Imagine viewing over 3,000 photographs, with no indication of who created them, and selecting just a few to recognize for their excellence. That’s what a jury of photography experts did to award GCC Art Professor Tom Young a Massachusetts State Artist Fellowship in photography. Now, imagine that over the past 25 years, different juries have selected Tom’s work to receive the Artist Fellowship five times.
Tom is one of very few artists who have received the prestigious, highly competitive award that many times. In recognition of Tom’s exceptional original work as a photographer, he was honored with a Governor’s Citation at a ceremony at the State House on January 13. Tom brings his passion for excellence in creating art to his varied roles at GCC. He has taught at GCC for thirty years as a professor of art and currently teaches classes in photography, digital imaging and media arts. He also teaches photography classes in the collaborative program between GCC and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and is Director of the College’s South Gallery. Beyond GCC and Massachusetts, Tom’s photography has been shown in over 70 national and international exhibits and featured in a book titled, Recycled Realities, that he coauthored with John Willis. Published in 2006 by the Center for the American Place, Recycled Realities is based on photographs of materials being recycled at the Erving Paper Mill.
Reflecting on his work, Tom said, “There’s nothing I like doing more than making art, talking about art, and teaching art. I bring my excitement about creating and exhibiting my own art into the classroom.” Tom recognizes that GCC’s art department is fairly unique in that, in a community college setting, GCC’s art students experience a program comparable to the best art schools in the country. The variety of students in terms of age, life experience, and art experience combined with a faculty of skilled teachers who are practicing, exhibiting artists provides an incredibly stimulating teaching and learning environment. GCC art students transfer to top art schools, including Rhode Island School of Design, Mass Art, San Francisco Art Institute, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Tom and other GCC art faculty often hear that GCC art students are the “stars” at the art schools to which they transfer.
While Tom and the other GCC art faculty teach art, he believes they also are teaching something even more basic. Tom said, “At the very foundation of making art is creative problem solving. Art students learn traditional and new tactics for solving a problem. Creating art involves experimentation, risk, and challenge. Whatever art students pursue in the future, they carry with them the ability to problem-solve and be self-reflective.”
Leo Hwang-Carlos, Associate Dean for Humanities, said, “Tom is one example of the high caliber faculty we have at GCC, and it means a lot that a state agency recognizes his excellence. To see Tom teach is really inspiring. He is highly skilled at balancing the technical side and the artistic side of art making, and he encourages his students to push their boundaries in ways that challenge themselves and the viewers of their art.”
The State Artist Fellowship jurors recognized Tom’s artistic talent and vision in the ten photos they viewed amid thousands. Students and colleagues at GCC are fortunate that Tom’s passion is to share his talents with them and with the broader world. For more information about Tom Young’s photography, see the GCC Art Department website (art.gcc.mass.edu) or the Massachusetts Cultural Council website (www.massculturalcouncil.org) or contact Tom at 413-775-1239.