Dan Connally’s Spirit So Much Part of the Very Fabric of CCS
Stories and testimonials in celebration of CCS Art Faculty Connally’s dedication to teaching and mentoring
No one wants to imagine what the College of Creative Studies (CCS) will be like without the presence of CCS Art Faculty Dan Connally. Dan has dedicated his professional life during the last three decades to teaching and mentoring CCS and UCSB Art and non-Art students. Dan represents the essence of the College’s values––curiosity, passion, collaboration, inspiration, resilience, and knowledge. As Dan retires at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year in June, these featured stories and testimonials illustrate Dan’s humanity in a way that could only be told from current and former students as well as his colleagues.
Dan’s humanity stems from his roots. Born in Athens, Georgia, Dan’s father worked in a cotton mill and his mother in a sewing plant. Dan attended the University of Georgia on a scholarship–the first of his family to attend college–and studied Art, English, and Art History but received his degree only in Art. After graduation, he spent a year in Italy on a fellowship and later hitch-hiked (yes, Dan hitch-hiked!) around Europe looking at paintings. He attended University of California, Davis on a Regents Scholarship and earned a Master’s in Fine Arts. At Davis, the most significant event of his life took place when he met his future wife, Janis, and they have been together forty-two years! Dan’s daughter Rachel is a pre-school teacher, a job Dan sometimes thinks is not very different from his own. (Dan’s sense of humor!) His son Noah is currently finishing his Ph.D. in genetics. With his wife, Dan moved to Santa Barbara in 1984 and made his way to CCS where so many have come to greatly appreciate him over the decades. In retirement, he plans to join the circus as a clown. (There’s that Dan humor again!)
Per Dan, his default setting is gratitude. From the stories and testimonials below, all are grateful to Dan.
Conversations, Memories, Aha Moments, Laughter, Tears + More
Tim Sherwood, Interim Dean, College of Creative Studies
“Over the last year I have been trying to grow a list of all the ways Dan finds to contribute to this wonderful place—eventually I just ran out of space.” —Tim Sherwood, Interim Dean, College of Creative Studies
Dan is the type of thoughtful, creative, kind, and boundlessly inquisitive person I hope CCS will always be a home for. Over the last year I have been trying to grow a list of all the ways Dan finds to contribute to this wonderful place—eventually I just ran out of space. I can see his curiosity running through the veins of CCS and I look forward to many more chances to discuss art, meaning, science, and wherever else our conversations seem to take us.
Adam de Boer ‘06 (CCS Art, painting and drawing emphases)
“When I think of Dan, what stands out most is his kindness, his patience, and gentleness as a person…He was, and remains, a profound mentor in my life as a human being and as an artist.” —Adam de Boer ‘06 (CCS Art, painting and drawing emphases)
I applied to UCSB as an art major and somehow learned about CCS, maybe from something mailed to my house ahead of the application deadline. My memories are innumerable and my student days are still very cherished days for me. I was incredibly excited to begin my life as an artist when I arrived at CCS and luckily found faculty and fellow students who only encouraged me. Particularly fond memories are of late nights working alone in the studio behind the Old Little Theatre and occasionally having friends stop by after they finished a late lecture or were studying at the library. It felt so grand, so indulgent, to have a private space on campus and it made all of my friends (who were mostly CCS physics and chemistry majors) jealous. In those days there weren't many art majors, so I was there all by myself most of the time. Despite it often being so late that the campus was completely empty, students were not allowed to park in that little lot directly outside the studio building. A funny memory is that while I adored and was adored by Leslie Campbell (the fantastic student counselor at the time) her boyfriend was a very serious campus parking enforcement officer. He and I enjoyed a three-year game of cat-and-mouse and we honestly hated each other.
In fall quarter during my 1st year at CCS, I signed up for Dan's 'Form and Theme Drawing' class and had no idea what to do. Even though I was new to making art, I already understood that those two words described all of artmaking, so what the hell was this class about and what were the assignments!? The reality was that the class, like all of my time at CCS, would be self-directed, and that was an intimidating realization for me at the time. I was really interested in learning to draw the human figure so Dan encouraged me to simply start drawing the people around me. That 'theme' would allow explorations of 'form.' It was a wonderful suggestion because it encouraged me to meet my neighbors in the dorm and draw them at work and play. That first class inspired most everything I would make while in college; primarily images of my friends growing up, learning, and enjoying themselves in Isla Vista. Many of those people are still my best friends and having our early adulthood chronicled in artworks is hilarious.
