Most of my early life was typical of a
military family. We moved around a bit, not as much as some, more than
others. The big move was in 1963, when we moved to Satellite Beach,
Florida, and my father retired from the Air Force. We finally had a
chance to put down roots, and I had an opportunity to grow up three
blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. It was a real blessing, after some of
the places we had to inhabit.|
I moved to Tampa to go to the University of South Florida and took my time navigating academia. I switched majors regularly, going from art to English to anthropology to religion and back to art/art education. I racked up a lot of credit hours and escaped with an Associate of Arts.
After leaving college to pursue my ‘real’ education, I discovered glass, in the form of stained glass, in 1976. After developing an obsession with the media, I was able to find a job in a studio the following year, and continued to work for other people until 1979. At that point I entered a co-operative studio/gallery arrangement with seven other people. That experiment worked out for about a year with mixed results.
In the fall of 1980 I moved into studio/living space in Ybor City, a relatively abandoned historical district of Tamp. This area had once been the center of the cigar industry for the world, but had fallen on hard times. When I moved there it was suffering from a bad case of urban blight, but an artist’s community was already developing. For the next 15 to 16 years I was part of that community until greed and stupidity dissolved our enclave with gentrification, by way of the shock troops of alcohol and high rents.
It was during these 15 or so years that I ‘came of age” creatively. I had a combination storefront gallery, studio, and living space in the same building for twelve of those years. I worked with many of the area artists on various projects, which helped to expand my awareness of different media, as well as picking up various techniques that I continue to use in my work.
The most significant move I made with my work came when I followed my impulse to start making lamps. I felt like I had done as much as I wanted with stained glass, and utilized many of the techniques I had already learned in creating lighting.
But I was reaching a level of burnout with my life in Ybor and in Florida, so I made the decision to move to Asheville after visiting Penland School in 1994 and spending a couple of weeks in the mountains. Not a lot to base a move on, but I was at my wit's end and since I had always wanted to live in the mountains, this worked for me.
In 2005, I opened a small showroom in the River District in Asheville. It was a great experience for me in that it gave me an option to displaying my work in galleries, which allowed me more flexibility in what I presented to the public.
I joined the River Arts District association, which promoted Studio Strolls twice a year, and helped keep a high profile for the district throughout the year via advertising and general media blitzing.
The most important decision of my life came in 2007, when I married my wife, Michelle Funk. You never know exactly how a lot of your choices will turn out, what they will set in motion.... but my marriage is inextricably tied to following my intuition to move to Asheville.
In 2010, we decided to shed our skins and move to the Midwest. Partly a move for family, part for opportunity, all for change and the good it brings.
copyright 2009 Rick Melby
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