“Sure, You Are Ready.”

by Mercedes Gail GutierrezIMG_1784

Sure, you are prepared for life with a Stanford degree, credibility, proof of excellence, STANFORD seal of authenticity, SU branding.

You are certain you are prepared but Life will throw you entirely different problems, challenges and opportunities that you NEVER imagined.  You can do it, just stay loose in your knees, bounce on the balls of your feet, be ready to turn, pivot, go. This is the best thing I learned at Stanford, “Be ready to turn and take it on.”

How? I returned to the Farm from Stanford in France, Group VIII. My pre-med advisor recommended I switch majors. What, change my direction after years of science and math? Why not? I became a Studio Art major in the middle of my junior year and intensively studied art. Way behind other Studio Art majors I had a lot of hand-eye technique to learn but I did and graduated with Honors.  While at the post office changing my address, I bump into my printmaking professor, he suggests I apply for a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, at large. I spend a Fulbright year in Madrid. Returning to California, my plans to marry fall apart, so I end up earning a Masters in Sculpture from U.C. Berkeley and showing my work in Bay Areas museums, colleges and galleries.

Married, a child and I am in Southern Illinois, I am elected to the married graduate student council and initiate student gardens, softball teams, childcare program, new playgrounds and receive an offer from the university to be an assistant dean of graduate affairs. This life was not what I planned. My son was three so I create a Saturday art program at the nursery school site in exchange for tuition and gain time to build field sculptures for faculty and construct large works in a glove factory turned studio. My life has continued to be meeting unforeseen problems, pivoting around them and turning them into something great!

Be ready to readjust fast. The life you are preparing for will not be the one you live, and all the better for that.

Arrangement with spouse was that his would be the primary career as long as I had a studio, time to work and show. Being able to do this launched me into a series of Artist Residency grants, solo shows in California and jobs teaching at a local college and in a men’s prison. Oh, you want me to be Manager of the Arts-in-Corrections (AIC) program, California Department of Corrections (and Rehabilitation), move from the isolated little town in the High Eastern Sierras?

Turn, pivot, and I am Arts Program Administrator for 20 years, visiting prisons, border to border of California, managing staff and AIC programs in all adult state prisons. What? Legislature cuts funding for the Arts, the AIC program must go, I fight for my staff’s jobs, my job is cut, staff keep theirs, and I retire 2004.

My job eradicated, marriage rocky, kids all launched beautifully, I am free. Wait, when eight, youngest daughter announced she wanted to grow up to be a Jew and my mother’s family was Jewish in Mexico, I had reverted, converted, Bat Mitzvah-ed, and served on the synagogue’s Board. Of course, I immigrate to Israel, return to studio art, work in my Tel Aviv studio, show prints and construct conceptual installations through out Israel and the USA. Life is full of challenges. Change with them. Now the cry of grandchildren directs my movement back to California and something new.