Not Just an Art Program: Kingsborough’s Graphic Design and Illustration Director Brings Passion to Student Experience

It’s only 8 am and the sun barely peeks over the branches of the trees of Kingsborough. The air jettisoning off the ocean is cool and crisp. It’s a brand new day for Susan Spivack’s students and the head of the Art department is ready to make an impact.

As students settle in and cover their mouths mid-yawn, Spivack is already geared up with a smile in sheer anticipation for the day’s new lesson.

“I try to create a sense that ‘this is a safe space,’” Spivack said. “I want them to come in to just be free and do and work. We’re gonna have a good time and learn in a safe comfortable and nurturing environment.”

Spivack has taught at Kingsborough for almost 20 years in the Art department as a Professor of Graphic Design and Illustration. She has served as the director of that program about ten.

Spivack is hands-on because art is what she loves. Her goal, as is the main objective of the professors in the department is to share that affection and passion for art. According to Spivak, the professors in her department work to implement their experience and talents in their classrooms, in the hopes of impacting how and what they teach their students.

“Every one of the professors in the art department is a professional within their field,” Spivack said. “So for example in graphic design, I’ve had a graphic design business for over thirty years.”

The Graphic Design and Illustration program, within the Art department, focuses on teaching students the tools necessary to become professional developers for a variety of companies and businesses.

Students can opt to become either website developers, magazine or book illustrators or even go as far as producing ads for other businesses and the like. Spivack aims to teach her class beyond the average academical techniques needed to succeed. She reminds her students daily of the social roles they partake in as designers and illustrators.

“Being compassionate and empathetic to others,” said Spivack.”You could totally create social change, you could do posters to raise awareness.”

The art students, regardless of whether they are in the department’s other program for Fine Arts, or are students of the Graphic Design and Illustrator program, are allowed and even encouraged to use what they’ve learned in class in other places. That includes displaying their work in the campuses art museum KAM.

Another thing that many don’t know about the museum’s exhibitions is that a majority of the pieces displayed are works submitted by students on campus, or from other artists outside of campus.

“We get a lot of artist wanting to show,” said Brian Hack, professor and Art Director of KBCC’s KAM. “More students have come in [to submit their work].”

The students don’t necessarily have to be within the art major to contribute their pieces, but they are encouraged by the Graphic Design and Illustration and Fine Arts programs.

On occasion, a student will come back to display some of his or her work in the museum as well. This past October, KAM housed a series of pictures taken by former KBCC student Allen Pierre, who returned to campus to give back to the school who helped hone his passion for photography.

“I feel like here is home, I was able to see familiar faces and I feel welcomed here,” said Pierre. “That’s why I wanted to bring my work here. I’d represent Kingsborough if I have to.”

This idea that the work isn’t done even after leaving Kingsborough is something that Spivack has fought hard to make her students understand.

While it’s not typical for students of the Graphic Design and Illustration to submit any of their work to KAM, last spring they did have an Animation Festival titled “Rarebit Animation Festival” under the direction of professor Thomas Eaton who teaches Art 96: The Art of Animation. An event that was hands and successful for the students.

Spivack has gone as far as to contribute beyond just the Kingsborough community. In the summer of 2017, after working on it for three years, she completed a book, alongside one of her most recent graduates. The book itself represents the sociological effects that people have on one another and the ways in which we can make differences for everyone by employing empathetic and putting your best foot forward.

“The book in part was created for the sympathy I felt for anyone who struggles and so many do for different reasons,” Spivack said. “The book is about being creative, putting your best foot forward and whatever you do give it your all.”

While her work outside the classroom, in the professional world, speaks for itself, Spivack is always at home in the classroom.

“I get to come in here and really make a difference and I believe I do,” Spivack said. “Maybe I’m full of myself but I believe that every semester I change a path.”

Author: Nayelis Vargas

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