There are two things I am known for, which I incredibly love: ART and LACROSSE. Those two are ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.
Ten years ago this time, I graduated from The Pratt Institute of Art and Design in Brooklyn, NY with a degree in Communications Design. It was a decision I knew I wanted because growing up in NYC, the media capital of the world; it inspired and attracted me to what I wanted to pursue as a career – a commercial artist. At that time Pratt was one of the top three art schools in the nation as well as a leader in the department of my major. It did NOT have a varsity lacrosse team and sports there were very lackluster. If drug-usage were a varsity sport in college, The Pratt Institute would be producing “All-Americans” in that field.
Unlike the majority of the student body, I didn’t dye my hair, have unconventional piercing, wear an all black wardrobe, clothes stained with paint or hate anything politically/socially conservative so that I could be recognized as an artist. My mindset was focused and clear, keeping with the belief that people would recognize me as an ARTIST because of what I do, first and foremost: ART.
(lacrosse players and artists – yes, both “quarky” but they are 180 degrees apart!)
(my lacrosse “stance” vs. a drawing “pose”)
Senior year meant “Senior Projects” (a.k.a. in a normal collegiate experience – “Senior Thesis”) and it also meant my last chance to do something I have always wanted to do besides the weekly assignments from professors. But above all this, at the end of the year, the BEST “projects” were chosen by faculty to be exhibited at the “Senior Show” at the famous “Manhattan Center” a.k.a. “The Hammerstein Ballroom” on 34th Street. My sights were set high. So I drafted a proposal to execute a series of “lacrosse-themed-artwork” from the Native American ritual to the present day of college and it was to be called “Lacrosse: An Experience Through History”. Prior to presentation I shared my thoughts with my peers.
“I think you should do something a bit more constructive.”
“That’s not going to fly here.”
“You need to grow up!”
These were some of the responses but when presentation day arrived the response I took the most offense came from my professor:
“Vinnie, I do not see a market for this.”
She knew I wanted to do some sort of sports-themed art so she suggested “female sports” due to the inaugural season of the WNBA happening at that time. I shrugged my shoulders in acceptance and walked out of the classroom. Upon my exit of the building, I lit a cigarette and knew that I accepted doing something I wasn’t interested in as well as not exhausting all my thoughts and options as written in my proposal. I didn’t want to go without a fight and not ‘leave everything on the field’ – that’s a lesson I’ve learned from playing lacrosse, among other sports. I re-entered the building and waited for over two-hours until all students were finished presenting their proposals. She asked me why I returned and I told her my exact words:
“This… LACROSSE… is the ONLY thing I WANT to do and anything else wouldn’t have my passion behind it!”
I’ve been called hardheaded and stubborn but when you’ve played sports all your life and can actually call New York City your home (the most competitive city in the world) it is just part of your DNA. I asked if could ask her some questions.
When I asked my professor if she played any sports growing up, she said “no”. When I asked what she knows of Lacrosse, her response “all the rich kids played it in high-school.” She was then surprised to hear that it was the oldest, continuing sport in the United States – begat by the Native Americans who used it as way to settle disputes, train young tribesmen for warfare and as a “way to heal” the sick. But what would you expect from an atmosphere not sport-savvy? It was obvious that she fundamentally knew nothing about lacrosse, thus being able to convince her in letting me pursue the project. To this day, I think she said ‘yes’ just to “shut me up” and get me out of the door because I was prepared to stay all night until I got final approval.
(just a few images of the original concept sketches behind the work)
I worked HARD – more like I BUSTED MY ASS! My research and reference material were thorough, every single detail – accurate! Come Thanksgiving-time, while students were making travel plans, home for me was just a subway ride away to Manhattan. But I decided to stay in the dorm and work on the project to get ahead, regardless of looking out of my window, seeing the skyscrapers and knowing that I could just “go home” to relax for a day, or maybe, a few hours. People were calling me crazy but pursuing goals in life, require taking sacrifice.
(some of the completed artwork)
During class-critiques, my professors would commend positive techniques and turnaround, but overall I never felt that [they] understood my project as a whole.
At the semester’s end came “Survey” where faculty would judge your “senior project” behind closed doors. It was there they would choose who were to be exhibited at the “Senior Show”. We waited almost 3 hours for the faculty to finish their rounds and at the end of it was the definite outcome of my work not being chosen.
I was devastated. My reservation towards art-school grew while my confidence in my art was lost. Not a day has gone by without being reminded of that experience.
In 2006, five years after getting back into playing lacrosse I launched a website: www.VincentRicasio.com, which had my lacrosse art from my “Senior Project”. My teammates would always inquire:
“An artist and an athlete? That’s a first!”
“So what do you do with your art?”
But the most important and BEST question soon followed:
“Vinnie, is your lacrosse art for sale?”
LESSON LEARNED: Two lessons come from this. Before you say “NO” to something, make sure you “KNOW” first. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness; rather it’s a sign of intelligence. I think every successful person even admits that they will not KNOW everything in this world.
Second, there’s a Bible passage in the Book of Matthew 7:6 “Don’t cast your pearls before swine”. It is difficult to offer “pearls of wisdom” to those who do not appreciate them. Simply put, go to those who KNOW.
PERSONAL NOTE: Having an undefeated season and losing in the 2008 National Championship game, I think Coach John Danowski of the Duke Men’s Lacrosse team said it best while addressing his dejected athletes,
“If this is the worst thing to have ever happened looking back, then I have lived a good life.”
(2010 NCAA Final Four of Lacrosse -Baltimore, MD w/ Lake Placid teammates “Stu-Funk Lacrosse”)