An article that Geraldine Velasquez published in 2004 is called “My Magnificent Obsession.” That, she said in an interview, happens to be jewelry. But it could just as well be graphic design, fiber art, enamel art, Latin American art, quilting, textile design, art therapy, music therapy, movement and dance, writing and healing, and — far ahead of her peers — “Drawing on the computer: Turning a left brain activity into a right brain activity” back in 1996!
And of course there’s fine art, reflected in her September OLLI lecture, “The Impressionists: A Brilliant Revolution,” from the 1860s through the 1880s.
Geraldine is a New Yorker born and bred. “Designers were on my father’s side of the family: clothing, jewelry, hats and more,” she said. “My concentration in college was textile design, and I worked for various companies for four years until I moved out of the city and switched careers. Crafts was a big part of what I used to do, but I moved to graphics and the multimedia revolution in the design field.”
She earned a bachelor of fine arts at Hunter College, an M.A. at Montclair State College, and an Ed.D. at Rutgers. Her doctoral dissertation was on “Attitudes and Beliefs of Contemporary Crafts People” (1987) and she published an article on a similar theme in the N.Y. Times a year later.
She taught from 1980 to 2015 at what was originally Georgian Court College in Lakewood, N.J. It was built on land owned by the family of the “robber baron” Jay Gould, and the Sisters of Mercy bought it and turned it into a college. “I had great flexibility in teaching at my small college, which grew to become a university,” she said. “I was able to contribute to the scholarship on studio crafts. This was at a time when the Museum of Art and Design opened in New York. I was a keynote speaker on women in crafts at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington in 1990.” She said she “loved to introduce new areas into our curriculum at Georgian. Concurrently I introduced computers to the art department, and with time the department became the second biggest undergraduate major.” She chaired the departments of art, communication, graphic design and multimedia.
A member of the OLLI Writers Group, Geraldine has published widely. Her articles often have provocative titles. For instance: “The Family Photo and the Art of Lying.” It’s about “what you see and what you don’t see,” she explained. “Who’s behind the camera, what isn’t in the picture.” Other examples: “Religion in the Secular Classroom,” “Instilling Beliefs through Graphic Design: Art in the Time of War,” and “The Future Invents the Past: the Ur Teacher.” She’s a founding director and editor of the Forum for Research and Criticism in the Crafts. Among her many honors: 20 years in “Who’s Who in America.”
She’s a mother and grandmother, and moved with her husband to Holly Springs in 2015 to be closer to them. “And I love it!” she said with a happy smile.
~ Barbara Haddad Ryan
Barbara is a long time OLLI member and member of the OLLI Voices team. She graduated with an English degree with honors from Swarthmore College and went on to achieve a Masters with honors from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Her career began at the Denver Post, 1962-1976: were she held various posts including feature writer, art critic, classical music critic, “first female editorial writer on a major Western daily” and TV Critic and columnist on this newspaper for five years.
Subsequent moves in her fascinating career were as political reporter and feature writer for the Rocky Mountain News (Scripps-Howard daily) from 1976-1982, Public Information Officer for the State of Colorado Office of Energy Conservation from 1982-1986, Associate Vice President for External Affairs, Swarthmore College from 1992-2000, Public Affairs Director for the National HQ of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Washington D.C. from 2000-2006