This week we are pleased to share our Alumni Story interview with another Marywood Art alumna, Melissa Restuccia. She is a 1993 Art Education graduate and in her story she tells us about her favorite parts of studying at Marywood and how Marywood helps her in her current careers.
Name: Melissa Restuccia (Crane, Maiden Name)
Graduation Year & Degree: 1993 BA Art Education
Major: Art Education
Current Occupation: Vestal Central Schools K-12 Art Department Chairperson and Art Educator
How long at current job: 29 years
Current Personal Website: www.graycatrestoration.com
Current Social Media Link: www.instagram.com/graycatrestoration
What was your favorite part about studying art at Marywood?
I enjoyed exploring the art education courses which included fibers and jewelry making. I transferred to Marywood after a pretty exhausting year studying Illustration at the School of Visual Arts and discovered art education was certainly my “calling”.
How did your art education at Marywood help your career?
My studio courses have always been a mainstay in my career as an art educator. I currently teach International Baccalaureate Art, which is a college level two year intensive art course that allows students to develop their own independent creative pathways. On any given day I have a student painting, weaving, and doing ceramics within the same studio space. My studio experiences and the Marywood emphasis on technique and craftsmanship has served me well for 25+ years in the classroom.
What attracted you to this career path?
As I stated, I initially was a transfer student. I attended Keystone College and received my Associates and was pretty determined that I would be an illustrator for children’s books. I attended SVA my junior year and was struck by how much I missed working around people. The studio was too quiet a space for me. I started taking art education courses my 2nd semester in NYC but was discouraged by the school system and limited certification I could earn. I enrolled at Marywood and was immersed in child psych and curriculum development as well as studio courses. I had found my “calling”.
Did your career path match your vision of a career path? What’s different?
I absolutely cannot imagine not being an art teacher. I am nearing retirement and private instruction will always be a component of my life. I feel as if teaching children (I especially love grades 9-12) keeps you fresh creatively. It is cliche’ perhaps, but the students keep me “young”. I would say COVID made me push beyond my comfort zone and develop skills as a digital online instructor I could never have imagined when I sat in the Marywood classrooms thirty years prior.
What is your favorite thing about your current job?
I love the students. I give students the opportunity to succeed and grow everytime I craft an excellent art experience in the classroom. I am very involved with the school climate; I organize the all school dance of 700+ teenagers, the Talent show, Food and Card Drives and more. I get to give back to the community by shaping successful young adults. I keep in touch with my former students and love to see how they are contributing not only in the arts but as good parents, medical health professionals, law enforcement, teachers and more.
Are you currently working on any interesting side projects?
Yes, I always have multiple projects going. I am currently working on a commissioned painting for our local hospital. I am the featured artist at the Vestal Public Library and have paintings in three different juried shows (Tioga Arts Council, Owego, Rude & Bold Women Show, Binghamton, and Broome County Arts Council, Binghamton.) I have two life-sized hand carved Mary & Joseph Statues awaiting restoration on my studio work bench for Holy Family Church in Syracuse and a Nativity restoration for St. Michael’s in Binghamton….yes, I have a few side projects : )
What are some of the biggest rewards in your career?
One of the biggest rewards of my career occurred recently. A former student from the early 2000’s surprised me by contacting the gallery I had artwork in and buying one of my paintings. He posted that it was the first original art he ever purchased and was so excited to find the right place for it in his home. This young man was years ago an “at risk” student, he went on to join the military and serve our country in the Middle East . He works hard as a NYC firefighter and outstanding Dad to his three kids. He used his hard earned money to purchase my work…no greater honor.
What’s something that would surprise people about your day-to-day?
I make the most of my day. My friends joke that I never stop. I really carve out moments to enjoy life in my day. I ride my bike to work, do a crossword, enjoy a tea break, carve out daily studio time after dinner and a walk. I have older children so I have that opportunity. Younger me was very driven but also pulled into the day to day of career, wife and mother. I didn’t make much art then, I like to think I molded good young people. In 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and that really shook me. Cancer was the “green light” to be better to myself physically, creatively and spiritually and I think as a result my teaching became more compassionate and student focused rather than purely technique and studio driven.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in my family support, faith and my home. I love antiques, cats, gardening, printmaking, knitting, and British mysteries (Wow! I sound ancient!) My paintings often start out as a whim or perhaps something I want to “get better at”, for instance this year I did some landscapes and tackled painting clouds and skies. Future goals include painting more portraiture and skin tones.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I love my career but am looking toward retirement with enthusiasm. I want to expand creative opportunities for people in my community. I doubt I will be retired but rather reinvented.
Any advice for current art students at Marywood?
“Enjoy what you do.”
View some of Melissa’s favorite works here!
Thank you all for reading, and thank you Melissa for allowing us to interview you and tell us your story!