Linda Ruth Paskell ’81, ’96M.Ed. Fuses Art, Service and Education

By Purnell T. Cropper | November 15, 2011

By JoLynne Bremmer ’10

Finding new ways to pursue her many passions, Linda Ruth Paskell ’81, ’96M.Ed., has enjoyed a multifaceted career as both an artist and an educator. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, a small business owner, a photojournalist and a dedicated volunteer. She has exhibited her work throughout the Philadelphia region, and her art and activism have taken her around the globe, from South America to Africa.

Paskell’s latest venture marks her return to Arcadia. An adjunct professor, she works with the Global Connections program to offer a class at DePaul Homeless Shelter in Philadelphia, Pa. In her course, “The Artist in the Community,” undergraduates volunteer at the shelter, working on a variety of projects that fuse art, community and service.

While the course connects Arcadia students to a new environment, Paskell never loses sight of the mission of her work with those in need. “We want to say that we see them and recognize them and love them—that we know this is a rough patch for them, but we have lessons to learn from them and we want our posture of heart to remain humble and teachable,” she says.

Students have realized that simply “showing up without any preconceived notion of what homelessness looks like” allows them to reach out in unexpected ways, such as repurposing plain corkboards to brighten up common areas, giving residents canvases to paint on as an alternative to smoking or watching television and transforming spaces with small improvements such as fresh paint and new linens.

“The power is in the simple,” Paskell explains, and these small changes at DePaul bring a sense of dignity and warmth to the living space that the residents temporarily call home.

Paskell remained connected to her alma mater after graduation, so returning to Glenside in her new role has been easy. Robert Mauro, Chair of the Art and Design Department, is one of the professors with whom she maintained contact. “We followed each others’ careers and chatted about my travels over the years. During various lunch conversations, we discussed the possibility of bringing my work to Arcadia. He invited me to exhibit my ‘Children of Uganda and Kenya’ show in the Judith Taylor Gallery on campus last fall,” she notes.

After the show, Paskell’s desire to bring her passion for education and the arts to the classroom intensified. “It feels like coming home for me. My biggest problem is remembering that now I am on the other side… I’m the professor, not the student!”

Paskell is quick to credit her time at Beaver College as a key to her successful professional career. “At Beaver, I learned how to think outside the box. I chose this institution over an art school because I wanted a well-rounded, integrated education,” she says. “I did not want to be limited by any department or discipline after I left. I was well-prepared and eager to get out in the real world because of the encouragement and preparation I received from every instructor and experience I had here.”

Paskell and her students will present “The Art of the Syllabus” to the Arcadia community on Thursday, Dec. 1, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Judith Taylor Gallery in Landman Library. The exhibition is a visual representation of work they completed during the semester through a variety of mediums. Light refreshments will be served. (Take a look at photos from the opening event.)