Kelly Ledsworth Then and Now - Courtesy of Kelly Ledsworth
Kelly Ledsworth Then and Now - Courtesy of Kelly Ledsworth

I’ve never liked it when things have to end, especially when I’ve enjoyed them so much, and I also hate change. There are so many mixed emotions when it comes down to it because it’s so sad and bittersweet that it almost hurts, and yet somehow it can feel like a relief. I never want to say goodbye–I always want to say see you again soon. Maybe down the line someone I’ve never met before will talk to me at an event and ask me questions and then say, “hey I’m writing for the USM Free Press paper, can I quote you and take a picture of you in front of your art?”

The Ceramic Studio - Courtesy of Kelly Ledsworth
The Ceramic Studio – Courtesy of Kelly Ledsworth

    I remember on my first production day being so excited and in my element. Doing paper layout was my jam. I knew Adobe products and once I was shown what to do I could do it. It was so nice to be able to just put my headphones on and just slowly but surely put everything together. It was something I am good at and I love being able to piece things together and figure out where everything should go until it’s all aligned right. I remember how surprised everyone was by how much I loved doing the paper layout. To them it must have seemed tedious and boring. To some degree, it can be a little boring. To me this was art. I was able to make art that would become something physical that so many people would hold in their hands. It felt so different because I make art all the time but never on a scale like this. Printing about 500 copies per issue, that’s 500 potential people holding something that I made. Not to mention that on top of all of this I was making the graphics, art, and a few ads here and there. This was one of my first jobs where I felt like I made an impact and was treated with respect. I wasn’t just some cog in the machine, I was the whole machine. Now I know that I can be a leader and that I set out to make something beautiful.

  I’ve grown so much on my path to become an Art Educator. I’m no longer just a student. I’ve gone by many names now: Design Director, Teacher Kelly, Artist-in-Residence, Editor-in-Chief, and Artist. Some highlights have been that I changed my hair to pink (finally), got my motorcycle license, changed my gender marker on my license, got proper treatment for my mental health, and gone out and been an artist out in the world. These are all monumental things for me that I’ve accomplished in the last 5 years. 

     I feel really proud of myself because I never thought I’d make it this far in life or in college. I’ve learned It’s going to take a really special teaching environment to have me. I have so many options and possibilities of what I can do with my life that I will be able to have a job I enjoy after this. There was a big narrative pushed in my life growing up that if I have a job that makes a lot of money, I can then do whatever I want even if I am miserable in that job. However, on the flip side of this, I’ve also heard that if I have a job I like then I never “work” a day in my life because of how much joy I would get out of it. I don’t like either of these sentiments. Whether you’re happy or not in the job that you have you will still work hard for it. I love art so much but even if I was a full-time artist I’d have to work hard on running my own small business. Also, creating a new artwork isn’t easy. It takes time and effort and energy just like everything else. The benefit of being a creator is that in the end, I have a finished piece of art that I can show people and talk about everything that went into it. 

  I leave this paper in good hands knowing it will thrive without me. The amount of time I have dedicated towards this and all the love I have poured into this art makes me really happy. I want to say thank you to Ben Reed (my deputy) who was my right-hand man from the start. Without him this paper would not have happened at the beginning of this year and would not have stayed this solid throughout. Thank you Lucille for believing in me and all of us, guiding us through. Finally thank you to this year’s amazing staff who worked as a team in this wonderful collaboration we call the USM Free Press. For now it’s goodbye. I loved spending just over 800 hours in the last 3 years at this paper.


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