When I think of Dan, what stands out most is his kindness, his patience, and gentleness as a person. It was a rude awakening, painful really, to learn that there would be no worn path for me to travel down to become an artist, and Dan understood that for me. I think some students arrive less naive to that reality. He was, and remains, a profound mentor in my life as a human being and as an artist.
When I graduated I simply kept emailing Dan images, questions, and updates about my progress. I had moved to Washington, DC and worked in painting storage at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Each day, I was surrounded by great works that I knew Dan would love to see. Right before graduation, Dan took me out for coffee and asked me what my 'plan' was—I had no plan. That afternoon he behaved more like an uncle than a professor. It was clear that despite the fact that our formal teacher-student relationship would soon be over, his care for me and the work I was making would not stop in June. We talked about family, relationships, the importance of setting up a Roth IRA ASAP (that account still exists), and general studio and life practicalities. He also told me to marry a woman who was nice, because kindness was more important than anything else! I took the conversation to heart and in hindsight followed most of what was suggested. That conversation initiated what is now our current friendship. I truly cherish Dan Connally in my life and wish him the best in his retirement. Hopefully he lets me see more of his paintings someday soon!
I currently live in Los Angeles. I have a MA in Fine Art from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. I am an artist today and show nationally and internationally. The lessons I learned from Dan at CCS are still vital to my life and work.
Elise Cypher ‘23 (CCS Biology, College of Letters & Science Art Minor)
“I don't think I've ever had an art teacher [Dan Connally] who has made me think about my work more.” —Elise Cypher ‘23 (CCS Biology, College of Letters & Science Art Minor)
Dan taught me how to research art, and how to take my art more seriously. He gave me the tools to discern simply eye-catching art from art I'm truly interested in. Dan also taught me about the materials of painting and drawing, from what paint is made of to how to make a canvas to experimenting with different drawing tools. He pushed me to try different ideas and techniques. I don't think I've ever had an art teacher who has made me think about my work more. I intend to be a scientific illustrator and eventually earn a Ph.D. in ecology.
Linda Ekstrom ‘82 (CCS Art) & ‘96 (UCSB MFA in Studio Art); CCS Art Faculty Emeritus
“He [Dan] is first and foremost committed to the students and works with them in many ways to help them realize their potential as artists.”—Linda Ekstrom ‘82 (CCS Art) & ‘96 (UCSB MFA in Studio Art); CCS Art Faculty Emeritus
It has been a great pleasure working with Dan over the many years. Dan has two CCS personas. There is the “public Dan” who is thoughtful, witty, and a very dedicated mentor to his students. Then, there is "behind the scenes Dan” who works tirelessly to keep things going for the art program and the students. He has spent countless hours over many years, organizing the studios, working with students over long weekends to help them mount their exhibitions in the gallery, spending his own time driving to pick up donations of art materials, canvasses, frames and more for the students to use, building painting racks for them to store their work, and following the successes of his students to support them as they progress in their professional careers. He is first and foremost committed to the students and works with them in many ways to help them realize their potential as artists.
Kathy Foltz, CCS Biology Faculty and Professor Emeritus of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB); and CCS Interim Dean (2016-2018)
“Dan has a way of making even a true novice feel welcome.”—Kathy Foltz, CCS Biology Faculty and Professor Emeritus of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB); and CCS Interim Dean (2016-2018)
I recall Dan assuring me, as a Biology advisor, that I could send Bio students to his classes—and send them I did! Many STEM students have enjoyed painting and have continued on with it post-graduation. Dan has a way of making even a true novice feel welcome. The effort and care that Dan put into the CCS Gallery—from carpentry, painting, curating, installing and hosting—through the years is astounding. The College, campus, and entire community has benefited from his skill.
Danny Heller ‘04 (CCS Art, painting emphasis)
“One lesson that always has stuck with me was during a painting critique, he’d [Dan] have us hang the painting upside down. This was a great way to see our work from literally a different perspective—something I’ve carried with me throughout my career.”—Danny Heller ‘04 (CCS Art, painting emphasis)
Some years back, I met up with Dan Connally at a festive Mexican restaurant in old town San Diego. A friend of mine and former CCS studio mate, Bob Drakulich, was living in the area and invited me to visit and catch up with our former teacher. It was a bit of a surreal experience, having margaritas and chatting not only outside of the context of the college, but also now a decade after graduating. We reminisced and talked art, and it made me realize just what a kind, interesting, and selfless human being he is.
