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Mary Thompson

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

I work at Dr. Scott Thompson's dental office as a dental assistant, where I assist the dentist in his work but also function as a tech and radiographic specialist and occasionally as a secretary and payroll manager.

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

I enjoy the wide variety of people that I get to meet and interact with. As for the work itself, there is a bit of artistic nature to repairing teeth. It's kind of like working with mini sculptures. It's nice because I usually work with drawing, painting, and other 2D arts, so I get to stretch my mental muscles in the workplace. I get to have the best of both worlds in my work. Something more customer-service oriented, and something that allows more creative ingenuity.

Headshot of Mary Thompson

What led you to pursue your current line of work?

The reason why I have chosen to get my MAT in art education is because i have learned so much about art, and how to make art, that I wish I had known when I was exploring my talents as a younger student. I feel like art is becoming so much accessible and flexible and I want to be able to teach kid how to find a balance between what they love to do and what they need to do to make it in this ever-changing society (whether they love the subject a lot or not so much). If nothing else, I want to be able to help up and coming students learn that they don't have to be good at something the way they see the professionals or even their peers talents to make something that tells the story they want. Creating is known to be an extraordinary outlet for expressing things that maybe we dont have the words for, after all.

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?

There is a lot of color theory in dentistry. Matching the restorative material to real teeth, choosing tooth color for dentures on someone who has no teeth to compare to by assessing their eye color and skin tone...even the colors of the lights we use when working with light-curable resign builds off of elements of color theory. Since the office still worked with film x-rays, I got to use some of my film photography knowledge which gave me a head-start in learning how to develop radiographic film.

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

I think there was a digital illustration program that started after I graduated. If I had stayed longer, I might have switched my degree to focus on that, just for practicality's sake. It might have given me a boost now that i'm trying to work from home, where I don't have a studio-space, and am now trying to learn to illustrate from my computer. Or I might have focus on an art education degree. That way I could have already been teaching and getting my MFA. (I had gotten a Studio Art (B.A.) thinking that it would give me an advantage in learning how to teach different styles and methods of art, which it has, but it's been hard to get back into school to work towards the end-goal career of teaching.)

illustrations by Mary

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

Don't limit yourself to what you're familiar with! I started off my studio art degree with an emphasis in painting. I took a printmaking class over a summer just for the credit and loved it. You'll in that art that you have a niche area that just feels natural for your personal style and methods. You may think you've found it, byt you might be surprised by what you don't know! Always go into your classes as if you are an empty glass. Don't sit through a lecture or demonstration full of what you already know on a subject. You'll find so many gems of knowledge or tricks of the trade that you'll want to be ready to take with you.

Get to know your professor! Listen to their stories, and learn where they came from to get where they are. Networking is so important, especially in the studio arts. Connecting with your classmates is a start, but your professor can help you reach out to people in art circles as well.

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