Returning Adult Student Finds Most Authentic Version of Herself Through Art

Linda Larson never considered herself an artist until after retirement when she connected with South Suburban College (SSC). Her experience at SSC led to her creating a book filled with poetry and oil paintings, which she describes as a lesson in self-discovery and self-help.

As a child, Linda and her family experienced a car accident that claimed the life of her older sister. This tragedy took its toll on Linda, leaving her with feelings of abandonment, which began when she was treated in a separate hospital apart from her surviving parents. Through poetry, however, Linda later discovered a coping mechanism for her heartbreak. She remarked, “When I put words onto paper, it gave me an objectivity and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s what’s going on inside me.’” The impact of her childhood trauma followed her throughout adulthood until arriving at SSC where she discovered art classes and attended the Chicago Women’s Conference & Expo on the Main Campus.

It was while attending the expo that Linda spoke about writing a book of poetry. This led to her being directed to the Professional Women’s Network, who then invited her to a luncheon to discuss literary projects. “That’s where I tried out a 15-minute presentation about my book for the first time,” Linda said, “and let me say: the group loved it!” Her concept would be a collection of her own poetry, preceded by pictures of oil paintings she developed while taking art classes at SSC.

Poetry was something Linda had explored personally for years, but painting materialized later in life. She was apprehensive about attending college classes after retirement to learn this new skill, as she recalled, “I stared at my blank canvas with brush in hand, afraid to even touch it at first.” Linda’s anxieties quickly faded away once immersed in the positive environment provided by the Art & Design Department.

“SSC is a hidden gem. They provide enrichment from experienced faculty and other students, like me, who truly want to learn,” she added. “There was a relaxed atmosphere in my art classes. I needed that after retirement, and even though the faculty have expectations, they are ones that I embraced.” Linda’s painting classes beckoned her to find the most authentic version of herself. This experience led her to explore visual expressions to complement her writings, something Linda admits may never have come together without her SSC education.

In addition to writing and painting, Linda has founded a scholarship to assist SSC art students. It is her hope that art can impact and heal others the way it did for her. She concluded, “I want to share my experience with others and encourage them to keep going. I want students to follow their dreams no matter what. I was helped along my journey and I’m just passing it forward.”

Linda’s book is titled, “Poetry for Women and the Men in Their Lives.” A signed copy is on display in the SSC Library. It may be purchased online through various retailers. SSC students interested in learning about Linda’s scholarship may visit the AwardSpring online platform.