Stephen Brown, a painting professor at HAS. Stephen passed away a few days ago.
I owe this man a lot. I never even had a formal class with him, but he was the person who originally reviewed my portfolio for admission, and accepted me into the school, effectively changing the entire course of my life. Ever since that, we had a very friendly, fulfilling, sarcastic, snarky relationship. Stopping to speak in the halls, dropping into his classes, fielding his prank calls at the front art office. I signed up for a class with him at one point, and he was unfortunately unable to teach that semester because of his illness.The next time I saw him back at school after that, he came over and hugged me. We sat in his office and talked for a long time about his recent incidents of cheating death. He could switch from a cocky "Do you know who I AM?" to completely tender and thoughtful at the drop of a hat, and I loved that about him.
I remember that portfolio review vividly. I had never received much helpful or constructive criticism before. I went in there, opened up the portfolio, and watched in horror as this towering man in a Red Sox hat flipped through my drawings one by one, telling me what was wrong with each of them. I wondered why he insisted on going through the whole stack, given that it was obvious, I thought, that he hated them and that I was going to be rejected. At the end, he stopped, and looked me right in the eye and said "Two weeks in a class with me and all of that will be fixed". He told me that I had talent, and he told me I was accepted into the school. I nearly fell over. I was still reeling as he talked to my mother about my issues with value scale and composition as she intimidatedly nodded along as if she knew what any of that meant.
Stephen is one of the people that inspires me to someday teach. In the days since the news of his death has spread, I am seeing an epic outpouring of love, anecdotes, and time and time again hearing the phrase "He changed my life" and the thing is, I believe it. I really do. I am so sad that I can't be back east for his services.
Stephen's work is nothing like mine. But his passion for what he did was contagious and he knew how to spread that in a very universal way. When I teach someday, I hope I can have even half the effect that Stephen had on those that passed through his studios.
I also really wish I got to be in one of those classes that he brought outside to play kickball and piss off all the students still stuck inside painting.