On page 19 of the Art School spring 2018 course catalog—released earlier this month—you may have noticed an ad for our free Drawing in the museum workshop, featuring a 1957 photograph of two students drawing in the Chinese Courtyard. What we didn’t realize when selecting this image from our archives was that the girl on the right—Carolyn Dilag Nakagawa, pictured above at age 16 (left) and today—is still taking classes at the Art School.
Nakagawa is now a septuagenarian, but if you ask her about her age she’ll say “I don’t know if I’m 77, 17, or 7!” The mother of five and grandmother of ten has a contagious smile and rich joie de vivre—within twenty minutes of meeting you she will tell you a joke, give you a compliment, and hand you a stack of her tiny, hand-illustrated affirmations. What is the secret to her boundless energy? “Every single day my mantra is ‘draw, paint, read, nap,’” she says.
A few days after the new catalogs were mailed, Art School graphic designer and exhibition coordinator Sarah Smith learned Nakagawa was the girl in the photo from Sogetsu Ikebana instructor Bertha Tottori. “She came in with a catalog and a handwritten note from the student!” Smith recalls. “It was so sweet, she said that she and her children saw it and they were so excited. She was just so happy to revisit the memory of her younger days, drawing in the museum.”
Nakagawa instantly recognized the photograph, which was taken during a beginner drawing course she took the summer before her senior year at McKinley High School. “60 years ago it was a different era,” she asserts, looking over the top of her fuchsia glasses. “There were only maybe half a dozen in the class, not more than that because it wasn’t something that was really advertised. That was the beginning of my journey—without knowing it would continue.”
Since then Nakagawa has been steadily working her way through the course catalog, from sculpture with Rochelle Lum, to painting with Anthony Lee, to the ikebana class she just finished, “Name it, I’ve taken it,” she says. Out of all the courses she’s tried over the last few decades, Nakagawa says her favorite was Tamara Moan’s drawing and painting course, Sparking Your Creativity. “That one was inspiring because the lesson was that no matter what level you are at, when you think of art, it’s an appreciation of what you can do,” she explains.
Nakagawa has not yet decided which class to try in the spring but she will definitely be back. “There’s no place else that’s inspiring for me,” she says. “The people who take these classes, they’re serious about learning something—they’re not just run-of-the-mill. And the people who teach the classes, they really get passionate about what they do.”
Spring adult classes begin Jan 22. Browse course offerings and register online here.