Life in Europe was so rich and constantly filled with wonderous experiences. I had the opportunity to create hundreds of paintings, sketches and photographs, employing the geometric design system, The Golden Section, used by all the classical master artists.
I was starting to feel a pull to shift my focus away from creating my own work, and back to sharing design principles and concepts like the Fletcher color system with students. Having already taught a few years earlier, I knew I savored the challenge of getting others to the point where they, too, could start to see the precise structure and interconnectedness of everything. We packed up our home and returned to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where I started teaching at a small art school.
We moved from Hamilton Street where I was walking to work, to the western suburbs of Allentown where we bought a small house in the loveliest part of the city. There were a few manorial houses on the outer edges of the region but most of them were very nice single-family homes with a bit of a lawn and garden.
Shortly after our move my wife and I divorced, and she went back to England. Cathy and I moved to an apartment house also in the west end of Allentown. My daughter attended high school while I continued teaching.
A friend of mine owned a chain of clothing stores aimed at high school and college girls called Junior Colony. He started with one shop in Allentown, which is when I met him, and he ended up with shops all over the Eastern United States. He had studied art with me, and we were very close friends.
One evening I called him and asked to get together to discuss an idea. When we met the next morning, I told him even though the area needed another art school as much as it needed another policeman, I really wanted to open my own facility. The place was crawling with art schools. He and a well-established potter friend of his who was also at the meeting encouraged me to do it. They convinced me that I could offer something no one else was offering; I would get good publicity and have a decent enrollment, for starters. And then my friend said, “I want to show you something.”
He then proceeded to take me across the street to the first Junior Colony shop he opened. He owned the two apartments above it, and the top one was just being used for storage.
I immediately envisioned how it could become the perfect art studio space. I wanted to remove some of the walls, not load-bearing ones, of course, to make a beautiful space for life class, an office and a classroom. It was on a third-floor walkup but I was still a young man then, so it didn’t matter. He only charged me $60 a month rent, including heat and air conditioning! That’s how I was able to open my own art school in 1977. My friend took all of my classes (and I, of course, didn’t charge him).
I got an enormous amount of publicity in all the papers in the Lehigh Valley. They delighted in the fact that there was going to be a new art school to compete with the existing ones.
For the first class, the first semester, I had 100 students. The publicity worked, along with the fact I had been teaching locally at the Baum School, Lehigh and Moravian. I had established a reputation as a respected art teacher who was articulate and had a sense of humor.
My classes in this amazing studio above the Junior Colony shop were always full. It was the perfect situation for several years.