I first heard of the College of Creative Studies while I was researching local California colleges. Living in Los Angeles, I liked the idea of staying somewhat local, being close to the art and entertainment industry, while still being at a top notch university. As opposed to the local art schools, I also liked the idea of getting a wide breadth of education at UCSB, while still having the freedom and personal instruction that CCS afforded. My advisor was Hank Pitcher, but I remember pretty soon having some exchanges with Dan and wanting to spend more time with him. My studio mates said he was not only kind and accomplished, but also had an introspective quality that gave him complexity.
It would take years of talking with him to gradually peel back the layers of that complexity and understand there was a guy in there balancing life: family, art career, and teaching career. My interactions with him were mostly in the hallways where he was always happy to talk for a while or just smile as I walked by. It wasn’t until my final year that I actually took a class with him: it was focused on all the peripheral skills artists need to thrive after graduating, not just the practical art-making skills. Dan taught us things like how to write a coherent artist statement, put together our resume, and document one’s artwork (remember slides?), but also general advice in starting life as an artist. One lesson that always has stuck with me was during a painting critique, he’d have us hang the painting upside down. This was a great way to see our work from literally a different perspective—something I’ve carried with me throughout my career. It was this class that really showed me how deeply he cared for his students and wanted them to succeed. It’s easy to teach the craft of making things, but to guide your students to become successful at doing it professionally takes a lot of consideration and care. Years after graduating, Dan would still take the time to review my artist statements when asked and would even refer me to galleries he thought would be a good fit. And even now, he always has words of encouragement and well-wishes when it comes to my exhibitions.
All these years later, with my own set of responsibilities and trying to make it professionally as an artist, I think about how he did the juggling act and made his students a priority. I am indebted to Dan. And I’m happy to say that I now make a living off of my art. My paintings can be found in various museum collections; I’ve collaborated with companies such as Disney and In-N-Out Burger; I show in LA, NY, and internationally; and as of last year, I purchased my first house. I know I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all this without Dan and his encouragement, his guidance, and his thoughtfulness.
Loie Hollowell ‘05 (CCS Art)
“Dan stands out as a favorite teacher at CCS.”—Loie Hollowell ‘05 (CCS Art)
I am an artist in New York City, a career choice significantly impacted by my time at CCS. I heard about CCS through a high school art teacher and learned that CCS students had access to their own studios in their first year, unique to CCS as compared to other undergraduate art programs. I first met Dan as soon as I got to the Santa Barbara campus while visiting CCS. He sat me down in his office and expressed that my application letter might not be the best but that my artwork spoke better than the letter and that's what got me into the program. I didn't take this as an insult but rather a great compliment. Dan was always generous with his time and warm and inviting, one time I recall he even went as far as to invite us into his home and family to visit with other CCS students. Dan has checked in on me through email over the years to see how I'm doing and share snippets of the artwork he's working on. It's been great to remain in touch this way. Dan stands out as a favorite teacher at CCS.
Owen Jenkins ‘24 (CCS Art, drawing and painting emphases)
“The most valuable of all Dan’s lessons was to create for myself before anyone else.”—Owen Jenkins ‘24 (CCS Art, drawing and painting emphases)
Dan was one of the first people I met upon visiting UCSB. After hearing the enthusiasm and seriousness with which he spoke about CCS and its students, I was convinced to attend the College. In the four years I have known him since, his advice has steered me ever closer to harmonizing my output with my creative force. The most valuable of all Dan’s lessons was to create for myself before anyone else. Such platitudes are easy to speak, but hard to really understand; for that, you need a guide like Dan.
John Latto, CCS Biology Faculty
"Discussing biological concepts with a faculty member in art is SO CCS. I will miss Dan and all of our random conversations about biology." —John Latto, CCS Biology Faculty
Kelly Malone ‘24 (CCS Art, painting emphasis)
“There are many things that I love about the art program here, but one that stands out—and that I think Dan embodies the most—is how we are treated as legitimate artists from the start."—Kelly Malone ‘24 (CCS Art, painting emphasis)
As I start to approach my last year as a CCS student with an emphasis on painting, I have had ample opportunity to reflect on how much this program has affected not only the way I make art, but how I think about it. There are many things that I love about the art program here, but one that stands out—and that I think Dan embodies the most—is how we are treated as legitimate artists from the start. Having my art taken seriously by the faculty has, in turn, built confidence in myself and given me the space to take myself seriously as an artist. I believe this has made me a better artist, one who thinks conscientiously about what exactly I am trying to achieve with my art as well as improving the more formal aspects of my work.
