Little did I know at the age of four, when my grandmother placed a stick of pastel in my hands so I could paint alongside her in her kitchen, that today I would be a professional artist. She planted the seed in my mind at a tender age, but it wasn't until mid-life that it blossomed.
I was encouraged by my parents to pursue nursing, but I loved traveling and decided to become a reading specialist instead. I traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to set up the basal reading program in an American school. During the four years of my contract, I traveled extensively throughout South America—from Ushuaia at the southern tip through the Panama Locks in Panama.
I returned home to the States and decided to drive to Central America to take a teaching position in Costa Rica as a Language Arts coordinator. Driving through Central America proved to be an exciting experience, and it was my knowledge of the Spanish language and common sense that got me through to Costa Rica safely. Teaching in Costa Rica was a beautiful experience and in my spare time I traveled extensively, exploring the volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches from coast to coast. Thus, I became familiar with the ticos, the native people of Costa Rica.
After a year, I left Costa Rica for a job as an English coordinator in a school in El Estor, Guatemala, which was quite isolated in the jungle. On February 4, 1976, at 3:01 a.m. a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Guatemala and shook me awake. Some 23,000 people were reported dead and 77,000 were wounded. Because we were isolated in the jungle, we suffered little damage, but we became more isolated due to the many landslides on the roads returning to the city. I returned to the U.S. in late summer of that year to secure another teaching position in Elgin, Illinois.
My experiences in Central and South America and command of the Spanish language prepared me for my teaching responsibilities in Elgin. I could communicate with many of the children and their parents. Moreover, my experience traveling and mingling with the natives of these countries gave me a wealth of material for my art career that was just around the corner. While teaching in Elgin, I took a painting class, which led to me taking another class from a teacher who encouraged me to attend the American Academy of Art in Chicago. The seed that my grandmother had planted when I was four finally sprouted. I was accepted into the Academy, took a three-year leave of absence from the school where I was teaching, and graduated with a degree in Fine Arts. I then took another two-year leave of absence to open my atelier in St. Charles, Illinois.
I had no idea that when I was teaching in Central and South America that the experience would aid me greatly in my art career. In my St. Charles space, I taught classes, workshops, painted in my studio, and held exhibitions of my work and that of other artists. During the summers I participated in local and Midwestern art festivals to build my reputation as an artist. It was also during this time that I owned property in New Mexico and began studying the ancient petroglyphs of the area. I noticed the destruction of these images and wanted to educate the public about the value of ancient rock writing.
My work began to change from splashy, colorful floral paintings to paintings of the pictographs and petroglyphs I saw in the Southwest. My personal life also changed, and I moved from the suburbs to Chicago and closed my little gallery in St. Charles. I began teaching at the historic Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts and continued teaching there until I opened my new atelier in September of 2009. In this new space, I teach classes and workshops and hold exhibitions in the gallery. It also serves as a wonderful studio space. I have been very fortunate to have traveled to Australia, China, Africa (many times), Europe, and Hawaii, researching the ancient rock writing of the world. I am fascinated by these ancient symbols and the connections and similarities that exist between those from various countries, and I incorporate them into my work today.
Little did I know that my varied teaching experiences would lead me to do now what I so love. My life has had many twists and turns and because I remained open to them I am now utilizing all aspects of my education, travels, and training in my professional art career. By beginning my career later in life, I was very focused and determined to be the best artist I could be. My first career as a teacher helped to support me in my second career as an artist.
Written in Summer 2011.
Ingrid E. Albrecht holds a degree in fine art from the American Academy of Art in Chicago. She has been creating art for more than 25 years and is known for her work with ancient pictographs and petroglyphs. She also has a MA in education and taught at the historic Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art for more than 15 years. Ingrid’s paintings grace the homes of many collectors both here and abroad, including: H.R.H Prince Charles; Bill & Barbara Cody; Freeborn & Peters Chicago; the IBM Corporate Building; Lincoln Park Zoological Society; Jane Goodall Institute - U.S. Headquarters, and more. Ingrid has had solo exhibitions at Arms Akimbo Gallery, American West Gallery, Tavern Club, Santa Fe Style Gallery, and The Body Politic Theatre. She continues to teach classes and workshops in her atelier and around the Midwest. Her work can be seen at ingridsartoriginals.com.