By NATALIE WRIGHT
After establishing a career in graphic design, Angela Pierro decided a few years ago to return to her first love – painting.
And it paid off. On March 26, Pierro, a Washtenaw Community College graphic design instructor, attended a special event at the governor’s mansion in Lansing, where some of her paintings were hung. As a part of the Michigan Governor’s Lansing Residence 2014 Art Collection, Pierro’s paintings will be on display for a year.
While the collection is not open to the public, special guests and national and foreign dignitaries who visit the residence will be able to see the pieces and have the opportunity to buy them.
Only about 12 artists were selected to be a part of the collection, Pierro said, “so it’s a big honor.”
Pierro was selected for this honor because Lee Jean-Gilles, the curator of the show, also owns a gallery in Ann Arbor, Pierre Paul Designs, where he displays and represents Pierro’s work.
At the event, Gov. Rick Snyder and his wife gave a speech in front of all of the artists and their immediate friends and family, Pierro said, and “made a big statement in support of the arts.”
For Pierro, the event was the culmination of a lot of hard work and determination to make money through her art.
“You always get told you’re not going to make any money as an artist,” she said. “My parents were definitely nervous.”
Meg Fairchild, a student in Pierro’s publication design class, said that children are often told this.
“It’s more of a product of a failing art system in schools rather than a lack of artistic ability,” she said.
So, Pierro got into design as a practical way to express herself artistically.
She worked on magazines for a while in Toronto after graduating from Ontario College of Art and Design University in 1996. Then she got a job as art director for Borders and moved to Michigan. Eventually, she opened her own design and marketing company, Zero Gravity Designs, in downtown Ann Arbor.
While design is her second love, Pierro said, elements of design have definitely influenced her painting.
“I consider myself a colorist,” she said. “That comes a lot from my training as a designer.”
Pierro’s paintings are very abstract.
“My goal is to say a lot with very little,” she said.
One reason Pierro loves to teach is so that she can help young artists overcome the fear that they won’t be able to make money from their art, a fear that is all too familiar to her.
“If I can impart one thing to my students, it’s that in this industry, never take no for an answer,” she said. “I didn’t like hearing no and that’s what kept me going.”
Fairchild, 32, of Dexter, said that Pierro’s real-world experience stands out in the classroom, and her artistic ability leads to more concept-based discussions rather than software-based.
And the teacher/entrepreneur/painter/designer says that she encourages students to wear many hats, like she does.
“Don’t let anybody tell you you have to be only one thing,” Pierro tells them. “Do it all and do it with gusto and with passion.”