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Drawing from passion, York College grad finds himself in front of the classroom

Dillon Samuelson, fine art graduate

The first day of school this semester was exciting for Dillon Samuelson but definitely a little weird.

It had been more than four years since he’d set foot in a York College of Pennsylvania classroom, but everything seemed pretty similar — same buildings, familiar professors.

Of course, there was one glaring difference when he walked in to his Drawing I class: This time, he was the one standing at the front of the classroom.

A culture shock

It was Samuelson’s mom who first stoked his interest in art. He loved to draw, loved to make things, and she taught him everything she knew.

Being home-schooled had its perks, but it also presented challenges. By middle school, he’d maxed out his mom’s artistic knowledge and pretty much taught himself through high school.

It was a bit of a culture shock, that first year at York College after being home-schooled his whole life. But, he soaked up everything he could from his teachers. He learned not just the foundations of his craft but the history and academics that informed it.

Small classes and thoughtful professors helped him grow and gain confidence in his work.

“There’s always a lot of doubt around a career in the arts,” Samuelson says. “But by the time I was finishing up in college, there wasn’t any regret. I felt like I made the right decision.”

Building momentum

When Samuelson graduated from York College in 2014, it was hard for him to imagine doing anything but creating art. Luckily, he didn’t have to.

He was the third ever recipient of York College’s Appell Arts Fellowship — a year-long residency that allowed him to create work, unrestricted, full-time.

“Having a year to just make art is kind of amazing,” Samuelson says. “Getting it right out of school let me take the momentum I’d been building in school and bring it out into the world on my own terms.”

It was an experience that shaped him as an artist and solidified York as his home. He lived and worked surrounded by the work of others, above Marketview Arts on West Philadelphia Street.

Making art full time without any sort of pressure to make money off of it, that’s pretty much the dream, he says. It’s invaluable.

Sharing his passion

Samuelson was a student in the very class he’s now teaching.

His first semester as an adjunct faculty member has only just started, but so far, he says, it’s exciting — and a little surreal.

It’s different than making art on his own, but that’s what he likes about it: to be able to help others reach their potential is fulfilling.

“I definitely like the idea of doing something useful with art,” he says. “That can come in other ways, too, but the ability to share and be involved and help other people and be involved in the growth of things is appealing to me.”

Teaching his students something new, something they didn’t know before, is exciting and rewarding. He likes the idea of helping people, of just doing more.

It’s about doing something more with my art that isn’t completely about me, he says.

It’s all still new to him, being the teacher. But, it’s new to his students, too; his Drawing I class is mostly freshmen.

“I think we’re all new to this,” he says, “we’re kind of figuring it out at the same time.”