At first glance, Susan kae Grant does not look like she would cast a large shadow, but her artwork and career show otherwise.
After 36 years at TWU, Head of Photography and Book Arts Grant retired at the end of August. During her time at TWU, Grant has educated many students, but her love of art and education has always been with her.
“Since I was a little girl I have loved making things and showing other people how to make things,” Grant recalled. “My dad bought me a row of school desks and put them in the basement, and I would teach imaginary art classes. Then at some point I started inviting all my neighborhood friends and we would have little classes. There were no rules or grades, creativity ruled the day.” Grant explained that she fell in love with seeing the excitement in other people when she showed them something, and they would understand it. Being an incredibly shy child, she said she would often draw pictures, write poetry and read to go into her own little world. “Being a reader inspired me to be a visual artist,” said Grant. “When I was a little girl and I read, I would picture an image for each word. I think that helped me become an artist and create photographs with narratives that do not really have an answer.”
After finishing her Master in Fine Arts from The University of Wisconsin-Madison she taught at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Grant explained that after teaching at Wayne State, which she referred to as “multicultural,” the woman’s campus in Texas was different for her.
“My goal all these years has been to empower women to be significant and contributing,” said Grant. “From the beginning, I have been interested in teaching my students the importance of community, of being a team, building a voice and learning to give equal voice in an empowering environment. I do not see that in a lot of programs.”
During her time at TWU, Grant has established a number of programs to further student’s art education. She established the graduate program in Photography and Book Arts in 1983, with the assistance of Professor Corky Stuckenbruck, they created the Book Art and Paper Making program.
In 1994, she cofounded Photographic Artists Coalition, the student-run photography group on campus. Grant has been recognized for her excellence as an educator by many organizations. In 2016, TWU named her a “Cornaro Professor.” According to the TWU website, The Cornaro Award for Excellence in Teaching is a recognition in outstanding commitment to scholarship and the advancement of learning.
The National Society for Photographic Education recognized Grant as an “Honored Educator,” and Women of Visionary Influence named her “Mentor of the Year” in 2014. However, Grant recognizes her biggest accomplishment at TWU to be teaching women to have their voice and dreams in the world.
“The opportunity to teach at a woman’s college was an opportunity to show women that their voice matters,”
Grant explained. “That finding their voice in the art world is important. Now whether anyone likes it or cares about it, it’s not what it is about. It is about self and following their dreams.”After reflecting on her life and career, Grant said,“I always had the feeling I wasn’t good enough. All the things that come together to make us who we are not great wishes and inspiring.
The things people do and say, shape us and those experience never go away. What you do about is where the power lies.”Grant is retiring as an educator, but when asked about her retirement plans she said, “I get to be what I have always what to be, an artist.”