CAMERON ROBERTS, DIPLOMA, 1980, SCULPTURE, DRAWING
ALUMNI DISCOVERY INITIATIVE INTERVIEW BY NATASHA JENSEN, MARCH 2016
Natasha Jensen and Cameron Roberts meet at a noisy coffee shop in downtown Calgary to discuss what ACAD was like in the late seventies, day jobs and the pursuit of artistic happiness. Cameron Roberts is an ACAD alum, artist, teacher, father, husband and all around great guy.
NATASHA JENSEN: When did you graduate ACAD?
CAMERON ROBERTS: I graduated from ACAD in 1980.
JENSEN: Was ACAD different back then?
ROBERTS: I attended ACAD from 1976 to 1980 when it was still under the umbrella of SAIT. During this time there was a strong student voice wanting autonomy for ACAD. ACAD today offers a depth and diversity of courses that were not available during my time.
JENSEN: Did that kind of adversity affect your art practice?
ROBERTS: No, it helped us come together as students and create a community from a cause. The facilities were new, the student body was small and that gave us room to make our mark.
JENSEN: What was your major?
ROBERTS: I majored in Sculpture but Drawing was my first passion and the major under which I wished to graduate. At the time Drawing was not recognized as a fine art department by the college and wasn’t offered as a degree. Drawing was seen as a foundation or a tool for ideas that were ultimately to be realized in another medium such as Painting or Sculpture. In 1978, six students coming out of foundation year studies wanted to pursue a major in Drawing. Derek Besant took our group under his guidance and helped us to graduate as the first students ever to have Drawing recognized as a formal discipline at ACAD. Drawing was eventually added to the curriculum and is now an important and well attended stream. I am pleased to be one of the ‘Original Six’ who graduated in 1980 whose efforts helped to initiate that change.
JENSEN: What did you graduate with?
ROBERTS: My diploma indicates I majored in Sculpture with an emphasis in Drawing.
JENSEN: What’s your current employment?
ROBERTS: I am a professional artist.
JENSEN: What did you retire from?
ROBERTS: I retired from ATCO gas after 34 years. I always considered ATCO my hobby and art my profession.
JENSEN: Were there art related jobs that you were interested in doing when you graduated?
ROBERTS: I toured the Art Department at the Calgary Herald. While this work would have been art related, I decided it was not for me. Dedication to my personal art form was strong and I wanted to remain energized with my own vision and inspirations.
JENSEN: Is that when you started working at ATCO gas?
ROBERTS: Yes. In that time I learned a lot and found many ways to use my creativity to help in a number of departments over the course of my career.
I was contracted by Hockey Canada to produce animations and promotional imagery for their Instructional Video Library. This required learning computer animation in a 3D software program. These videos were produced on an Amiga 4000 with a ‘Video Toaster’.
JENSEN: How did your education at ACAD direct your career?
ROBERTS: ACAD helped me to thoroughly establish a creative approach to everything I did. As a professional artist my ACAD education has helped me to direct my art and teaching career.
JENSEN: Did going to ACAD make you an artist?
ROBERTS: There is no art school or institute that can “make you an artist”. However, ACAD did help me to focus my passion and energy into creating a sustainable artistic future.
JENSEN: What insights did your years at ACAD give you when looking at things?
ROBERTS: There isn’t any guarantee of becoming an artist and life will inevitably get in the way but as artists we have to fight for the creative and poetic moments of everyday life and challenge the status quo. ACAD reinforced the natural instinct to approach everything in a creative way.
JENSEN: Why did you go to ACAD?
ROBERTS: I went to ACAD to explore, to get my hands on every medium I could. But specifically, I wanted to learn how to ‘draw’. I believed and still do that drawing is the gateway drug to the visual arts. Drawing is learning to ‘see’. ACAD gave me time to nurture my techniques and skills in the visual arts.
JENSEN: What would you like to be recognized for?
ROBERTS: I would like to be recognized as a mentor and inspiration to others. I have been a figurative artist all my life and I am proud of my teaching contributions to the figurative art community in Calgary. The ‘act of drawing’ has been forever at my core. I would like to be recognized for the sensitivity, boldness and physicality of my mark making that exists in all my figurative works.
JENSEN: After graduation, what obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
ROBERTS: Then as now there was always a lack of suitable studio space, I solved this by working smaller. As with most artists post-graduation, I was also faced with financial constraints.
JENSEN: What do you feel is the role of ACAD and our alumni in shaping our cultural and economic prosperity?
ROBERTS: Visual art is a hard sell in Calgary and ACAD is in a leading position to foster and make the visual arts visible in our city. The role of the alum and ACAD is to educate the public alongside the current students about the arts and why the arts need to exist in the community at large. It comes down to educating the public and having a high visibility.
JENSEN: Where does art fit into your future?
ROBERTS: Art is creativity expressed in a visual way. Creativity is a force within me, I express it in my music, poetry, visual art and even my everyday living. I believe the creative pursuit is essential to being human. I always like to say “creativity is the only path upon which you will find yourself, lose yourself and become yourself”.