Dan is a big proponent of this mindset, and as my advisor for the past three years, I’ve experienced this first hand many times. During my second year, I was able to do an independent study with Dan exploring and processing the death of my grandmother through a series of paintings. I hold the time I spent making these paintings and talking about them with Dan very close to my heart for obvious reasons, considering the subject matter, but also because of the help and support Dan provided in my journey to understand my grief. During these meetings, Dan would occasionally recite impromptu poetry, tell stories that showed his passion and enthusiasm for painting, and more than anything else, ask questions. Anyone who has ever talked to Dan about their art knows that rather than center the conversation on his opinion, Dan instead asks the artist questions. These probing questions (at times more like thought experiments rather than something that has a “right” answer) really forced me to think deeply and critically about my art. It also made for some very entertaining conversations and meandering tangents.
I am grateful that even though Dan is retiring, I will still be able to have these conversations with him about my paintings. I plan on pursuing a career in the arts after graduating, and Dan’s support has been instrumental in believing I can do so. When I think about Dan, he feels like the core of what this program is all about, and although I am very happy for him and his retirement, I also know just how big a hole his absence will leave.
Jane Mulfinger, UCSB Professor of Art and CCS Art Faculty
“Dan is literally irreplaceable.”—Jane Mulfinger, UCSB Professor of Art and CCS Art Faculty
Dan Connally is a rigorous, philosophical artist whose work is greatly admired. His generosity and wit is legendary. Hundreds of students have looked to him for guidance during their studies and beyond after graduation. As a colleague, it has been such a pleasure to work with him and learn from him. He will be sorely missed at CCS. Dan is literally irreplaceable.
Hank Pitcher ‘71 (CCS Art); CCS Art Faculty
“...[B]esides being a serious painter, Dan is also a gentleman, showing respect for people and place and, in his way, making CCS a better place to be.”—Hank Pitcher ‘71 (CCS Art); CCS Art Faculty
I was on the committee that hired Dan way back when. I did not know him before that. My vote was based on the strength and intelligence of his paintings. It turned out that besides being a serious painter, Dan is also a gentleman, showing respect for people and place and, in his way, making CCS a better place to be. He is the kind of colleague and teacher who does their job well, and often does a little more than expected.
Besides his scholarly side, Dan has a pronounced practical side. He patches and paints the gallery walls, moves furniture, and fixes things around the building without being asked. I sometimes think of him as a Blue Collar Intellectual. I grew to rely on Dan’s reason and insight and good humor when dealing with the various matters relating to our jobs at CCS. I am going to miss his voice at meetings and reviews and the various places where our responsibilities overlap. However, I am looking forward to seeing the paintings he is going to make with the time he will have free from his day job.
Darrah Rose Robinson ‘21 (CCS Art, painting emphasis)
“In my meditations, I send good loving energy to Dan and his garden and his huge computer screen that never is quite doing what he wants it to. I am eternally grateful to Dan.”—Darrah Rose Robinson ‘21 (CCS Art, painting emphasis)
Dan is awesome! I’m so glad I have a chance to express my gratitude. I did not know about CCS until after I was admitted to the program. I sat down with [CCS Art Faculty] Hank Pitcher on a tour and he explained the opportunity I had in front of me. ‘Two professors that I get to work closely with for my whole undergraduate experience? Just me and the few other painting students?’ It seemed too good to be true, how could I say no? When I arrived at CCS I was not ready. I was a frustrated student. Everyone around me was extremely eager to learn and create, and I was having a hard time. I wasn’t used to so much attention, it made me uncomfortable. I was used to being surrounded by students and faculty who were not academically engaged and, frankly, had a hard time even being present. Dan saw me struggling, saw why I was having a hard time creating, and he made space for me to be that way. We spent a lot of time together talking through my schedules, talking about how to be more gentle during critiques.
- Dan helped me figure out how to get the most out of my experience at CCS and allowed me to have a hard time when that was all I knew how to do.
