MCLA wasn't the first stop for Pamela Buchanan '12 in her quest to earn a bachelor's degree. Along the way, she attended five other colleges, but, at each institution, financial or personal issues halted her progress. At MCLA, she found a supportive faculty, staff and administration.
"There have been times where I struggled to keep going, and there was always someone available to give encouragement and advice in order for me to succeed," Buchanan said. "I've been most surprised that I've been able to finish, but I've received so much support over the years that my dream is finally coming true.
"Also, I've been pleasantly surprised that President Mary K. Grant is so involved in campus life. I had little or no contact with the presidents of the other colleges I've attended. I love that President Grant has such a presence on campus and that she's so sociable and encouraging. She cares about every aspect of the College and she works hard so that we all succeed."
Recently, Buchanan was honored with the Berkshire Art Association Fellowship. Since 1950, the non-profit Berkshire Art Association has been dedicated to encouraging emerging artists and to giving Berkshire residents and visitors opportunities to view and become engaged with contemporary trends in American art.
"I submitted a series of eight prints, with accompanying haikus," she explained. "This series is entitled 'Tormented Bloom.'"
A set of the prints is on display at MCLA Gallery 51 through May 27 for the Senior Art Thesis Exhibition, "Coming up Next: MCLA's Emerging Artists."
MCLA's Fine and Performing Arts program is "fabulous," Buchanan said. "The art major, in particular, prepares you to be a working artist by the time you graduate. In 'Senior Art Project,' you are taught to write your artist statement, resume and present an artist talk at MCLA's Annual Undergraduate Research Conference. This practical experience is not offered at many art schools.
"When I graduate, I will have five years of work experience in arts management and education, in addition to having a bachelor's degree," she explained. "I will have the skills and knowledge to work in the art world and arts education programs. I gained this experience because MCLA provides practical opportunities for students to work in their field of choice."
Buchanan continued, "I've learned a lot of what it takes to operate a gallery and mount an exhibition by taking museum studies classes, working at MCLA Gallery 51 as a gallery attendant and managing the "PRESS: Letterpress as a Public Art Project gallery."
She's also volunteered at Northern Berkshire Creative Arts, a local community arts school, where she helped the executive director with office administration, assisted with teaching, and ran workshops. Because Northern Berkshire Creative Arts closed, it is Buchanan's dream to one day found a new community arts school in North Adams.
This summer, she hopes to participate in the DownStreet Art mural project with three other MCLA students. In addition, "I will create workshops at PRESS this summer. And, I will work with a woman from a local economic development agency who wants to start an arts program for teens."
Educational programs are important to Buchanan.
"I've had a lot of great teachers in my life and they have inspired me to pass on knowledge. There is something special that happens as a teacher imparts knowledge to a student, especially in the arts. I've seen adults and children feel empowered because they've brought a creative idea into being. Arts education programs help students problem solve and give them a sense of accomplishment."