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Ms. Farace: fostering art through education and business

Photos+by+Will+Prisco+%2F+Photo+II
Photos by Will Prisco / Photo II

Growing up in Atlanta, art was always on her mind. Mrs. Shelly Farace grew up in a culture of art. From a young age, she felt connected to art in many ways, but the one that seemed to resonate the most was from her father.

Ms. Farace spoke about her first encounters with a camera. 

 “My dad was actually a portrait photographer for a little bit, and he always had his camera out,” she said.“[The camera] was always out and so he let me use it.”

From then on, she was hooked.

Throughout middle school and high school, Ms. Farace loved taking pictures, and she was taught on a film 35 millimeter black and white camera, very different from the camera she uses today to teach her students and run her business.

At the University of Georgia, Ms. Farace took a photography class.

 “[I] really enjoyed it but ended up majoring in painting,” she said. 

Going back to her roots, she used the same camera that she learned on. Eventually, she became advanced enough to be approached by a peer asking her to help her out with a wedding photography company. 

“I had only used that film camera, so [my friend] taught me and […] what I think I had missed when I was trying to do photos before was like relationships and interactions,” Mrs. Farace said.

At first, she would travel from Savannah, Ga. back to Athens, Ga. because she didn’t feel comfortable shooting by herself. Once she improved her skills, she became more independent in her work. 

Once she was fully independent, she enlisted the help of her then fiancé. 

“I also started making him come with me at first because I was nervous; like what if I needed help with something and I was by myself?” she said.

Eventually, her husband went from just being a helping hand to another photographer. 

“He decided if he was going to be there he was going to be taking photos, too,” she said. 

In teaching him, Ms. Farace remarked that it was easy, and she actually enjoyed doing it. 

“He’s a very naturally artistic person,” she said.

Her teaching career began in Georgia where she was the only art teacher at a very small, private, K-12 school. Being the only art teacher presented some very unique challenges. While she was in charge of the art curriculum, she found it difficult to find inspiration from inside her school. She was determined to grow her career in education.

During a visit to Washington, D.C. with one of her friends, Ms. Farace fell in love with the city. 

“[I] felt like it was a great space with a lot of different influences, and […] I didn’t want to be stuck in Georgia my entire life,” she said. When Ms. Farace got her current job at Gonzaga, she said “I was really excited about it […]. I’ve never had any overlap with another teacher.” 

This would give her the chance to work with colleagues who studied and taught the same things she did, an experience she never had before.

When she started working she noticed a big difference with having colleagues who do the same work. She said “it was really nice,” and “we use each other for inspiration for our lessons.” 

This newfound community in education made her feel supported in a way she had never felt before. 

Upon arrival, there were only two photography classes, Photo I and AP Studio Art. After taking a year-long hiatus from teaching to build her business, she came back with a  passion to expand Gonzaga’s photography program. 

“When I took over the program, I was starting from scratch,” she said.

Mrs. Farace saw an issue in the art curriculum; she thought there was not enough preparation for the AP-level class coming from a very basic tutorial class. 

“I thought jumping from only having a year of photography experience to making an AP portfolio was a really big jump—not necessarily operating the camera but like thinking creatively and at that college level,” she explained.

She began to work on bringing two new classes to Gonzaga’s curriculum, something that isn’t done very often, especially in the art department. Photography classes III and IV were added to the list of classes needed to take AP Photography. 

Each semester-long class preps students for different aspects of the AP curriculum. 

On the Photo IV class, Ms. Farace said, “In Photo IV, each quarter they’re picking one topic to concentrate on as a practice for a long-term project, which I think is a good step into doing something for an entire year.”

Each new class focuses on making the students more independent and confident in their photography skills. Ms. Farace stressed the importance of these classes by saying that “learning the camera and learning how to think really creatively and learning how to be independent all at the same time doesn’t really work.”

At the helm of the program, Ms. Farace has grown photography on Eye Street like nobody ever envisioned. This newfound love of taking photos has everyone from freshmen to seniors excited about photography.

So whether she is growing her business, strengthening art education, or just spending time with her husband and dogs, Mrs. Shelly Farace always encourages and fosters a culture of art.

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