Publish Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2017 09:58:00 -0800

Photo of Kalpana

A lifelong dream is now reality for Kalpana Vadnagara.

The Redlands resident, who moved to the United States from India, received her degree in math, but always had an appreciation for art. As she started helping her two sons with school projects, she realized she wanted to pursue art in a more meaningful way, and started taking classes at Crafton Hills College.

"I took all of the basic classes, on painting, printmaking, art appreciation," Vadnagara said. "That gave me an idea about the contemporary art world and what is going on now. When I was in India, I was only looking for Indian artists; when I moved here, I took an art history class, and while doing research and discussions, I started looking at other artists here."

Vadnagara, whose paintings have been displayed at the Crafton Hills College art gallery, was encouraged by several of her professors — including Snezana Petrovic, Jenene Nagy, and Nader Gergis — to apply for graduate school, and after talking it over with Nagy, applied to the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland. She sent in her portfolio, and flew to Portland for an interview.

"I was able to see the school and meet the faculty and department head," she said. "It was very good to go there so they can meet you in person and you can meet everyone."

When Vadnagara found out she had been accepted to the master of fine arts program, "I couldn't believe it," she said. "It was a lifelong dream." She will soon move to Portland, and when the program is finished, is willing to move anywhere in the United States. "I've always wanted to work at a gallery, and I can take some residencies and internships," she said.

Although she is now focusing on art, Vadnagara isn't going to lose her math skills. "I always like to combine the two," she said. "Math, you can't forget." In addition to painting, Vadnagara enjoys photography, and shoots portraits. At the Oregon College of Art and Craft, she plans on taking painting and photography courses, and will continue to experiment with different art forms. For other students like her — who have grown children and want to switch careers or go back to school — she has one simple message.

"Don't stop," Vadnagara said. "Never stop. There is always a way to make things happen, and so many doors you can open."