- Dan is the reason I am still painting.
- Dan is the reason I still love art and I found ways to do it that feel nourishing to my soul.
- Dan is the reason I believe I am an artist, even if I can’t paint every single day. I owe a lot to Dan.
- Dan gave me a lot of advice on how to be a more kind person in general. I listened because Dan listened to me first.
- Dan gave me a sense of belonging I had never had outside of my family.
- Because of Dan I am a much braver person.
- Dan restored my faith in the world and showed me that there are people out there that will really appreciate what I can make and do.
I haven’t been in as much contact with Dan since graduation as I would like. I will partially blame that on graduating during the pandemic, and take the rest of the responsibility. I have expressed my deep gratitude to Dan directly, but the opportunity to express it to the community had yet to come. I hope that Dan, and everyone else knows, Dan was a shining beam of light in an extremely dark time for me. What Dan did for me, I hope to pass on to other people who need it. The compassion I received from Dan and the encouragement of my craft are something I will hold onto for the rest of my life.
Today I am still painting. I have a studio set up in my home and just had a two-month long show at the Loft Salon & Spa as part of Santa Cruz’s First Friday program. I will keep making art and loving it because of Dan. If we are lucky, we get one good mentor or teacher in life. I have been lucky enough to have a lot. Dan Connally sits at the top of my list as the most influential (and maybe my favorite, don’t tell the others). In my meditations, I send good loving energy to Dan and his garden and his huge computer screen that never is quite doing what he wants it to. I am eternally grateful to Dan.
Alyssa Rogers ‘16 (CCS Art)
“May Dan now find even more freedom to do what he loves beyond serving our sweet but mighty little institution.” —Alyssa Rogers ‘16 (CCS Art)
The first time I walked into the CCS building as a prospective art student back in 2012, Dan heard my name and interrupted, "Alyssa Rogers? I was just looking at your application! You realize you submitted it late, right?" My mom rushed in to defend my sorry ass, but it didn't stop Dan from warmly inviting us to sit and chat about the program. He patiently fielded questions about the validity of an art career from my anxious, but immensely proud parents, and made me genuinely excited about studying at CCS. He then invited me to his studio, an invitation I regret not taking advantage of—I wouldn't receive another until years after I graduated, though we met many times in between in my studio or out to coffee, or even a couple times at his lovely home where I met his wife Janis, daughter Rachel, and fetching dog Bandit.
Dan didn't hide his criticism, but it was never biting. He once let me plant vegetables in his backyard, and when he discovered I didn't know how to properly use a shovel he shook his head and wryly called me a city slicker as he generously helped me out, and probably did something else sweet like bring me lemonade. I came to learn that Dan being hard on me was a sign of respect—he deeply considered our ideas, saw our potential, and wanted us to engage more rigorously with the world. But, he also never hid his approval. He made sure I knew that I was a good painter. I remember feeling proud of myself one day and exclaiming to Dan, "I think I could have art in a museum someday!" He responded, "Well, you oughta’ aim higher than that!"
We've kept in touch since I graduated, mostly through email, but occasionally I'll get the chance to give him a big hug, and get the extra perk of coffee or wine, or as I will inevitably insist: both. His emails are pithy, mine are effusive. I always feel at home when I see him. He tends to brand himself half-heartedly as a misanthrope, but he's all sweet on the inside, a hopeless romantic who got everything he dreamed of—a life full of painting and scholarship with his radiant wife Janis in a house by the ocean. These days I'm dreaming of the same things, and recognizing that I kind of have it all too—a cozy apartment near Venice Beach full of art by me, my friends, and my partner Zach, and a not-so-terrible commute to my life of art-making and scholarship at UC Irvine as an MFA student and Teaching Assistant. Dan, of course, is to thank for my being there. My engrossing education and letter of rec aside, Dan was someone who believed in me at a time when I badly needed it. His kindness helped me believe in a better future when I felt immensely alone.
Though I'm sure CCS will find new educators to continue fulfilling its important mission, CCS is losing a special one. May Dan now find even more freedom to do what he loves beyond serving our sweet but mighty little institution. And may we continue to live out our collective Southern Californian dream of building an art community next to the sea!
