By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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She also went to work at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, a place where she would find a family and a community of art lovers.
After starting out part-time, Slavik later became the center's full-time director of education, a job that includes installing dozens of shows, taking schoolchildren on tours, secretarial duties and building the high school artists' showcase, called ArtPaths.
Slavik is retiring after 22 years — from the center, but not from the art community.
Her retirement celebration will be from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday at the fine arts center, 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
“I have mixed emotions,” Slavik, 63, said last Friday, her final day of work.
“This has been my life for so long,” she said, though adding, “I'm looking forward to getting back to my own work.”
“My first thing will be to fix up my studio,” Slavik said.
She said she relishes the prospect of rising each morning to slip back to the lair beside her house in Port Angeles.
Slavik moved here in 1990 from San Diego, having had it with Southern California's crowds.
After earning a master's degree in painting at San Diego State University, she was an art instructor and the founder of the art gallery at Mesa College, a venue for prominent artists from across the region.
Here, along with longtime director and curator Jake Seniuk, Slavik made the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center into a venue known across the Northwest.
The two worked together until Seniuk's retirement last July installing shows by artists from all over the North Olympic Peninsula, Canada, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and beyond.
The highlight, for Slavik, was ArtPaths.
Each spring for seven years, she worked with selected high school students from Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks to create the show.
She sought to teach her students not only about color and perspective, but about commitment.
Each of the 25 teenagers was required to create three works, on deadline, for the ArtPaths exhibition — not easy for some who also were contending with school projects, sports and part-time jobs.
Another tough thing Slavik wanted to teach: taking criticism from others — and critiquing oneself.
One young woman was among the ArtPaths students for three years in a row. It wasn't until she was a senior, Slavik recalled, that she no longer cried when her art was criticized.
“That year, she had a major breakthrough with her work,” Slavik said.
“Most of the students really got into it,” she added.
“They liked the freedom” to develop as artists.
Seniuk, who lives part time in Seattle and part time in Joyce, remembers well the way Slavik worked alongside her students.
“Barbara is very empathic. I always marveled at her ease with people,” he said. To the teens, “she wasn't a standoffish grown-up.”
It was the same with the center's volunteers.
“She cared about their lives,” Seniuk said.
“That fostered a familial feeling.”
Yet frustration marked Slavik's years at the center.
It is funded in part by the city of Port Angeles, and budget cuts kept her worried whether the place would stay open and, if it did, whether her job would survive.
And while a new director, Robin Anderson, was hired last year to succeed Seniuk, there will be no new director of education, at least for the time being.
ArtPaths is suspended for now, Anderson said.
“The city had to cut back,” she said. Anderson will be the sole paid staffer.
She doesn't foresee a student art show unless a substantial donation or grant comes in for it.
Meantime, Slavik has been asked if she might teach art classes outside the center.
She's mulling that over but intends to focus on regaining her own rhythm as an artist.
It's what she has wanted since she was a girl growing up in Coldwater, Ohio, a farm town where her father was the veterinarian.
Slavik has traveled plenty since then. After earning a bachelor's degree from Ohio State, she moved to San Francisco, then went off to Europe a couple of times before returning to California to study for her master's.
“When I was very young, I realized the only thing I can count on in life is change,” she said.
“All I can do is go forward and redefine my life.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.