Although he taught high school math and science for 25 years, Joseph Hudock, 75, always yearned to be an artist. After he retired from teaching, he finally fulfilled his dream and took up oil painting, drawing and lithography--just for starters.
On the other hand, Bruce Crozat, 38, who has held a variety of jobs, never thought about being a professional photographer until he received a camera as a gift five years ago.
Today both men, along with 25 other Santa Monica College students, are involved in the SMC Arts Mentor Program, and both are busily preparing for upcoming exhibits of their works this summer. The present show at the college Art Gallery--sculptures, drawings and paintings by Janet Kessler and an installation by James Linza featuring three-dimensional objects, paintings, music and smell--runs through Friday.
According to Randal Lawson, dean of arts, the program is unique within the California community college system. It matches top students from nine categories--art, architecture, photography, interior design, fashion design, graphic design, music, theater and dance--with instructors or professionals in those fields for one-on-one counseling.
Crozat works closely with SMC photography instructor Larry Jones, who provides him with advice during weekly meetings.
"Bruce is one of our better success stories," Jones said. "I've watched him go through a series of changes over the years and now he's a slick product photographer.
"With this program and his exhibit, he has a chance to put his name out there. Unless you're a fine art-oriented photographer, galleries won't show your work, so this is a way to showcase our top photography students."
Said Crozat: "I've made a lot of progress in my mentor year in terms of refinement of work. I've expanded artistically. I've gone from doing mostly commercial product shots to doing art, design and still-life shots, too. This program prepares you for a professional career because everything has to be perfect. You know you're having a show so you put forth your best effort."
Said Hudock: "I'm always experimenting with art and I've expanded even more since I've been in the program. My mentor, Dan Freeman, has a way of knowing if I'm progressing or not, and he gives me literature about the newest ideas in art. The program is doing a lot for all the students. You can tell by their shows. The expression in the art is different from what you'd get in an ordinary classroom situation."
The mentor program was created by members of the SMC Professional Arts Committee in 1986 to provide individual instruction each semester for 25 to 30 students "who are beyond the level of classes we offer in different disciplines," Lawson said. "Other community colleges offer private instruction, but I think we're the only one that requires an audition or portfolio review for entry and covers so many arts areas.
"Each department has set up its own selection criteria and review process, under an umbrella of certain college-wide qualifications. In some cases, there are certain courses students need to have taken prior to being admitted. It wasn't at all difficult to set up this program, and there's been a lot of interest in it from all over the country."
Lawson noted that while many mentor teachers are SMC faculty members, sometimes experts from the outside arts community are paired with students, which leads to expanded involvement for the mentors.
"Professionals who have joined our program become a part of the department," he said. "They come to student juries, and many of them have recitals, performances or shows of their work on campus." (Past mentors have included members of the L.A. Philharmonic and the Sequoia String Quartet.)
Sixty-five students have been through the program since its inception, which allows them one to four semesters of involvement, with evaluation of their work required at the end of each semester. As for results, Lawson said: "As far as I know, all the students who have completed the program have gone on to do what they expected to do--transfer to a four-year school, institute of arts or music conservatory or just to begin working in the profession."
Glass blower Jeremy Cline, 24, has his goals planned. "This program has helped me get serious about art and prepare for the real world," he said. "In the fall I'm transferring to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and I may get" a master's degree in fine arts "so I can teach. Eventually I want to have my own studio and do fine art.
"I work well with my mentor, Don Hartman, and I've learned how to stick with a problem and go all the way through the process," Cline said. "Often when you're doing art, you're too close to it to see it clearly. It's good to have someone else look at a project and open your eyes about it."