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Karen Camp Parks

Where do you work, and what do you do in your current occupation?

I am employed at Liberty Middle School as a visual arts teacher in Forsyth County. Next year will be my 20th year as an art educator in Georgia. I also have a side business creating custom freelance artwork, photography and designer wedding and party cakes.

What do you enjoy about your current to occupation? Do you consider yourself successful? In what way?

I feel like every work of art that a student creates from their heart possesses an incredible amount of energy.  There is nothing more exciting to me than seeing a student light up when their creations exceed their own expectations. I have been blessed many times to see wayward students transformed by belief in their art despite difficult personal or home situations. I feel like my career success has been in the lasting relationships built over the years. My hope is that I have helped some students realize that they are beautifully unique, and to believe in themselves and their potential. Nothing makes me happier than to have students return to visit or write to me to share their journey. 

picture of Karen

What led you to pursue your current line of work?

I originally enrolled at UNG with the intent to pursue a career as an equine/large animal veterinarian. I have always been torn between my love for science and art. My favorite teachers in school were always the biology or art teachers. I ended up taking many extra art courses alongside my core work. During my time at UNG, I worked with a biology professor to help illustrate a Parasitology manual for labs, which led me to also consider medical illustration as a career. I was worried I might struggle to find an art related job at the time, so I did most of my teacher training in science to ensure job security. However, fate would have it that I was hired as an art teacher in Dawson County and I ended up returning to UNG once again for my Master’s degree in Art Education. I have remained in art education for almost twenty years now, and I feel I was led to this calling. 

Do the skills and knowledge that you gained as a student in the Department of Visual Arts (DoVA) contribute to your current occupation? If so, in what way?

I feel like the skills and knowledge I gained at UNG propelled my career, but more so the excitement I felt every time art I walked through the art building at UNG. Thinking back on the process of how I approached classes, how I felt during those classes and which educators I related to shaped what I do within my own classroom. I loved taking photography classes from Hank Margeson, pottery classes from Bob Owens, and drawing and painting with Win Crannell and these classes were some of my favorite UNG memories. All of these educators had a clear passion for what they were doing and I think that is what is required of an educator in any field… love what you do.

Now that you have a vantage point to reflect on your art education, what would you do differently?

When I first attended UNG, Dahlonega was a very small town where everyone knew one another, and I loved this. However, at the time I also really worried about being a “starving artist” due to being in rural Georgia before the arts industry was booming. If I had it to do over again, I would probably have majored in art and gone to art school despite these fears. 

Do you have any words of wisdom for current DoVA students?

I would really encourage students to balance their college lives… enjoy, live, create friendships and have fun with your college experience, but also relentlessly chase the passion you have for your career and work at it with fervor. Talent is definitely part of the equation for success, but hard work and heart are essential. 

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