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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

The Artist's Artist

Joan Fabian M.F.A. '95

As a painter and mixed media artist, Joan Fabian understands why the people who are the subjects of her arts-focused TV program get nervous when she's in their studio. She also knows how to make them feel comfortable.

"When I'm asking questions, I'm asking as an artist, and what I try to show them is that I am really interested in their work," Fabian says about working on Artist Palette, a 30-minute series that's broadcast on inTV, a San Antonio public-access and educational channel. "I really am honored to be in their sanctuary. When I have people in my studio, I feel very vulnerable."

Fabian, who received her master of fine arts at UTSA in 1995, has worked off and on for San Antonio College since 1998. She is currently the curator for art exhibitions at SAC's Moody Learning Center as well as the artist in residence in the college's creative multimedia department. "It's innovative and interesting to me as an artist; that's what I like about this department," she says. "People come to us and have this creative idea. Well, we're going to help you [execute your vision]."

That flexibility led to the creation last year of Artist Palette. The goal is to expose incoming and current students — as well as the public — to artists in San Antonio. Her first episode profiled UTSA associate professor of art history Scott Sherer, who is director of UTSA's Art Gallery as well as Terminal 136, UTSA's off-campus gallery. Other artists interviewed include Gisha Zabala, Cathy Cunningham-Little and David Peche.

Finding artists hasn't been a problem for Fabian, considering the deep ties to the San Antonio arts community that she's been building since she first moved here in the mid-1990s. She'd already been supporting herself as an artist for a decade when she left her hometown of Chicago to attend UTSA as a graduate student.

"When I first got accepted," she recalls, "they said, 'Why in the world would you go to San Antonio, Texas? You've got everything here in Chicago!'"

But Fabian wanted something different — a "big change," she explains. "I thought it would be a good kick in the pants as an artist."

Fabian says the atmosphere at UTSA was one of support and creative collaboration. From the large studio spaces inside to the starlit sky outside, Fabian grew to love what would become her adopted hometown. Since receiving her master's, Fabian has traveled to Pakistan as a Fulbright scholar, teaching in Lahore at the National College of Arts; she also received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation artist grant. Her work has been shown internationally as well as across San Antonio, including at UTSA. Several of Fabian's pieces were chosen for the Revealing Culture art exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's International Gallery. The contemporary exhibit was hosted by VSA, an international organization that focuses on arts and artists with disabilities that is part of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Fabian, who is hearing-impaired, strives to assist students who may benefit from working in a creative field and getting one-on-one instruction and guidance. "I take that as my own personal mission," she says.

–Michelle Mondo


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