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Portrait of an artist as a late bloomer

Pam Haunschild applying color to the mural.

Pam Haunschild is an example of someone who followed her parents’ wishes that she pursue a career in a field likely to lead to gainful employment rather than her passion for art.

She earned a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Carnegie Mellon and taught at Stanford and the University of Texas-Austin. Although she found success in academia, she took up her brush when she retired and moved to a home in the forest environs of Mount Ashland.

An outdoors enthusiast, Pam gravitated to nature and wildlife themes in her new vocation. Her skills evolved to the point where her works and teaching expertise are sought after. She has enjoyed serving as the artist in residence at several national parks during summer months.

Pam is an avid experimenter who uses watercolor and acrylics, sometimes in combination, and builds textures in the paint, using natural objects to leave impressions, much as nature does. Her paintings feature vivid colors and are semi-abstract, but with the natural forms still identifiable.

Pam has served as an instructor for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University and has provided seasonally themed covers for many editions of OLLI’s course catalogs.

When OLLI embarked on a project to renovate the entire five-classroom and member-lounge complex on its Ashland campus at the SOU Campbell Center, Pam came to mind for producing an arresting way to illustrate funding progress rather than the often-used campaign “thermometer.”

Pam applied her talents toward the creation of a Giving Garden mural. Its design was intended to reflect the natural surroundings of the garden at the center of OLLI’s Ashland campus. She produced a black-and-white concept drawing featuring a lush collection of native Oregon plants and their pollinators, which received enthusiastic approval.

The 12-by-7-foot scale of the mural was driven by the dimensions of the wall in the planned member lounge — its ultimate home. There, it would serve as an enduring reminder of the value of OLLI’s mission of lifelong learning and social connections for the next generation of members.

Working on the mural in an existing classroom was an effective way for OLLI members to track funding progress and inspire contributions. Because the classroom was being used, there were some logistical problems, however. Work needed to be scheduled when classes were not in session. Paint spills were discouraged. And the design needed to consider that the mural would be moved to its final location.

Pam’s husband, Steve Utt, drew upon his experience designing and producing some of the exhibits at ScienceWorks (e.g., Pterosaurs: Ancient Rulers of the Skies) to recommend what would facilitate relocating such a large mural — three light-weight aluminum panels.

First the surfaces of the panels were prepped so paint would adhere, and the background colors of sky and ground added. Then the panels were mounted on a wall in a classroom where painting would occur. The next step was projecting outlines of the garden elements from the original illustration onto the panels.

This set the stage for Pam and several other OLLI artists to apply color within the outlines of flora and fauna as donations were received. Once funding was secured, the final elements in the garden were brought to life.

A celebration of the renovated classrooms and member lounge was scheduled for March 27, 2020. Due to the pandemic, however, both the celebration and the use of these new facilities had to be abruptly postponed. No one expected the campus closure would last 18 months.

OLLI had hoped, with a largely vaccinated membership and adherence to pandemic guidelines, that in-person classes could resume for fall term, which starts Sept. 14. For the first time, OLLI members would have been able to experience the many upgrades to the Ashland classrooms and enjoy the Giving Garden mural in the member lounge.

The courtyard garden that inspired the mural has been named the Evans Family Learning Commons in honor of the support for the renovation from the William Evans family. But, once again, there will be a postponement due to the emergence of the delta variant.

Fortunately, Pam’s art career is in full bloom, underscoring the lesson that a deferred dream is all the sweeter when realized and that the wait time can be productive. The knowledge Pam gained of effective business practices has certainly helped her success as an artist. For OLLI members and instructors, the delay in returning to in-person classes has provided a whole new way to learn and teach online.

Pam’s nature-inspired art can be viewed at Art & Soul Gallery in Ashland or online at www.pamhaunschild.com.

Anne Bellegia, a retired communications professional in the medical products industry, volunteers on the OLLI Communications and Community Outreach Committee. For more information about OLLI and fall term courses, see inside.sou.edu/olli.