Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Steve Schousen, Aquinas College art professor

For some people, living in the same neighborhood for 31 years and within a five minute walk of your place employment would get old.

But Steve Schousen always enjoyed being able to walk home and eat a PB&J with his son at lunch. Although he said the life of an art professor isn’t the most glamorous job,  he did say it’s phenomenal and he wouldn’t change it for anything.

It’s kind of funny that the 58-year-old said he never had a plan for his life and yet has found himself in a very stable and happy life.

“I just went in the direction of joy,” Schousen said. “Sometimes I stop and think maybe I should have planned more, then I think that wouldn’t have been as fun.”

That joy wasn’t in the direction of money, however, and went more for a life of structure and rewarding interactions.

“It really depends on what you want,” he said. “Success as a teacher isn’t measured in money.”

His introduction to art, aside from drawing as a child, wasn’t until college. His dad was an athletic director, so his interest revolved around sports.

In college, he began as history major, but eventually took an art class. He received a C-.

But there was something about it. It wasn’t the satisfaction from self expression, rather the figuring out problems.

“It was the mechanics, the, “How do I draw that coffee cup,” that drew me to art,” he said.

Following college, he worked as a carpenter for a year before coming to a crossroad: stay a carpenter forever or do something in art.

After realizing he could always go back to carpentry, he went with art.

When he relatively my age, about 23 or so, he wanted to make a living on his art alone.

But he found he needed structure in his life and began the teaching portion of his life.

“There’s a different organizational feel to the learning aspect,” he said. “I’m interacting with people; I’ve found I need that human interaction.”

That human interaction has saved him from dark spots. He said he’ll get into grooves of art work and go into periods of anxiety and depression where he has to stop working. So, in that sense, the students he works with are a safety net.

He loves being able to put out artwork, but it’s sometimes the art he leasts expects to be successful that is.

“Sometimes you put out a piece you’re not happy with and it strikes a cord with people,” he said. “Then, I think I have some really good, and only the one or two people who ‘really’ get my work understand it.”

His shows do well on the campus at Aquinas College, and they often sell a majority of his artwork. (I’ve been to several of his shows, including one a few weeks ago. He does some pretty awesome prints.)

He passed on a life of trying to make a living off his art alone, but he plans on retiring in a few years at 62. Still he plans on teaching a class or so a year to stay in touch with the college, but he’ll focus a majority of his time on his art work.

The great thing about Schousen is he’s living the life he wants to live, and he’s happy with it. He’s certainly one of the happiest, most genuine people I’ve encountered — and I’ve known him since I was like 3.

But it kind of makes sense. He doesn’t believe there’s a real reason mankind is on Earth, we’re an evolutionary ‘accident’ and here for the ride.

So his mission is simple: “Share love and make connections with people.”

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