(Looking) Back at Ryman Arts

By Marilyn Nguyen (Ryman '11), Development Coordinator

Last day of Spring Semester – Sunday, April 29th

When I arrived on Otis campus just before the beginning of class, I noticed young high school students carrying large-sized drawing boards and semi-transparent art bins hastening into the building. As I followed these students up the elevator, they were busy chatting among themselves, expressing their sadness about the last day of class. Just then, the elevator doors opened to the sixth floor, and they hurried to class. At that moment, a feeling of familiarity overcame me as I reminisced about my time at Ryman Arts over seven years ago.

Marilyn Nguyen in Advance Painting class at USC Campus in 2011

During my sophomore year of high school, I applied to Ryman Arts through the advice of my high school art teacher. Unknown to me at the time, my experiences at Ryman Arts would kickstart my passion and career pursuit in the arts. I distinctly remembered my first day of class at Ryman Arts. Nervous and inexperienced, I attempted to navigate through the USC campus. At orientation, I received my first drawing board and art bin, which I still have until this day. Those weekends at Ryman Arts, receiving high-quality drawing and painting lessons, were some of the best memories of my teenage years. In addition to the classes, I was introduced to the college and career planning programs that ultimate lead to my current career path. After Ryman Arts, I went on to complete my bachelors in Fine Arts and English, utilizing the skills I acquired at the program to work in art institutions and nonprofit organizations.

Foundation Drawing class critique at Otis with Faculty Member Cathy Stone

Coming back to visit Ryman Art classes at Otis feels like a blast from the past. Although the campus location had changed and the staff is different, the essential elements of the program remain the same. I observed the five classes as the students meticulously worked on their final projects and the teachers offered constructive critiques on the students’ portfolios. During the snack break, I was able to talk to a few students. Some were sad that their time at Ryman Arts was ending, while others express their excitement for the summer and the upcoming fall semester. As the students were laughing, enjoying the snack the parents had prepared, and taking photos from the ingenious photo booth the Teaching Assistants constructed, I was overjoyed to see that Ryman Arts, through its mission and program extension, has remained dedicated to the students’ experience and arts education.

Ryman Arts Teaching Assistants and Staff

Looking back on my time at the program, I realized I have come full circle. My introduction to the arts began with Ryman Arts seven years ago, and now I am back at the program as the new Development Coordinator. My experience in the program has instilled in me a love of the arts and a commitment to arts education for future generations.  Not only does Ryman Arts provide a high-quality arts education to many underexposed youths, like me, it is also developing the art leaders of tomorrow through its college and career guidance. Thus, I am proud to continue in that tradition.