#MyIUPUI memories with Catherine L. Cunningham

Catherine L. Cunningham (B.A.E. Art Education '84), a member of the Herron Alumni Association Board of Directors, looks back on her experience as a student and giving back to her alma mater in our next #MyIUPUI story reflecting on the 50th anniversary of IUPUI's founding in 1969.

I started my art career, like most small children, with crayons and coloring books and then moved onto paint by number kits. Do you remember those? They have made a comeback after 50+ years.

Anyway, my parents encouraged my artistic talents hoping I would be one of those "normal" children who followed the rules and colored inside the lines. Not me. My curiosity got the best of me and I had to experiment to see what would happen if I colored outside the lines and mixed my own color schemes for the paintings. Green cats, purple cows. You get the picture. I thought outside the box before it was an idea or even a popular phrase, and I liked the challenge of different ideas. I was never the normal child, but then what artist is?

I began my undergraduate degree at Purdue University–North Central Campus, majoring in art education and minoring in mathematics. You can imagine the strange looks from people and my counselors. Math and art? Right brain, left brain. Those just don't seem logical together, unless you use that math to create sculptures, which I do a lot of with mixed media using mostly recycled materials.

I married my husband in 1967 and for the next 13 years picked up classes around the states and overseas. (His Military duty took us everywhere). We landed in Indianapolis in 1980 and I found my home at Herron in the old location at 16th and Pennsylvania streets.

I never imagined that there would be such a place where thinking outside the box was encouraged, pushing the envelope was expected, and thinking beyond "what if" was the norm. Not only did the staff help enhance my natural abilities, but I was given the tools to realize my potential. Our teachers were our guides, helping us on a journey to reach our final destination, challenging us to see within ourselves, to realize our inner strengths and weaknesses, and to grow from our successes and failures. That is not always an easy task because without failure, you cannot truly appreciate success.

I became active with the Herron Alumni Association a year before the school moved to the IUPUI campus and have been a member of the board ever since. I have held every office including President, participated in more activities and events than I can name, and especially supported Herron's Youth Programs extended to our youth and teens to help shape their imaginations and develop their skills. I cherish my time as a Herron School of Art and Design student and alumni supporter. Herron's high standards of education and opportunities for students of all ages have not changed throughout the years, and my loyalty to those ideals and practices has kept me active.

I started at Purdue University and finished with a degree through Indiana University. With IUPUI, you can say I have had the best of both schools, IU and Purdue, and plan to continue my support. There are unlimited resources and opportunities at IUPUI and I foresee more for the future. There are no boundaries for growth and there is no greater place to be. It's easy to be supportive when you work with such outstanding individuals as my fellow Herron alumni, faculty, staff, and the numerous academic leaders.

My enthusiasm for continuing to support Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI can be summed up as: "Without art and artists, our society would be without imagination, color and form." I could never image I would fit in that form of society.

In the spirit of IUPUI's yearlong celebration, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members are invited to share their stories about things that made an impact on our campus community. If you'd like to share a shorter memory or simply join in on the IUPUI 50th Anniversary conversation, use #MyIUPUI on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to be posted on the 50th Anniversary tag board.