Change of Art
When Samantha Patterson '06 of South Deerfield, Mass., transferred to MCLA from Greenfield Community College, the art student planned to continue in oil painting. But, all of that changed when she met MCLA fine and performing arts professor Dawn Shamburger, who introduced her to the world of making theatrical costumes.
Now, Patterson works as the assistant costume shop manager at Williams College, where she creates costumes for students and others who participate in theatrical productions and dance performances there.
In her first few years at college, "I did a lot of painting and was looking to continue in painting and learning arts management because I wanted to have my own space like the Contemporary Artist Center in North Adams, where there's gallery space and residencies," Patterson said.
At MCLA, she took Shamburger's "Exploring Production" class.
"The design project Dawn had us do was intense, but it was really fun, and she asked me to be her assistant," Patterson said.
According to Shamburger, "She made this really great sewing sampler in class, so I asked her if she would be interested in working with me. She was, and she found something that she loved to do. Now, that's what she's doing for her career."
Shamburger encouraged Patterson to seek a summer internship assisting a costume designer and, after sewing for just one semester, she headed to the Barnstormers summer theatre company in New Hampshire. She spent two summers there.
"I stopped and I thought, 'Wait, I can get paid for that?'" Patterson said. "It was all just happenstance. I realized that I can get paid to do this, and it's awesome. For me, it's just a different art medium."
While her MCLA degree is in art and arts management, much of her time was centered on making costumes. "Dawn was a really great mentor. She was just what I needed. It just was a different art focus than I expected," Patterson said.
After graduating from MCLA, Patterson headed to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where she earned her master's of fine arts degree in costume technology. During that time, she worked at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, in Missouri, where she designed a few shows during the "off" season. And, through connections she made at Ohio University, she went on to work at the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, where she has worked for the last two summers.
In September, she headed to Williams.
"I really love to work with students in the shop, teaching them how to sew and working with them on projects. Here, at Williams, we have our work study students. I don't think any of them are theatre students. They just have an interest in it. They like sewing. They get excited when a design becomes a reality. It's fun."
No one is more surprised than Patterson to look back on the path her career has taken.
"I don't remember if we even had theatre in high school. My first introduction to theatre was at MCLA. But I'm really happy that it happened. I consider myself really fortunate to have met Dawn. I wouldn't be here if she hadn't been at MCLA."
One day, she hopes to work in New York City. She particularly enjoys sewing men's wear.
"My goal is to learn more tailoring, to the point where I can make clothes for real people and not just people on stage," Patterson said. "And, I would eventually like to have my own shop and do fine tailoring, as well as making clothes for theatre productions."