Finding the Creativity in What People Do: Susan Daykin on Art and Teaching

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The Colorful Influence of Susan Daykin is not just a retrospective of one artist’s work—it’s also a look at the longtime Fine Arts professor’s students, her travels, and her personal ephemera. Daykin has worked at FIT for 50 years, and the new exhibition on display through March 3 in the Art and Design Gallery, is filled with color, texture, and history.

“I like other cultures, I like diversity,” Daykin said one recent afternoon while giving a tour of her show during its installation. “And I realize I’m very happy here [at FIT] because the students are so diverse. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about other cultures. I’ve learned so much from my students.”

Daykin’s work on view comprises paintings and collage. She began collage later in her career, but likes it because, she says, “it has a certain physicality to it that you glue something down and also it brings somebody else’s hand in there. And I like that. It gives me something to work with in the sense that I got to bounce off this thing, this piece, or this piece of material or wallpaper.”

Additionally, much of what comprises the exhibition are beautiful, colorful objects that Daykin collected during her travels, largely to Mexico. The objects are part of a landscape of memories and ideas that all feed into her work. “I think I like finding the creativity in what people do,” she said. “That’s the essence of teaching.”

Exhibition curator and fellow Fine Arts colleague of 16 years Joel Werring said, “[Sue] loves the dialogue with students, the exchange. She has a way of reaching them, an ability to really get to know them, their life situations—who they are as people. She listens. And that trust, knowledge, and understanding is reflected in the strength and depth in the artwork of her students.”

Daykin said she has gone on teaching after retirement age because she finds the students so inspirational. They are inspiring to her own work, and she wanted to include select students in the show to highlight several of them with different styles and those she thinks are exceptional.

Werring said, “Her students are celebrated and empowered. Being a teacher requires generosity and being in service to others. Sue Daykin exemplifies this and it’s inspiring.”

The Colorful Influence of Susan Daykin is on display in the Art and Design Gallery in the Pomerantz Center Lobby and Back Gallery February 9–March 3, 2024. 

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