Susan Calkins Montagna ’82 stumbled upon her passion for art while a business major at Trinity. Now, she’s providing the canvas for other accidental painters and sculptors through her Inspire Fine Art Center in San Antonio.
by Donna Parker
Susan Calkins Montagna received a bachelor's degree in business administration, with a concentration in Spanish, from Trinity in 1982 but discovered her senior year that life had something far more interesting in store.
"I had more time for electives and happened upon a class taught by Phil Evett, department of art and art history, never knowing what a profound impact it would have upon my life. Mr. Evett was a stone carver growing up in England and loved what he did so much that it was an inspiration for me. Of course, I was totally shocked when I realized I could sculpt. My sisters had always been great at drawing, but I wasn't, so I had all but wiped art off my agenda."
"It was during my last semester at Trinity that I realized I could do stone carvings and that was very exciting to me!" says Susan.
"Mr. Evett did such a great job of teaching art that I was hooked and even worked in his studio for several years after graduation. He always encouraged me to continue with my art."
She did, but passion of another kind intervened and Susan married Joe Montagna '80, whom she had met at a campus party. She asked him to dance and they did, but she laments, "It took him a few months to call me."
Twenty-eight years later, the couple has three children: Molly, 23; Justin, 21, and Jesse, 17.
"I loved that period of being at home and raising my children, but during that time, I always had one eye on the art community. It was then I noticed that there was a diminishment of arts in the school districts. That signaled a need for additional art education resources for people to discover their creativity."
So, in 2005, Susan founded the Inspire Fine Art Center near the Trinity campus to provide a comfortable, enjoyable space where people are free to practice their creativity. The center offers 12-week courses to those who wish to indulge their passion for art. There are also family art days each month and events throughout the year, including a gala fundraiser.
The Inspire Center also spreads the love of art throughout the San Antonio community. Susan has established free programs for women in recovery from drug addiction and five after-school programs in the North East Independent School District. Inspire instructors also work with homeless families, youth with emotional challenges, and children in the foster care system, waiting for the family courts to decide their fate.
"We provide instructional art for the kids during the time they can't be in the courtroom. It's simply art for healing."
"Interestingly, I ended up blending my love of art with my business skills with the
establishment of Inspire."
"Now, I'm ready to return to sculpting and carving, possibly by working on my MFA, because it will throw me back into my art. I miss that."
You may contact Susan at sjmontagna [at] sbcglobal.net.