The shadow was more purple than gray. If you looked longer, you saw what your eyes saw, not what you thought. Maybe that holds for inquiry in general, but it was Rusty's class that got it across to me.Two things Rusty said, over my shoulder in the studio, have helped me in my work. One was the observation that my best work came out on scrap paper, in carefree studies. Another time Rusty remarked that he hadn't made any art recently. "Are you worried?" I asked. "Not really," he said. "The tide goes out, the tide comes in." Rusty's art featured cloaked figures in dreamscapes. His Russian wolfhound was named Merlin. He taught a bunch of high-strung kids to sketch freely and then to look again. That was kind of magical, wasn't it?
—Sarah Brownsberger ‘76
A while back Rusty gave me a good-sized print of an empty staircase descending from right to left down some kind of interior into a darkness hard to define. Each stair, seen only in one of its ends, caught an interesting kind of light that came from somewhere up above: a benign kind of glow that looked almost divine in that thick atmosphere. Though you could see quite clearly how each earlier stair had been built, by the time they turned from the left-hand edge of the frame and kept heading down in the other direction all you could tell was that it was headed for a heavy dimness with no shape at all.What was this all about? Going up? Going down? The stairs were empty. More than that, the railings had none of the carpentry that seemed to define the first length of stairs; no actual walls to attach to, no third dimension, no idea of a building that might have had a story to tell or a job to do. Everything just hung there, in a welter of smudgy fingerprints lacking a hand. I didn't know what to make of it all. Time passed. And then one day, as my eye ran over that odd stairwell image yet again, it hit me: This "nowhere" sensation left Rusty free to put things together in ways all his own. An act of creation –– that is what he'd let me in on. Unfore-seen, unplanned. A risky business! And he was risking it, then and there, right before my eyes. Lights and darks, colors, shapes and absence. A whole language, really. Thanks to Rusty, I see it now.
—Eric Davis, former faculty
Rusty presided over an oasis of true calm and creativity and humor into which so many of us stepped each week as if into a warm spring. His gentleness and his laugh and his remarkable talent inspired us even while also reassuring us that we didn't have to impress anyone and could instead just enjoy. He will forever be the model in my mind for how a teacher should teach and an adult should mentor a child. Thank you so much Rusty and best wishes for an amazing and art-filled retirement!
—Jeremy Creelan ‘87
Rusty whenever I could nab a place next to him. He has a kindly, humorous, low-key manner of telling a story that amuses himself as much as the listener. His stories widely range from, for instance, the quirky characters of an older generation of local artists to his extended visits to his in-laws in Iran. The leisurely rhythm of his conversation, in which I thought I could detect a trace of his southern past, was impervious to the hoo-ha around us, a refreshing break from the all-consuming business of the day. I greatly admire Rusty's unusual openness to people, ideas, and different kinds of art. In his own art he is completely open to what chance may bring. On a visit to his studio in South Boston last year, I kept thinking of it as a grotto, encrusted and weathered with time, or an archeological site built upon many layers of past civilizations. It is a huge room stacked to the rafters with decades of imaginative experiments in different media as well as fascinating found objects, such as fragments of rusted hardware of interesting shape and inexplicable purpose, the innards of an old machine, or a keyboard from a disemboweled piano. For Rusty these things, which others threw away as worthless junk, stimulated the imagination, offering unlimited potential for use in new, original works of art. I feel lucky that Rusty was my colleague and good friend at Commonwealth for over 40 years. In my Commonwealth yearbooks from the '70s he looks younger than some of the kids, a long-haired hippie, smiling mischievously as if he were about to play a prank. I think he will never lose his youthful readiness to play—an attitude not at odds with serious, meaningful creation and essential to his teaching, his art, and generally his approach to life.
Congratulations Rusty!! I still remember printmaking at Commonwealth and even the smell of the acid. I even found a print I had made recently at the house I grew up in in Brookline. And, we see a print of yours every day: a small fish in an oval that you gave me when I graduated. Thank you for that. Wishing you all of the best in all of your next adventures. Yours, Josh.
