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Tiffany Noel

Tiffany Noel, Photography

“I've had amazing art professors who have changed my life.”
In high school, Tiffany Noel was aghast when her town proposed cutting the budget by eliminating art and music from the school curriculum.

“I remember being very upset,” she says. 

“The world needs art and music – without them, people wouldn't be themselves.”

She’s even more passionate now.

Noel, who was a photography major, feels art in her bones, needing it as much as food or water.

“I knew early on that I loved photography, and that I wanted to do something creative with my life, no matter what,” she says.

While people sometimes pose the irritating question, “What will you do with a degree in art?” Noel knew she’d figure it out. Her parents have been supportive of her interests since she stole her mom’s camera as a young child.

“I knew that I couldn't have a regular office job with no creative outlet – even if I made tons of money, I would be miserable,” she says.

It turns out, Noel has found the perfect place for her artistic passions: the classroom.

“The Art Department has a program where students are sent into area classrooms to teach,” she says.

When she woke up every day excited to share art with her students, she knew she’d landed on her career: she would be an art teacher.

“I've had amazing professors who have changed my life,” she says, noting world renowned photographer and Art Department Professor Arno Rafael Minkkinen.

Noel was one of the lucky few selected to join Minkkinen on a recent Spirit Level American Road Trip with stops at famed photographer Sally Mann’s Virginia farm, the George Eastman house in Rochester, N.Y., the Rhode Island School of Design, and a Manhattan art gallery.

The Spirit Level trips were created by Minkkinen (with financial support from the Nancy Donahue Foundation) to bring students from different cultures together to meet, share ideas, explore photographic techniques, and create a collective portfolio of work which is displayed concurrently in galleries from each country represented. Minkkinen has brought students around the world, including trips to the Czech Republic and Mexico. This year’s trip also included photography students from Norway and France, along with some instructors, for 24 people in total.

“We all loaded into vans and stayed at Super 8 Motels along the way,” says Noel.

She adds: “I loved meeting the foreign students and learning from them – our different cultures affect the shots we take and the methods we use – it was a fascinating trip of a lifetime.”

After a semester off, Noel will apply to grad schools to pursue a master’s in education, combining her love of art and teaching for a group of lucky students.

Asked for advice to would-be art students, Noel says, “Go for it. If you love art, you must pursue it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”