Find out how Rusty Arena applies his passion for art to a long-running career of creating unique, screen-printed home décor.
Summers were spent in New Orleans visiting his favorite aunt, Ann, who would buy art supplies for him. His grandmother had a cool, funky apartment in the Quarter, and he was inspired by the art and architecture of this section of the city. He developed a love of the old, interesting patina of time, which found a deep resonance in his heart, even as a young boy. Weekends growing up in Houston were spent at one of two places: sunny days at the Zoo, and cloudy days at the Museum of Fine Arts. Saturday art classes at the MFA encouraged him to think about spending his life making art. He was right.
A self-described “victim of parochial school” and not doing very well in junior high school, Rusty lucked out when he enrolled in Houston’s High School of the Performing Arts, one of the first of its type in the U.S. “This school saved my life; it provided the structure for me to blossom. I received a wonderful exposure to the city’s diverse ethnic and cultural differences that help to develop a deeper appreciation of people and art. I knew at this point there were no other options but to pursue my dreams. I received scholarship offers from California Institute of the Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, and Parsons. To this day, I sometimes wonder what would have become of me had I accepted.”
Instead, he chose to stay in Houston and accepted a scholarship at the Museum of Fine Arts. He took his first real printmaking classes and learned the lithography, etching, intaglio, and serigraphy skills that he would put to use in the future. From an early age he had uncanny technical drawing abilities; rendering lifelike realism was easy. Unfortunately, one instructor at school was frustrated by the ease with which Rusty rendered life drawing models. To emphasize a more passionate approach, he grabbed Rusty’s hand, charcoal still clutched, and wildly scribbled over his drawing. “It really pissed me off,” Rusty remembers. “I was then given a can of spray paint and a piece of brown paper placed on the floor, then instructed to proceed with the study of the nude model. If I recall correctly, I mumbled a slew of profanities and then promptly left class.”
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