When painter and designer Arturo Correa registered for business classes at then-Edison Community College (ECC) in 1992, he never expected to discover two of his great passions—art and his beloved wife, Jenn—on the sunlit and verdant Thomas Edison (Lee) Campus.
Arturo, like many students at FSW/Edison, finished his general education courses before transferring to a four-year university and declaring a specific major. His life was headed in a sensible direction, until he signed up for an elective painting class at ECC with former art instructor Robert York.
As a teacher, artist and colleague of the late Robert Rauschenberg, York recognized the potential in young Arturo and steered him toward the arts. Arturo described York as a great artist and rebel who resembled Bob Dylan with long hair.
"He inspired me and kept telling me I was a good artist," Arturo says. "The thing I remember the most about him was his passion."
By the time Arturo left ECC, he was no longer interested in majoring in business. He wanted to apply to the University of Central Florida to study painting and graphic design, and he needed York to help him prepare an application and portfolio.
"I took a lot of classes with him (York) because I loved the arts," Arturo says.
In 1996, Arturo graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UCF and later earned a Master of Arts in Painting from New York University. Arturo's first exhibition was in his hometown of Valencia, Venezuela in 1995.Over the last two decades he's been in over 50 individual and collective exhibitions all over the world. And to this day, he credits York and FSW/Edison for setting him on the right track.
"Edison (FSW) has been very important to me," he says. "It's where everything started."
Arturo may have never created a single piece of art in his lifetime if he hadn't signed up for that class at ECC. But, perhaps more significant than that, he would have never met his wife, Jenn.
"At Edison (FSW), I found out I was going to be an artist," he explains. "And I found my wife."
Arturo and Jenn had lived in the same apartment complex in Fort Myers without knowing it. They even took the same public speaking class which met in the Rush Library Auditorium. Arturo first noticed Jenn at the library as she searched the shelves for a book. He was struck by her and introduced himself immediately.
The couple later moved to Orlando in 1993 so Arturo could finish his bachelor's degree and Jenn transferred from ECC to Valencia College to finish her degree. Today, she is a guidance counselor at Golden Gate High School in Naples, Florida.
Both of his unexpected discoveries at FSW/Edison were proof that the unforeseen circumstances of life often take control over a person's destiny.
Arturo said the subject of his art is mainly life. He describes life as a clash of random occurrences needing to be formed into connections by people, and to him, that's how art and life are similar. He had never expected to discover his passion for art as well as meet the love of his life at FSW/Edison.
"Sometimes you have to chill out and let life work its magic," he says.
Last fall Arturo's latest exhibition, Stage 16, was on display at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center in downtown Fort Myers. He has plans for a future collaborative show with other artists at Florida Gulf Coast University.
The Correa family returned to Southwest Florida from New York City to be closer to family in the region. When Arturo Correa isn't working in his Naples-based studio, he devotes time to helping and mentoring young artists the way York helped him at FSW/Edison. His advice to young artists is to learn about their craft and never stop believing in themselves.
"You can be so talented, but you have to fill your toolbox," he says. "The more you know the better."
For more information about the artist Arturo Correa, visit www.arturocorrea.net
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