One of the first gifts I ever gave my son Ryan was a book called Diggers. It’s a fairly rudimentary book about construction – which, given the young man’s budding interest in toy trucks, I figured to be an appropriate enough token.
Suffice to say, Ryan loved the book. He relished in the images of manmade machinery. He mimicked the techniques he read about using plastic tools and fake screwdrivers and (his favorite) a really big hammer. Then, just a few months after his eleventh birthday, he said something that truly blew my mind.
“Dad, can I buy a motor?”
My first question, logically, was, “What are you going to do with it?” His answer: build a go-kart. “This is what I get for giving the kid a book about construction,” I thought.
With some of the money he’d been saving up, Ryan purchased a brand new DeWalt motor. Through tireless hours spent in the garage, about a half-dozen YouTube tutorials, and some help from his old man, after a year and a half of work, my twelve-year old son built a go-kart. Though I gave the kid some help, he pretty much built the whole thing – the braking system, clutch assembly, accelerator. His attention to detail was staggering. I certainly wasn’t that ambitious as an eleven-year old, though I couldn’t help but see a bit of my younger self in Ryan when I learned he too had discovered the joy of making.
My son and I have always bonded over the creative process. We talk frequently about how there’s no one set path to success, and how so much of your own success is contingent on you blazing that path for yourself. Ryan, like me, appreciates a good challenge. And challenging one’s self is the only way that innovators can grow. Stagnation is the enemy of progress.
As Ryan grew older, his focus pivoted from construction to photography. I’m grateful that it happened for him when it did. At 59, I still find myself chasing down my whims – navigating the art world with equal parts curiosity and ambition. He’s getting a head start in a practical field and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
Ryan is also the reason that I know about ArtCenter College of Design. His transition into the world of photography provided me with a lens through which I saw this place – this incredible temple of learning where people take their craft with a kind of reverential devotion. I can only hope that he leaves ArtCenter with lasting, lifelong connections – friendships that turn into partnerships and vice versa. I myself was not afforded that luxury at that same age, but it nevertheless fills my heart with contentment in knowing that my son won’t be alone on his journey.
ArtCenter has strengthened the already durable bond between my son and I. It has expanded the range of how we both choose to express ourselves. My ultimate hope is that neither of us ever stop learning and exploring along our respective journeys. Because of my son, and because of ArtCenter, I will never lose my inherent artistic curiosity. Most days, I consider myself the luckiest guy on earth.
Victor Lee Brown
Father of Ryan Brown, Photography Student
victorleebrown.com – Artist, Designer, Builder