Bruce Tiffney, CCS Biology Faculty, Professor Emeritus in Department of Earth Sciences, CCS Dean (2005-2016), and CCS Interim Dean (2018-2020, Summer 2022)
“...[H]is spirit has so much been a part of the very fabric of CCS.”—Bruce Tiffney, CCS Biology Faculty, Professor Emeritus in Department of Earth Sciences, CCS Dean (2005-2016), and CCS Interim Dean (2018-2020, Summer 2022)
It is with a sense of wistfulness that I reflect upon Dan’s retirement—his spirit has so much been a part of the very fabric of CCS. In the gallery he created a community space of such value, forming a hub of college activities: exhibits, speakers, readings, gatherings, and openings. Beyond, he has influenced the structure and spirit of CCS by his intense commitment; the discussion was never about the hours or the recompense, but rather what was the job that needed to be done to help CCS and its students. Indeed, at his core, it was the students. As an intensely compassionate instructor, mentor, and counselor through matters concerning art and life, he brought his quiet wisdom to the lives of generations of CCS students, in art and beyond.
Thank you, Dan, although it is impossible to adequately measure your influence and your generosity of self by any thanks. Your spirit is that of the College itself, which has been shaped by your hands and heart.
Maya Zohbi ‘19 (CCS Art, painting and book arts emphases)
“Of all my fond memories of CCS, Dan being my mentor stands out as one of the most impactful to my entire experience.” —Maya Zohbi ‘19 (CCS Art, painting and book arts emphases)
I graduated from CCS in 2019, majoring in art with painting and book arts emphases. I actually applied to the College without really understanding what it was; I thought it was the only way to major in Art at UCSB. Upon beginning my studies within CCS, I realized just how special the program is and how lucky I was to be a part of it. I loved the community feel that flowed within the CCS building and my shared studio space with fellow art majors. It really felt like those of us in CCS were a family, and I’ll never forget all the fun we had during our weekly Coffee Hour and in our small classes that allowed for all of us to really get to know each other, even in short 10-week quarters.
Of all my fond memories of CCS, Dan being my mentor stands out as one of the most impactful to my entire experience. I remember meeting Dan for the first time and finding him to be so warm and kind. Dan quickly became someone I looked up to and valued as much as a family member. His thoughtfulness and sense of humor made him such a wonderful teacher and always made me so happy to be around him. To know Dan is to love Dan. I’m truly so honored and grateful to have been a recipient of his mentorship. Since graduation, Dan and I have communicated through email and it brings me so much joy to hear from him each time. I miss him dearly and think about him and his influence on my relationship with art all the time. I remember seeing him post-grad and telling him about my struggle to find a place for painting in my daily life while going through a creative lull, working full-time, and without having a real studio space. Dan reassured me that it was okay for me to not be making art as I was when it was my sole focus and that it can take time to navigate creative blocks. Dan made me feel so much better and his reassurance meant so much to me. Since that conversation over a year ago, I have made an effort to nurture my relationship with painting while being gentle with myself, using the lessons Dan has taught me over the years to alleviate the pressure I put on myself as an artist and to instead play around with art. One of the lessons Dan taught me that I try to remind myself constantly is that it’s okay to make bad art, and not everything has to be a masterpiece. As a recovering perfectionist, this is something I find very useful to remember.
While I am not necessarily pursuing art and painting professionally at the moment, I try to fit creative time into my daily life, whether it be by painting, knitting, cooking, or other hands-on activities. I have set up a little painting corner in my home, which has made it easier for me to paint when I can. I don’t paint as regularly as I would like to, but I am working on my relationship with my art and I am seeing some progress which is motivating. During my time at CCS, I knew how important it was for me to be around other artists and art teachers like Dan, who kept my creative gears turning at all times. Since graduating, it has been more difficult for me to find that nurturing creative community. However, I have recently started to foster friendships with artists in my city of Los Angeles which I am quickly finding to be helpful in getting those creative juices flowing again. Professionally, I am currently starting a business with my family, developing and creating Montessori language learning materials for preschool-age children. I may or may not pursue an MFA in the future, but for now, I am trying to create more time and space for art-making, and look forward to building a community with artists that can hopefully match that which I had during my time at CCS.
I often think about how lucky I am to have been a student at CCS, and how fortunate I was to be one of Dan’s students. He will forever be important to me and I am so grateful to have learned so much from him. I miss him dearly and am so excited to hear about all the travels and experiences he will be able to pursue in his retirement.
