Art Degree Provides Outlet for Student with Learning Disabilities

learning disabilities


Rebecca Rasmussen, known as Becca, has the honor and distinction of being the first student to graduate from Beacon College as a Studio Arts major. She is also the first senior to undertake the capstone of the major—having her own exhibition in the Kristin Michelle Mason Art Gallery at Beacon College.

A multitalented artist, Becca is not only a painter, she is also a digital artist, earning a double major in Studio Arts and Computer Information Systems in the Web & Digital Media track.  Becca is originally from New York. Her father was a paramedic who responded during the 9/11 attack. Soon after, the family decided to move out of New York City, and drawn to the state of Florida by NASA and Disney, they decided to settle in Titusville, FL.

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In her senior year of high school, Becca began taking college courses at the local community college. She soon found, however, that college can be a struggle for students with learning disabilities when they are assigned professors who are either unconcerned or unaware about proper accommodations. Becca was initially a graphic artist at college, but after transferring to Beacon, she became interested in more tactile artistic expression and decided to dual major.

Although there is some research that indicates a link between learning disabilities and creativity, Becca believes that the primary influence on her art is early trauma she experienced in her life. Her writing statement at her senior exhibition clearly reflects this idea. It reads in part,

“I have developed my paintings to speak both to me and to others about the human spirit and the effects hardship has had on the emotions almost every person in the world has had to face…The fear of being misunderstood, the fear of being looked at as a shadow, the fear of being looked upon as the ugly duckling, and the fear of being lonely are depicted in my work…What I want most is for my art to be a representation of myself and not only to tell my story but to also allow others to reflect on their lives and memories.”

Because Becca uses her life experiences as the basis for her paintings, she finds her art to be intensely personal, saying there is “more emotion in painting.” She is therefore reluctant to reveal her work to others, knowing that they may be critical and that she is also showing a more intimate side of herself. Creative expression provides an outlet for her, and Becca will continue painting, but she is more drawn to a career in the field of graphic design where she can be creative but does not have to cope with the uncomfortable nature of exhibitions.]

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The combination of majors Becca selected to study had a major impact on her success, and Becca rightfully credits her professors, Van Galyon, Russ Bellamy, and Sandy Novak, for being major influences during her time at Beacon. Becca believes that both major fields of study have contributed to the artist she has become. With the courses taken together, she recognized the importance of planning and designing. From Professor Novak, Becca learned how to use popular software programs, such as Illustrator and Photoshop, and her graphic design work helped her focus on making a client happy rather than herself. From Professor Gaylon, Becca learned that about being creative and unique with digital work. These classes combined have not only made Becca a more powerful artist, they have also made her more marketable, with skills that will be valued by a wide range of employers.

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In April, Becca became the first student to hold a senior exhibition in the Kristin Michelle Mason Art Gallery at Beacon College. She was nervous about the experience and is not eager to repeat it, but she does recognize that it was a beneficial and important part of her progress from student to graduate. Her graphic design work is geared for customers, while Becca finds that painting evokes responses and also criticism. It can be difficult for an artist to expose her work and, ultimately, herself to an outside audience. But it’s also very necessary to evolve as an artist.

Many students do not understand just how much work goes into an art exhibition. In this case, Becca was responsible for choosing the pieces for the show, hanging all of them, and marketing the show herself by creating a postcard send out to the Beacon community. There was an incredible turnout for the reception celebrating the opening of this exhibition, and many members of Becca’s family as well as her friends showed up to support her. Becca was grateful for the support and overwhelmed by the positive response from all the visitors. She found it gratifying to see so many people who appreciated her art.

Her professors are understandably proud of her work in both fields as well as her successful completion of the graduating senior exhibition. Russ Bellamy, Assistant Professor of Art, says, “Becca’s hard work and perseverance resulted in a successful exhibition, and we are very proud of her for being the first graduate from Beacon College with a BA in Studio Arts. Her work is both technically and conceptually complex and is an insight into her personal struggles, which are relatable to her viewers on personal and emotional levels. She has an extremely bright future as an artist and designer.”

As the first student to graduate from Beacon with a Studio Arts degree, Becca has some advice for those who follow her path. She says, “Take your time. Know what you want to do, and make it the way you want.” Becca also believes “there has to be fun in life,” so it’s important that anyone who chooses to become an artist takes the time to enjoy the experience.

Whether it be in the field of painting or graphic design, we know Becca will put her creativity to good use and continue to develop as an artist!

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