After almost thirty years of service dedicated to teaching at Stetson, Professor Gary Bolding will retire as this year closes. Mr. Bolding is a professor of art who started his Stetson career in 1989. With so many students coming through studio doors during his career, many alumni can relate stories about Professor Bolding. Before he leaves, some of the stories will be shared.
Trent Tomengo is now a professor at Seminole State College. Before that, he studied art at Stetson, graduation in 1999. He can recall a day when he forgot his brushes and asked Professor Bolding if he had any to lend. “He came back with the most awful brushes”, Tomengo said. “They were synthetic brushes whose bristles were so worn to a nub that they were little more than sticks”. Professor Bolding’s explanation was, “I don’t lend my brushes. Neither do I wife swap.”
Tomengo added that “Gary Bolding is singlehandedly responsible for my approach to craftsmanship and scholarship within my work.” Prior to choosing Stetson University, Tomengo had researched programs and professors around the state of Florida. It was Gary Bolding’s work that made him choose Stetson.
Now working as a digital artist, Laura Oxendine graduated from Stetson in 2006. She cites Bolding as a “pillar of influence”. One conversation in particular has stuck with her since her time as a student. Professor Bolding remarked to her that, “There are a lot of people doing this at your age, they’re aren’t a lot of people doing it at my age.” Oxendine still considers those words “a reminder of perseverance” today. Of his retirement, she said “something tells me he will continue to spend ample time in his studio”.
Oxendine also noted that “He made it clear just how much work, risk, and heart it takes to be a maker”. Where some may have tried to soften the artist life to entice students, Professor Bolding was honest about the trials and the rewards.
Grace Ramsey said something similar: “He didn’t candy coat the realities of being an artist.” Ramsey graduated from Stetson in 2007. She went on to earn her MFA from Tulane and now works as an artist.
She says that Professor Bolding “was the first person (besides my mom!) to believe that it was perfectly reasonable and worthwhile for me to continue seriously making art.” Ramsey credits Professor Bolding with teaching her what art can truly express. He passed on to her a way of “creating as a means to express ineffable truths about being human.” Ramsey also said that Professor Bolding “introduced her to artists” that continue to influence her work. “I’m not sure I would have gone on to get my MFA in painting,” she noted, “if it weren’t for his confidence in my creative potential”.
Now an artist working in Central Florida, Erin McCollum finished her Stetson degree in 2016. She believes that “the most impactful lesson Gary ever taught me was to “never rest on your laurels”.” McCollum remembers believing she was already the best artist she could be before becoming one of Professor Bolding’s students. She had developed “a tendency to perform to my own standards because it had always sufficed in the past”. She credits Professor Bolding as encouraging her to “put in the extra effort required to push me over the threshold of my talent”.
While many students would consider a ‘B’ more than satisfactory, McCollum remembers being cross with Professor Bolding after receiving just that on a project. She added that “as ridiculous as that seems”, it was that experience that pushed her not to settle, realizing that “to short-change myself was worse than not making art at all”. McCollum draws a direct correlation from the learning experience to her professional life, saying “Now as a Designer and Concept Illustrator for Universal Studios theme parks, I execute my work to a higher standard and as a result I am happy with almost everything that leaves my easel”.
Professor Bolding passed on the lesson that “no artist is ever finished growing”. McCollum cites his dedication to her as a fellow creator, not just a student, as the reason “that I can proudly call myself the Artist I am today”.
You can click here to visit Professor Bolding’s website and view some of his work.