Recently, current staff member Richard Morris interviewed his Fairhaven School classmate, Peter Carlson (class of 2007.) As we prepare to celebrate the class of 2015, we hope you enjoy their conversation!
RM: What are you up to now?
PC: It has been a long eight years, and what a journey it has been.
In 2011 I graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL with a BFA in illustration. Since then I have taught Figure Drawing and Figure Painting at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts (FL), and I was hired as a Graphic Designer for a large business publication, The Observer Group (FL). After that, I moved to New York City and have had two incredible creative internships; one was at Frederator Inc. (the studio which produced the popular cartoon shows Adventure Time, Fairly Oddparents etc.), while the other was at Dark Igloo, an advertising and design studio in Brooklyn whose clients have included Converse Shoes, General Electric, and many others. I am currently applying to other animation and VFX studios in the city and thoroughly enjoying life!
If you would like to see my work and what I have been up to recently you can check out my website:
RM: Fairhaven School gave you the freedom to explore your individual interests. What did you explore during your time at Fairhaven, and how has that helped you with what you’re doing now in life?
PC: At Fairhaven I explored my own identity. I had the freedom to dress how I liked, act how I liked, and surround myself with people and activities that I liked. This is what chiseled me into the person I am today. It has helped me become an individual and a responsible, independent member of society.
This was only the start. With a couple friends I taught myself Adobe Creative Suite ( Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc.) FLstudio,and CoolEdit Pro, how to build and host a website with HTML coding to display our art, music, and animations. Why? Because I was curious and interested. Nobody told me I should, It was just another outlet for creativity and looked fun. I just decided with my friend and fellow alumnus Jimmy Jackson that we wanted to make our drawings animated and that we wanted to take our ideas to the next level. We requested to School Meeting that they purchase and install these programs for the school’s computers, and we began making a class out of it with no prior knowledge of these programs at all.
This was not the kind of class that you attend for a couple hours, sit and listen, and try to retain that information. This kind of class was more like a club. It involved reading tutorials online and troubleshooting and even having sleepovers and staying up all night just creating and learning new features of the programs. It did not feel like an exclusive club; it was a welcoming club that would be happy to certify you and train you in the technology. Part of learning was through teaching and repetition.
It was so fun and rewarding to learn a new feature or tool and then teach somebody else how to use it. We would run into problems while trying to learn Flash and coding, but this taught us how to do our own research and solve them. It never felt like an assignment or a chore. This is only one example of the many things I had the opportunity to explore. The skills I learned and focused on during my four years at Fairhaven directly correlate with what I am doing now in my career. As an Illustrator/ Animator/ Designer, I primarily use Adobe CS. I cannot imagine how long it would have taken to learn if I had started any later. I may have lost interest or pushed away from this hobby/obsession if it had been “taught” in a structured class environment.
RM: At Fairhaven School, you’re responsible for what you do with your time. How did you use your time at Fairhaven, and what were some things you gained by being at the school for four years (2003-2007)?
PC: I am so thankful I had the support, freedom, and time to figure out who I am, what I like, and what I’m good at. Once I was free to make my own schedule and create my own activities or curriculum, the trance I was in from being processed like cattle and force fed information at public school was beginning to thaw and fade away. My transformation did not happen overnight; it required time.
It required time, boredom, independence, and sometimes silence. I had room to breathe, room to think, room to explore. No longer did my schedule obey the chime of a bell. So what now? Now that I had all this time to myself I could actually think. What do I want to do today? turned into What do I want to do tomorrow? which eventually turned into What do I want to do After school? Opportunities and activities invented themselves. They were spontaneous, unsupervised, and continuously changing. Every day was a completely different and unpredictable experience. The best part was no single authority figure could dictate right or wrong. You had to figure that out on your own, and there was no sense of normality.
Some of the lessons and virtues learned at Fairhaven that have stuck with me the most are patience, appreciation, determination, celebrating differences, and most importantly, being yourself- all things that I could not have gone through college, jobs and relationships without.
RM: I believe Fairhaven tries to foster an environment where everyone can feel like they belong in some way. Do you feel that is true? If so, what did having a community you felt a part of give you that helped you later on in life?
PC: The sense of belonging is something that I felt right away at Fairhaven. I was welcomed into activities and made friends instantly. From the second I stepped on the grounds at Fairhaven, everything that I had known about fitting in and cliques from public middle school had been instantly shattered. Everybody was just coexisting with their own unique personalities and interests. Students of all ages and backgrounds where interacting in activities, meetings and conversations. I felt like an incredible weight was lifted off me, and I could finally just be myself!
That is how I met Jimmy (who is a few years younger). I can’t imagine that would have happened anywhere else where ages are segregated. I felt like everybody had my back, even if they didn’t share the same view or where testifying against me in school meeting or J.C. They were family— I knew I would still be interacting with them no matter what, and that was a really warm and comforting feeling that I have felt nowhere else. To this day, I still feel and celebrate the brotherhood I have with my Fairhaven family, and everybody around us can see it. It makes me proud. Without that kind of support and sense of community, I would not feel as strong or encouraged to do what I believe in.
RM: Are there any other thoughts you have as you reflect on your time at Fairhaven and what it has meant for you since you left?
PC: I think about Fairhaven a lot. I often ask myself what would have happened if I hadn’t found Fairhaven? How do others find their way in life without this freedom? I just can’t imagine it any other way. I am forever thankful to be a part of such an incredible and special learning experience, and I just wish everybody else could experience it or have a similar experience too.
Thank You Fairhaven, for all the freedom, encouragement, and love.
Peter Carlson, Fairhaven School class of 2007