Alumni Stories: Ryan Hnat

On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, I had the privilege of meeting art alumni graduate Ryan Hnat. Meeting another alumnus in person gives me a clearer understanding of the type of people who graduate from Marywood’s Department of Visual Arts.

Ryan was grad student when he came here and has lots of advice for both undergraduate and graduate students.

The interview began with a discussion about the senior art majors because before the interview started Ryan and I looked around the Senior Art Gallery.

Graduation year: 2012Ryan headshot

Major: Master of Fine Arts, Painting

Marywood Clubs/Activities: Helped with annual pancake festival

Current Occupation: Teaching in the Scranton school district at New Armstrong Elementary

How long at current job: 6 years in Scranton, owned painting business for 7, owned an escape room for 2, and just started the northeast art project.

I asked Ryan a few questions and he was more than happy to comply.

Why do people stay in Scranton after they graduate?

I was lucky, as soon as I graduated I got a job as a Scranton school district teacher. That’s what made me stay in Scranton at the time. You gotta go where ever the jobs are.

How can you get the most from being an undergrad student?

Being an undergraduate student you got lots of time. And I honestly say try to gain as many experiences as possible. Not being in the classroom but going places, traveling, going to different places and seeing as much as you can while you are in school. Live broke. Live poor. Don’t try to save money as an undergraduate student. Spend it all, go see everything, go experience everything, because once you get out you literally have to find a job to work.

What does Marywood have that other schools may not offer?

It is relatively easy to make friends and then those people be friends forever. A lot of people tend to hold onto that community aspect opposed to a public college.  I am still pretty much in contact with my friends from Marywood. Marywood is a small school, you can get a  lot of free time on your hands it’s how you utilize that free time. You can get the most out of being at Marywood because it’s basically like your on a retreat for a very long time. And when you are on a retreat you get time to think, change, and put your energy into what you really want to do. 

What does the city of Scranton offer?

Scranton is a weird city. You may think you have to go to New York or Philadelphia for certain things, but Scranton has everything, you just have to search for it. There are lots of small niche groups, you just have to go seek them out and the relationships that you could create can go very far if you are a go-getter and you initiate everything. You push forward and you can see things happen.

Any advice for current undergraduate students?

Leave campus, Marywood is tucked up away from everything. You really focus on what you want to do but you also can’t gain a lot of those quick experiences. Unless you have a means or a way to get from this place to that place. While at Marywood, I studied abroad in England, that was fun. Study abroad as much as you can. Get on one of the Marywood service trips. Expand your horizons.

What are you up to now?

I own an escape room in downtown Scranton! I never thought I would be owning that, but it totally fits perfect with the arts and my education background. Because it’s all about positive and negative reinforcement, puzzle making, and room design. We have a new room coming soon called The Final Act. The other day I just painted a race car, it’s called a lighting cat race car. It’s like a stock four-cylinder car and it’s all beat up and it’s still cool. I  painted a race car and its sponsored by our escape room business. There is also the Northeast Art Project which is all about creating and helping to facilitate murals and public works in six counties of northeast PA. We are working with community groups and private donors to bring more murals to the area. It’s all about pushing and finding a niche that makes you happy. Something you want to do.

How do you suggest students get their artwork out there?

Become a member of the Artist for Art (AFA) gallery in downtown Scranton.  It is non-profit co-op gallery. When you are younger, you need all the feedback you can get from people. Get as much criticism as you can. With that criticism most of it you just throw out anyhow because the more an more you talk about something the more it goes away or doesn’t make sense. The toughest times as an artist is right before a show. I can go install show no problem. I love putting my show up. I love standing in galleries seeing all my stuff up by myself. As soon as I open it up I’m opening up my soul, my time, and my thoughts. The worst thing is when people don’t say anything. I’d rather for communication to occur more than not. Shows are good but it’s necessarily the way you get your artwork out.

Volunteer for the Northwest Art Project. If you have the creativity to make things just make things. And if you have show with 3 people and only 3 people see it, you technically had a show.  You don’t need to put on an art gallery to legitimize it, it’s more about what you want from your feelings. The AFA is a great place and the Everhart Museum downtown for small artist talks. You could go one time and that one time can change everything in your life. You gotta be a bit of a social butterfly a little bit and go meet people. Also if you are staying for the summer there is Arts Alive, and you can volunteer at summer art camps.

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