by Linda KC Reynolds
Antelope Valley College hosted its Annual Veterans and Goldstar families Art Show Feb. 20-March 1, with displays by artists Rich Sim, Nay Schuder, Phil Roberts and Nancy Walker.
Rich Sim, 81, has been teaching art full time at the college for 51 years. Since day one, his classes have been filled to capacity with dozens more students on a waiting list, just in case someone drops out.
“Art is so relaxing, it is therapy for all ages,” said Sim, who was a photographer in Ethiopia while serving in the United States Army. The Minnesota native holds two masters degrees in ceramics — one from Washington State and one from Wisconsin.
“When you hear of the horrific stories that some of our veterans have been through and you see them with this look of peace on their faces while they are creating — well, that is what it is all about,” assured Sim.
One of his students said that while she was driving a Humvee in Afghanistan, she came upon a dozen boxes of what appeared to be discarded dolls on the side of the road. Her team pulled over and discovered hundreds of severed heads.
“It’s a crazy world; art helps us express what we are feeling, the good and the bad. We can turn dirt, mud and clay into something beautiful and it can help us heal,” explained Sim. Teaching art also helped him though the pain of losing his son to a drunk driver.
Featured artist, U.S. Air Force veteran Nay Schuder, served 10 years as an air transportation specialist including tours in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Travis Air Force Base, Calif. His art has been displayed at the Travis museum and galleries throughout California. He doesn’t talk about his military experience but he does agree that art is therapy, saying that sculpture is one of his favorite forms.
“I can totally focus on what I’m doing and forget about everything else; all I see is what is right in front of me,” he said. He started working in various mediums during childhood and hasn’t quit. Together with his wife, Julie, they teach art class for the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster. Their home is one huge art project, including a 10-foot statue of Sim in their garden. Julie also works with clay, water color and leather. Additionally, the Schuders also teach lessons from their home studio including pot throwing, sculpturing, painting and other forms of art.
“Nay and Julie are one of those artists you find in class about every 20-25 years,” said Sim. “They are truly gifted artists on so many levels, and it has always been pure joy to have them in class.” Sim says he plans on teaching for another 20 years.
Nay also works for A2ZFX building DJ trucks for Red Bull, aircraft parts for various aerospace companies and “crazy things” for the movie industry.
“We were super fortunate to have Nay join the A2ZFX family. When it comes to fabrication he is a natural. His talents come in handy with all the unusual multifaceted projects we work on,” said Art Thompson of A2ZFX, while viewing the art work at the show. “Just look at his work. His engineering and creativity are outstanding.”
Gold Star Mother Nancy Walker said art is one of the best things that has ever happened to her. She would like to be able to throw clay, but is starting off with smaller projects.
“I wish I would have started years ago but you have to take care of life,” she said. A retired substitute teacher, she is in her fourth semester of taking classes at the college. “Now I’m taking classes for me, for self-growth. I never want to stop learning.”
After serving 11 years in the Marines as a master drill sergeant, her son, Allan K. Walker, volunteered to go to Iraq and was killed six weeks later.
Navy veteran Phil Roberts said he relaxes while he crafts patriotic beadwork. “The best part is giving them to veterans and organizations, then seeing people wearing them around town,” said Roberts.