For new faculty member Leigh Kaulbach ’08, much has changed since she was last in Millville. But what is important has remained the same. As a student, she found herself drawn to the photography studio where she studied the craft alongside Fine Arts faculty member Charlie Lemay for two terms. Flash forward 10 years, and the New Hampshire-raised artist is back in the studio with Lemay, this time as an instructor.
“This is where I dug into the arts, there is so much potential here,” recalls Kaulbach, who holds an M.F.A. in printmaking from the University of Kansas. “The mentorship I received in the arts coached me towards my strengths and passions. That's something I love about the program here, and art education in general, it has to come from within in the student. The art instructor has to listen to the student to help them accomplish their objectives."
“The mentorship I received in the arts coached me to find my voice, and my strengths,” remembers Kaulbach. “Heather Crutchfield, Charlie Lemay, the Reverend Michael Spencer, and Jennifer Hornor were all my mentors when I was here as a student. That’s how deep the connection runs. I would say they are still my mentors.” As a student, Kaulbach played field hockey for Crutchfield, with whom she now shares coaching duties with her as an assistant coach for the varsity field hockey team.
Kaulbach’s return to Millville wasn’t linear. Following graduation from the School, she journeyed to Palo Alto, Calif., to play field hockey at Stanford, a sport in which she had excelled during her four years at SPS. But upon arrival, Kaulbach felt pulled in another direction. The arts beckoned.
“I was recruited for sports. I considered art school, but I let that go pretty quickly,” remembers Kaulbach. “I struggled in college to find my place. When I was looking at the happiness returns from the time investment, I got so much more from music (and art) than athletics. I decided to leave the team. It was a difficult decision, but it was the right thing to do.”
Kaulbach graduated with degrees in religious studies and art history from Stanford, and worked in the nonprofit sector for Zumix, a youth music project in East Boston, Mass., before earning her M.F.A. Her experience with Zumix brought purpose to her interests. “I felt pulled in this direction, but everyone says its unviable,” she said of the arts. “Not only is it viable, but it’s tremendously important.”
The experience led her to pursue teaching, and eventually return to Millville. "It goes back to the creative community because as much as I love art, I love making art with people," shares Kaulbach. “It’s really exciting being back. Everyone here is a lifelong learner. Nobody is too proud to hear a new idea. With Heather (Crutchfield) and Charlie (Lemay), they are both interested in my ideas and bringing me in."