Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good Friends and Mentors

Today I received an exhibition invite to one of my old stomping grounds; The Gallery of Contemporary Arts (GCA) at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. It was here at the GCA I learned of my of love art, curation and exhibition from Director, Gerry Riggs.

The invite indicated the GCA had begun a scholarship to honor Gerry’s work at the university, gallery and community. Long overdue was my first thought.  As I read more of the invitation I had the distinct impression my mentor; had passed away or the invitation was poorly written, leaving me with the impression Gerry was gone. I called the GCA to confirm. Yes, Gerry had passed away in 2009 at the age of 59. I was speechless; I did not know what to say.

After his retirement from the GCA, Gerry moved to Pagosa Springs, CO to ski his favorite slopes at Wolf Creek, take photos of the Rockies and enjoy life. Alas; a bad skiing injury limited Gerry’s pursuit of “skiing balls out in powder.”

Depressed from the passing of his father (his only living immediate family member) and his injury, Gerry committed suicide and I was just finding out about his death today, 2 years later.

I remember the first time I met Gerry. I walked into the GCA, as a transferring Undergraduate, and told him I wanted to enroll in his Curation and Gallery Management Classes. Gerry looked me over and ask; “What is it about art you love? Sit down and tell me what makes you smile when you enter a gallery or museum?” We talked for nearly an hour, two strangers discussing art, museums and my pursuit of a museum career.

For two years I learned from Gerry through his teachings, hung exhibitions and later interned at the GCA. I loved walking into his classes, located in the crowded back room of the GCA. Every day I learned more about art and the skills needed to work in a gallery or museum. As graduation neared; I approached Gerry about continuing my education in museums. I wanted more!

Another “come sit down” conversation took place. Gerry asked questions of me and I gave answers. Our minds were made up; I would apply to the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Museum Studies Program. I would pursue my Masters degree in Museum Studies. I applied…with Gerry’s help, was accepted into the program, attended and graduated two years later.

Gerry’s teachings were never far from me during my pursuit of my Masters. In fact; his impact was so positive, I dedicated my first solo curated exhibition to; “Mr. Gerry Riggs, my mentor.” I will never forget the smile on Gerry’s face when I handed him an invitation to that exhibition and he saw my dedication.

Good bye, Gerry. I know the last time I spoke to you was 2006, but, I think of you often; most often when I hang a piece of art in my house. “69 inches, measure piece, divide, add and hang.”

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