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Frank Wright



I graduated with a BS in Art Education (My earliest teachers were Ilya Bolotowsky, Manny Bromberg, George Wardlaw, and Robert Schuler. I also worked as a production potter with Louis Mendez, for a year.) I hadn’t planned on an academic career. I was more interested in painting and trying to make a living as a professional artist. During the late 1960’s, when I became interested in film and photography, I worked as a professional photographer and filmmaker in NYC. In the 1970’s I was interested in graphic design. For a few years I worked for Martin Moskof, then opened my own studio. (I helped W. Eugene Smith hang his retrospective exhibit at the Jewish Museum and was consulted by David Brower when he was selecting Elliot Porter photographs for a Sierra Club book.) In 1982, when I wanted to teach, I returned to graduate school and received an MA in painting, then worked toward an MFA at Bard College. I taught at several of the local colleges and retired from the studio art department at SUNY New Paltz in 1993.


Occasionally, I have been invited to exhibit my paintings. In 2014 my work was selected by Artbridge, for installation on a bridge in Kingston, NY. Annually, I participate in the members’ exhibit of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, at the Kleinert/James Gallery in Woodstock. This is fairly typical of the pace of my professional exhibitions.

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by Cloey R. Callahan

Interview Wright

Man of Many Traits Featured in the “Golden Age of New Paltz” Exhibit

Frank Wright has let art inspire him since childhood. Since then he has created a living for himself doing what he enjoys. He has been an engineer, an illustrator, a filmmaker and a therapist. He’s even worked on rescue boats on the Chesapeake Bay. Today, at the age of 81, he has been focusing on renovating his home in New Paltz, which will include a studio area.

On your website you have a quote from Mike Nichols that reads, “If you want to be a legend… It’s so easy. You just do one thing… But, it’s fun to do a lot of different things.” What does this quote mean to you?

For one reason or another, I decided to not have a family of my own. I was so interested in doing things. I started out as an engineer with technical drawings. After a while, I got bored just living at home as a 19-year-old, so I became a draftsman in the Air Force. I spent four years illustrating in the Air Force. When I came out, in 1959, I went to New Paltz as an art student. If I became interested in something, I could go wherever I wanted to go. I was teaching a film course, and one of the students said, “Frank, you’re so interested in film. Why aren’t you making movies?” I said, “Wow, what a great idea.” I put my reel together and went down to New York with a production company. It was very serendipitous and resulted in my filmmaking career.

Why did you decide to include art work you did when you were little on your website?

My mother saved it all. I didn’t know that until she downsized her house. My mother really didn’t know much about who I was going to be. She left it up to me. She let my success evolve. It did prevent me from exploring other things. When a kid gets on a track, and everyone around him believe that’s where he belongs, they don't present other opportunities. A kid has to be very special to climb out of that. I never was able to climb out of that until I was much older. That’s why I wanted to do so many different things, like Nichols said. The world offers much more than art.

You were a photographer for The Middletown Times Herald. What impact did this have on you as an artist?

I realized that if I wanted something, I would have to go get it. When I looked for a job, employers said, “We don’t have photographers. We have reporters that carry cameras.” I said, “I can do that.” I did pull it off. When I looked for a job to be a filmmaker, I went to West 47th street. in Manhattan, and I walked around and looked for doors that said “Film Production” and I would go in and ask for a job. I didn’t like reporting, because I didn’t like to confront people. I like taking their photographs unbeknownst to them.

Out of all of the different mediums of art you work in, what is your favorite?

When I get back to painting, I’m sure I’ll be talking to my friends about it. Right now, painting isn’t my favorite. What I’m really interested in is finishing the renovation of this house. It will probably be my last house. It’s a great place. I’m looking up at Mohonk Tower right now, and my friends live all around me. This is much more important to be than painting. When I get the studio finished, I can work in there and paint and draw again.

How has New Paltz changed?

Main Street had giant maple trees on both sides, the branches meeting overhead. There was no traffic or convenience stores. It was like a movie out of the 40s. Once the kids from the city came up, they changed everything. Today, I hardly know the place. I got lunch at P&G’s yesterday. The place was packed and I only knew two people. There was a time where we would go there and we would know everyone in the place. I see the students now, with the portfolios under their arms, and I think, “Gee, some things don’t change that much.”

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

I never really wanted anybody's advice, and people knew that I didn’t want to hear it from them. You really have to do what’s important to you. I know people that get into safe, financially sound, but boring-as-hell jobs. They retire, get sick and then die. You should do what you want as soon and as often as possible. So that’s my advice. Nobody ever gave me that, but I would have taken it.

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