INA, Ill. (March 12, 2014) – Rend Lake College’s Melissa McClement-Engler is living proof that a talent for art can lead to a successful and exciting career. The associate professor of art at RLC said an early love of art and dedication to the craft led her to where she is now.
“I was born an artist, and lucky enough to have parents who went above and beyond to help me learn. My parents got me a private instructor, Therese Melena, when I was 11 years old, and she was fabulous,” said McClement-Engler. “I started getting a college art education at such a young age.”
The West Frankfort native’s first solo show was also held when she was 11 years old, and the good times kept coming. During her high school years, McClement-Engler entered into several competitions, winning the Annual Scholastic Show at Mitchell Museum in Mt. Vernon her senior year.
“My winning portfolio went on from there to New York City, and from that experience I received scholarship offers,” explained McClement-Engler. “I was also an athlete and received scholarship offers for that. I started my college education at Rend Lake College because I played softball, and I received an art scholarship.”
After RLC, she attended Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga. and Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Mich. While studying in Michigan, she plunged into the genre of cars, something she knew about from a young age.
“I have always loved shiny, slimy, reflective things, and one of my Illustration instructors at Kendall, Jon McDonald, really helped in pointing me in this direction. Plus, my dad always loved cars,” she said. “Cars seemed natural to me. Like big, shiny sculptures.”
In addition to working for private collectors, McClement-Engler has also completed work for MBNA, Ford, the Kreisman Corporation, FIDER, BOP, and Old Cars Weekly. Several years ago, she also completed a portrait for Oceanspray of a car painted with a one-of-a-kind berry color.
McClement-Engler graduated with a master’s degree from Syracuse University in 1998. She taught at Frontier Community College in Fairfield, and in the junior high and high school systems in Carterville while working as a freelance artist. One year later, she decided to return to the classrooms at RLC, only this time as the instructor.
“I love working with students and seeing the improvements and growth they undertake,” she said. “Art is a huge part of our everyday lives, and I think most people fail to realize how much art affects them. From the painting on your wall to the chair you sit in, the clothes on your back to the design on the bottom of your favorite tennis shoes.”
In her 15 years at RLC, she has served as the exhibit director and a dual-credit supervisor, as well as on the Cultural Arts Committee, Academic Council, Higher Learning Commission General Education Committee, Program Review Board and Illinois Board of Higher Education.
To her students, McClement-Engler says, “Art and creation are very much alive and well. For anyone to succeed in their given career, it takes a lot of work, dedication and believing in oneself. Nothing comes easy, but the recognition of success is measured in exposure to art, the perception of art and the studying of art.”
For more information about art classes at Rend Lake College, contact the Academic Advisement Center at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1266.