Robert Wechsler ‘04 (CCS Art)
“We had Dan's new Coke machine in place before dinner and probably celebrated with a hero's meal of hotdogs, pizza, and chicken bakes at the Goleta Costco!”—Robert Wechsler ‘04 (CCS Art)
My favorite memories of college involve roving the halls of CCS long after dark, enjoying the 24-7 access specially granted to students of CCS. My keychain was heavy with brass keys to the building, to my studio, to the classrooms, the woodshop, the printlab. I was proud to have collected so many to have gained freedom to roam so far, what a gift that access was to a young person.
Most of my late night hours were spent alongside my roommate, studiomate, and the only other sculpture major in our year: Bob Drakulich. We both came to CCS as Roberts but within seconds of meeting, my gregarious counterpart claimed the nickname Bob for himself allowing me to remain Robert, or so I thought. In reality, we simply became known as Bob and Rob. In fact, years later, Dan [Connally] clued me in that it wasn't just Bob and Rob. When we weren’t around it was Bob (hold a hand up above your head to indicate Bob’s impressive height) and Rob (hold both hands out around your head to indicate Rob’s big hair)!
Bob and I shared a competitive spirit and mutual desire to be the best and do the most. We egged each other on to enroll in too many classes and work too many hours. We loved sculpting and painting deep into the night with the CD player set to repeat some classic rock song, helping us lose track of time and get into the flow. Bob and I also got into mischief from time to time, always bringing the same maximum effort.
One morning Bob and I were chatting with Dan, and he mentioned that he was trying to get the College to install vending machines, but was running into ridiculous amounts of red tape. Later that day, Bob and I were walking through Isla Vista and happened upon an old Coke machine someone had put on the curb. We thought it would be hilarious to bring this hulking thing to CCS and install it next to Dan's Office. The machine was ancient and massive, built by people with access to cheap steel. We exhausted ourselves for most of the afternoon just trying to get it into Bob's pickup truck. Getting it off the truck, with gravity on our side was a bit easier and CCS is mercifully a single story building with flat floors and few thresholds. We had Dan's new Coke machine in place before dinner and probably celebrated with a hero's meal of hotdogs, pizza, and chicken bakes at the Goleta Costco!
Now, for Bob and I the timing was the funny bit. Dan had just been telling us that very morning how hard it was to get a vending machine into CCS, and that very day we had delivered one to his office door. Of course, to our great disappointment, Dan didn't know that. Dan wasn’t even scheduled to be at the College the next day and so when he did finally encounter the Coke machine he hardly remembered our conversation. Even so, CCS is a small place and Bob and I were the usual suspects. Though Dan didn’t instantly recall our conversion, he did come to us first to ask about the mysterious machine. It was the worst kind of joke in the end, the kind you have to explain. Dan gave us an unsatisfying chuckle and a mandate to remove the machine ASAP.
The first person I remember meeting at the College was Dan. I had expected college to be a place of crisp and rigorous instruction. Dan was not crisp in appearance and he made no promises about instruction. I was disappointed. It took some time to realize that CCS would actually be the right fit for me. And it took a bit longer to realize that rigor was something the students were expected to provide. It took me longer still to appreciate how much instruction I actually took from Dan. Of all the role models in my life, his instruction has certainly been the most long lasting and his example is the one I am still quickest to consult.
Dan works from the perspective of mentorship and friendship rather than a teacher-pupil relationship. He saw us younger artists as junior colleagues. He respected us for the artists we were in our own right. He rarely offered me overt advice or instructions. He never presumed that his answers were the right ones.
I have kept in touch with Dan too little over the years. We have exchanged emails and caught up over a beer or two whenever the opportunity arose. Most memorably, I stayed with Dan’s family for a few days while I was in town teaching a workshop. It was 10 years ago but it made a difference in my life. In a practical sense it made my life a bit easier for that particular week, but personally it meant a great deal to me at the time, and has grown to mean a lot more to me over the years. It felt special to be welcomed into a professor's home and to be made to feel like one of the family at the dinner table. Like so many of my interactions with Dan, I look back on this time and appreciate what a lovely model that was for me. I have looked forward to the times in life when I have been able to offer the same hospitality and welcome to people in my life.
My wife and I moved to a suburb of Boston in 2018 so she could take a position at Olin College of Engineering. I am an Artist-in Residence at Olin and I am privileged to work with students one-on-one from time to time.