My name is Mara Jevera Fulmer and as of this writing, I am 57 years old with a lifetime of design, photography, creative fine arts, and writing experience. As my blog entry indicates, however, my creative focus continues to evolve, and the direction of my work will reflect that.
I am an artist, designer, writer and educator. My work emphasizes the cross-sections of culture, media and meaning. My professional design work has specialized in cross-cultural visual communications for educational and cultural organizations from around the globe. Clients have been from across the US, as well as Europe and the South Pacific. They have represented the environment, cultural and educational institutions, commercial businesses and professionals from a wide range of industry.
As an artist, my work has not been limited by media and explores the many intersections that can occur across digital and traditional media. My subject matter is the world, the environment, culture and society, exploring the layers of meaning that are visible or not, changing and overlapping creating new insights and ancient revelations.
A long and varied career
For the last 21 years, I have been a full-time educator having served as the Graphic Design Program Coordinator at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. Direct from six years in the South Pacific, our lives shifted to the Midwest where I accepted a position in 1997 as an instructor and developer of a new graphic design program at Mott. A firm believer in the old adage “bloom where you are planted”, the work in Flint has been rewarding and challenging.
In 2014, I accepted a reassignment to serve as the Faculty Director for the Center for Teaching & Learning at Mott. While I continued to teach one or two classes in Graphic Design each semester, my professional work as an educator has focused primarily on professional development for faculty and staff at the college. The work has been both challenging and rewarding. Now entering my sixth year in this position, I have found purpose in meeting the challenges of providing meaningful programming to people who are already feeling their own pressures of stress and heavy workloads. But therein lies the challenge and I find myself approaching this as a system design challenge where I can build upon my strengths as an artist/designer.
Originally from the northeast area of the USA, I moved to the South Pacific in 1991 with my husband and young children to work at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. For six years, I served as the Art Director/Senior Graphic Artist & Photographer for the University Media Center where I was immersed in a cross-cultural experience that greatly impacted my life and outlook, shaping a visual and educational philosophy that I bring to my work, in the studio and the classroom.
Before Mott and Fiji, in my early career, I served as Art Director for the office of Educational Communications (now University Graphics), at the University at Albany, SUNY for nearly five years. From 1986-1991, it was here that I truly felt myself start to blossom as a creative designer. The university setting, I found, provided fertile ground for a wide variety of design work. And, as I treated each project as if it could win awards, my “clients” appreciated the way we honored their design needs with the most professional and creative solutions possible within the design parameters.
Even earlier, I worked in magazine publishing and newspaper publishing, serving on both sides of the editorial/design aisle. A interim brief stint in the printing industry provided many practical lessons on design and a taste of some freelance illustration work.
And, as long careers, and fulfilling lives often do, I had even earlier experiences that helped shape my future, such as teaching violin lessons to help pay for college and a mortgage (after studying violin for more than 14 years).
An Educational Journey
As for my educational background, my bachelor’s degree demonstrates my interests across three disciplines which, after more than 35 years, now seems to be much more explainable in terms of career relevance. Coming of age in the time of Watergate, my main focus was on journalism, though one wasn’t allowed to “major” in it. It was called a “second field” similar to a minor. Not knowing what to major in, and being tired of Chaucer, I didn’t want to be an English major like so many journalists of the day.
The daughter of artists/musicians, I decided to take a drawing class to fulfill a Fine Arts GenEd requirement and, lo and behold, I earned an A in the class. Upon further exploration, I found that I could be a Fine Arts Photography major, and so it was.
As I worked my way through university as a copykid and then copywriter for a Hearst newspaper, I became intrigued by the artists who created the beautiful layouts for the specialty pages in the newspaper. Where did they learn how to do that? I asked. It turned out that an area private junior college – one that was part of a consortium with the university – offered a degree in Commercial Art. I was able to cross-register and take the entire core curriculum and transfer it back to the university, putting it towards the additional credits I would need to graduate with a BA which I earned in 1982.
It wasn’t until we were living in Fiji that I was able to devise a way to return to school to complete a Master of Arts in Advertising Design from Syracuse University in 1996. I would return to graduate school twice more to earn an MFA in Studio Art/Graphic Design in 2005 from Michigan State University, and then a doctorate in education with a focus on Community College Leadership in 2014 from Ferris State University.
A personal life
As for my personal life, I was married for 30 wonderful years to creative woodturner and furniture maker, Keith Fulmer, before he passed away after a brave but brief battle with cancer in 2012. We raised two daughters, Sarah and Anastassia, both accomplished artists/designers in their own rights. I have one grandson by my daughter Sarah and son-in-law Mark. I married my second husband, Steven James, also a creative artist, in December 2014, who added six more grown children plus significant others, along with at least 9 more grandchildren! We live with our dog, Lenny, an American Silken Windhound, and my elderly father in Atlas, Michigan. We recently moved into our new “age-in-place” house where onsite there is already a large space for art studios and a gallery, both of which will become more prominent in our life’s direction in the not-so-distant future.