Alumna looks back on rewarding journey full of long hours, love of color

by | Apr 13, 2017

After juggling day jobs, teaching and her own artwork for years, Ann Croghan, BGS 1982, is now a full-time studio artist at Foundry Art Centre.
UMSL alumna Ann Croghan

Ann Croghan juggled day jobs, part-time teaching and her own artwork for many years after graduating from UMSL. Her persistence on that path eventually led to her current setup at Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri, where she teaches painting and drawing full time and also showcases her work. (Photos by Jillian Schoettle)

Two things stand out to Ann Croghan about her time as a student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis in the early 1980s: the Blue Metal Building and the professors.

“I had some fantastic teachers,” says the Missouri native.

While the space where those lessons took place no longer appears on campus maps, the excellent instruction has stayed with her. And over the course of the 35 years since she earned her bachelor’s degree from UMSL, Croghan has become a sought-after teacher in her own right.

Ann Croghan teaching

Ann Croghan, BGS 1982, works with students at all sorts of levels. Her love of teaching is second only to her love of art itself.

She’s currently a studio artist at Foundry Art Centre, located just 15 minutes west of campus. Students of all ages and abilities benefit from her painting and drawing classes at FAC, and her work is on view at the facility six days a week.

“When this opened up it was such a gift,” Croghan says of her role. She’s been based there since 2011, and in many ways it’s been a welcome change of pace.

An art instructor in the St. Louis region for the past two and a half decades, Croghan juggled various day jobs with teaching and her own artistic pursuits early in her career. Eventually she plunged into teaching full time, but it was still a relentless schedule.

“For 15 years I was teaching at five different locations,” Croghan recalls with a chuckle. “I had my office in the back of my truck.”

But she’s not complaining – she’d do it all again.

As Croghan recently told FAC colleague Jillian Schoettle, who interviewed and photographed the UMSL alumna for an artist spotlight on the organization’s website, she remembers being “dead tired” after many long days only to feel newly energized upon arriving at a class.

Studio at Foundry Art Centre

Foundry Art Centre studios 15 and 16 provide ample space for the UMSL alumna’s classes and for her artwork.

Combining her two passions – art and teaching – with paying the bills has not always resulted in the easiest path, but the long days (and nights) have been worth it.

Most recently Croghan has been enjoying new challenges as a colorist – both in her own watercolors and acrylics and in her lessons. Near the beginning of a course she often assigns students what she calls “color theory charts,” which help them break down the ways in which all sorts of colors can be made using a limited color palette.

“How can I make that color?” is a question that frequently arises.

“I love color, and I love making it,” Croghan explains. “I don’t let them buy black, and I don’t buy black either. I’m a firm believer that black has variety to it, as does all color.”

Ranging from students who have never painted before to those who have studied visual art in college and beyond, everyone progresses at their own speed and level under Croghan’s guidance.

“I’ve been taking oil painting lessons from Ann for the past year, and my newfound color theory knowledge has unexpectedly helped me grow at work,” says Wendy Allison, who is a graphic designer at UMSL. “I appreciate the opportunity to try different painting techniques in her classes, too. She challenges me to learn from my mistakes all the time, and she helps me to literally see what I’m capable of – because the walls in my home are now overflowing.”

Croghan’s advice to others intent on an art-filled life? Take a marketing class, she suggests, and “something related to accounting.”

“But also follow your passion,” she adds. “If art is your passion, then follow that dream.”

For a deeper look at Croghan’s studio and her philosophy on life and art, check out the FAC spotlight.

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill