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Career Change Brings Alumna Back to School

Deborah Oakes, '98, loves art; but when she first attended Averett, the thought of a stable career won out so she majored in biology and minored in art.

"I have been fortunate that science opened doors to me as a sleep disorders technologist, which has enabled me to provide for myself over the past decade," Oakes said. "Sometimes, something happens to cause one to return to their first love. I had a change in my health that may threaten my ability to work third shifts. I felt traumatized and lost facing my health challenge, so I thought I would concentrate my efforts into returning to my first love - art.

"I love art, making it, learning it and sharing it with others so much that I thought it would be natural for me to teach it. I know I did not have to choose Averett for my master's degree; but I love the encouragement, the personalization and the quality academics available. Averett has excellent art professors that had seen some artistic promise in me and actually spoke to me about an art major in 1996. I was impressed that they took that much interest in me, and I never forgot that.

"Since entering the classroom, I have found a love for teaching that was probably always within me. When I see children excited about what they have learned through art and what they have created, I know in some way, I have added a positive moment to their lives."

During the month of October, Oakes is displaying her art work in Jut's Café. Her art show will include pieces from her first four years at the University along with pieces she has produced recently, like earthenware masks and jewelry and enameling.

Oakes likes working with a variety of mediums, claiming she doesn't have a favorite because she "loves any medium" that allows her to have freedom and be creative. When it comes to two-dimensional art she has a love for oil painting.

"I love the melted butter type of consistency, the smell of it, the richness of the colors and the durability of the colors that are achieved with oil paintings."

In three-dimensional art such as pottery and sculpture, she loves clay.


"I like to see what I can make it into and push the boundaries of what I can do without it cracking or bursting. I loved the craft of jewelry making with all metals but found a love for cutting designs in silver. It is like making jewelry out of moonbeams."

While the art pieces in Oakes' show portray her love of working in different mediums, there is one piece she has on display that is her favorite.

"All of the pieces have a special significance to me and all have required a lot of time to make them. But I would have to say 'The Prophet Ezekiel' - my version of the one in the Sistine Chapel - is my favorite. I had always marveled at Michelangelo's effort in painting the ceiling while on his back for three years and creating it gave me a little piece of the ceiling to hang in my home."

Oakes hopes to graduate in May of 2012, and then plans to find a position as an art teacher. She's even contemplating pursuing a master of fine arts degree before working her way into teaching at the college level. And of course, she wants to "make more art to share with others as well."

Some of Oakes' artwork is for sale -- ranging from $20-$350. She encourages viewers of her work to send her an e-mail (dloakes@aumail.averett.edu) letting her know what they think about her artwork, what they like best and why. "I love to get feedback."

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