How I Kept My Mother Out of My Art School

Chouinard Photo
Chouinard Art Institute, circa 1970.

I’d known my mother planned to attend the Chouinard Art Institute right after high school, study fashion design there, then set the fashion industry on fire, since I was a little kid. From the age of 8 or 9, I knew I was going to be an animator, working for Walt Disney, when I grew up, so discussions of Chouinard and Disney’s close affiliation with the school came up often.

My mother is a powerhouse, always involved with several complicated creative projects at once: oil painting, ceramics, PTA President, Den Mother, poetry, local drama, sewing, knitting, etc. You wouldn’t believe the Halloween costumes she designed and fabricated for me and my four younger siblings over the years: Hollywood quality. She closely followed the career of Edith Head, a Chouinard grad, by the way.

Disney died the year before I graduated from high school. My dream of animating for him died with this legend. During my senior year in high school, I started attending Saturday life drawing classes at Chouinard. One of my high school art teachers, Mrs. Pardoe, arranged and encouraged these sessions. At the end of the year, I applied to all the art schools Mrs. Pardoe recommended: The Art Center, Long Beach State and Chouinard. I was fortunate to be accepted by all 3, but chose Chouinard. It seemed to fit me best.

Many years after my graduation, I was reading a biography of my mother in a high end porcelain doll magazine. She’d added doll making and, more importantly, the design and fabrication of original doll clothes design to the many things she does. In the article she elaborated on why she never attended Chouinard, revealing a fact, that in all our one on one conversations about Chouinard, she’d never shared with me before.

Mom and Pop Photo
My mother and father, in high school.

Like myself, my mother had applied and been accepted to Chouinard after graduating high school. This was at the end of World War II. The art school told her, yes, we’d love to have you, but we have to put you at the back of the entry line, behind all the WWII GI’s returning from the war and entering the school through the GI Bill. They said they’d call her, as soon as there was an opening.

Months went by, then years, but finally she got her call. She told them she wouldn’t be attending. In the interim, she’d married my father and was now 8 months pregnant with her first child: Me!

She never attended Chouinard, but did get the necessary fashion design training she required at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and with my youngest brothers in high school, began an over 30 year career as a fashion designer, creating for some of the biggest labels in the industry.

I love you mom!


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