After serving 14 years in the U.S. Navy, Sean Frye was looking to explore his passion for art. While he didn’t realize it at the time, his decision to enroll in a summer art class at St. Louis Community College in 1995 would forever change the course of his life.
“I always loved art, but I lacked the formal training to make a living doing it,” Frye said. “I chose to enroll in a drawing class at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park because I wanted to sharpen my skills. I never expected to discover a path that would enable me to turn my passion into a profession.”
An integral part of his path was the relationship he built with his first professor, Mark Weber. According to Frye, Weber’s encouragement along the way helped him not only stick with his art, but build a career teaching it.
“Early on, I noticed that Sean was a talented artist with a natural ability to explain concepts to others,” Weber said. “I told him he could have a career in art if he wanted it. He just needed to make a commitment to his education.”
Frye followed Weber’s advice and got serious about school. One class led to another, and eventually he was making real progress toward earning his degree.
While Frye admits that there were times along the way when he wanted to quit, Weber helped him stay on track.
“Mark stayed on me after I finished his class,” Frye said. “When times got tough, he gave me the push I needed to finish school.”
Frye’s hard work paid off. In 1999, he graduated from STLCC with an Associate in Arts degree.
“After graduation, I made a promise to myself that I would only make a living with my art,” he said.
More focused than ever, Frye transferred to Weber University, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He then went on to earn two master’s degrees in fine arts from Fontbonne University – one in painting and the other in sculpture.
At his graduate art exhibit, Weber was there to support him.
“Not only did he buy one of my pieces, but he encouraged me to apply for an art position at STLCC,” Frye said. “We’ve been colleagues ever since.”
Over the years, Frye has taught Design I, II, and II, Advanced Drawing, Figure Drawing II and III, Comic/Cartooning and Illustration, and Watercolor and Advanced Painting at STLCC. In addition to teaching for the college, he has served as an elementary art teacher and has led afterschool art programs for kids.
Frye’s current body of work is a hybrid of both fine art and graphic illustration. The subject matter varies, but for the most part the content is pulled from different social, political and personal oddities.
In May, he will curate his first digital art exhibition at STLCC-Wildwood. The exhibit, “Digital Reality: Art for the 21st Century,” features some of his work as well as pieces by four other artists.
While much has changed since he first enrolled at STLCC, he hasn’t forgotten how he got to where he is today.
“You can make a good living as an artist, but you have to be determined to succeed,” Frye said. “When students in my class are struggling to stay in school, I always ask them if the job they have right now is the job they want to have for the rest of their life. If it isn’t, then I encourage them to find their focus and stick with it. That’s the advice that helped me get to where I am. And for that, I’m grateful.”