my parents (a CFO for a law firm and a postman) were not on board. They didn’t understand how someone could make a living as an artist. It was a foreign concept to my parents, to say the least. Ruth Prince persisted though in her quiet way. MCAD was the only college I applied to and I got in. I received my acceptance letter the day that Titanic opened in theatres, and I showed the letter off to my girlfriends over popcorn and Leonardo Dicaprio.
For her departing seniors, Mrs. Prince always bought an art poster of their choosing. I chose Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It still hangs framed in my living room, a constant reminder of who sent me along the less traveled path. I’ve struggled through at times but knew that I had made the right decision. Ruth’s guidance was on point and true. Because of her, I live the awesome, artistic, adventurous life that I do. She accepted my chaotic personality and taught me to be proud of who I was. I hope that her soul has found a beautiful garden to rest in and though she and I lost contact in recent years, I also hope that she knows the positive influence she had on my life.
Thank you, Ruth Prince, for believing in my talent and showing me how to follow my dreams. I am forever grateful for your kindness, your knowledge, and your acceptence. Rest in Peace.