—Joshua Hauser ‘85
Back in high school we used to always quote some teen movie or something that had the line "it wouldn't be the same without Rusty." I had no idea, when I took my first photography class back in 1984—or when he convinced me in 1986 that the reason I should take printmaking was precisely because I couldn't draw—how many years Commonwealth would have without confronting that reality. I am infinitely grateful not only for the way he taught me it it's worth it spend the time on technique to be able to better capture what I saw through the camera, or for the pieces of his we began to collect in our twenties, but especially for teaching all three of my children the joy of play and precision. But for all that gift of teaching all five of us to join eye and hand and heart, my favorite memory of Rusty was his Christmas card after the shocking election of 2016: Hoping for the Best in 2017.
—Melissa Glenn Haber ‘87
Rusty would invite faculty to visit his studio on occasion, and I just loved to rifle through his prints until an amazing image caught my eye: forlorn and rusting lawn tables and chairs; a ruin of an Indian monument caught in a double exposure with parched earth; a brightly decorated Pakistani truck caught in a monumental traffic jam. His work is supremely unique, and his humor divine.
—Barbara Grant, faculty, alum parent P’XX, ‘XX
I remember one of the deciding factors that made me transfer to Commonwealth was its printmaking offering, and to this day printmaking remains one of the highlights of my high school memories. Rusty is so skilled, patient, funny and creative; he always encouraged me to try something new, something outside of my comfort zone, and beautiful prints came out of it. Without his guidance, I would not have learned nearly as much as I did and more importantly, I wouldn't have had so much fun. I looked forward each week to going to the studio and often went during free periods to destress. I'm sad he is retiring but also so grateful to have worked with such a talented artist. Wishing him the best!
—Amanda Dai ‘16
Rusty is a very talented artist in his own right. I met him as a shy ninth grader. The art studio was a welcoming and intense place. I knew I would learn and be transformed whenever I spent time there. Rusty has a quiet gentleness to him that attracted me to the art thing. That same engagement that is clear in the students pictured here with Rusty.
—Drusilla Pratt-Otto ‘77
Rusty got me to make some beautiful things that I am still proud of even after all these years. He also is a great person who gave me some emotional support in a difficult time of my life. I still think of him as one of the kindest people I met in my four years at Commonwealth. I am grateful to have met him and I wish him much happiness in retirement.
—Randal Baron ‘76
I took photography classes all 4 years of school, and I learned so much from Rusty - everything I know about film photography and pinhole cameras is from him, and it's a hobby I've carried through into adulthood. Rusty's class was always the best part of my week.
—Feyga Saksonov ‘14
Thank you so much, Jackie. I love you, you are family, and you will always be my mentor. Thank you for providing me with a refuge that liberates me from my stressed-out brain, for liberating my body and helping me give myself over to dance, for all the treats you always brought to us every practice, for letting me know you would always be there for me. It is in your studio that I first understood that the body speaks in ways that the mind does not, and that the body sings in ways that the mind can only marvel at. When I dance in your studio, I feel like some severed link between my intellect, emotions, and bodily senses is finally mended. Whenever I dance, I pay tribute to you.
—Yung Yung "Nicole" Liu ‘17
When Jacquelynne Curry took over the fifth-floor dance studio, she was not much older than we were. Yet her authority was beyond question. She emerged as our teacher from a group of stars who traded off this small-school gig, bringing the inspiration, pedagogy, and theory that were flourishing at the Elma Lewis School. Besides, Jackie’s technique was amazing and she was Beautiful with a capital B. Her studio was a place of challenge. She laughed if we belly-ached over our work-load: "You thrive on pressure!" As we struggled with grands battements, she chanted, "Hit your face, hit your head." She worked so hard, herself, that we once found her in the kitchen eating a bowl of whipped cream, her doctor having told her that her dancing burned four thousand calories a day. Her studio was also a refuge. It was a girl-majority space where bodies of all shapes and shades contended with the highest athletic and aesthetic goals. It was an oasis of cultural exchange during Boston's awful "bussing crisis." In Jackie's studio we felt beautiful and strong; the rest of the world fell away. We were there to be glorious. Jackie was adamant that we could do anything, matter-of-fact when we couldn’t, and loving all the way. "Speak with your body!" she urged. Whatever comes our way, we can and will do that. Thank you, Jackie.
—Michele Gonsalves and Sarah Brownsberger ‘76
Jackie you were a wonderful part of my Commonwealth experience. I learned the basics of ballet, jazz and modern dance while giving me ample opportunities to be creative. It was the start of a lasting love of dance that I continued into adulthood and I am forever appreciative!
—Jessica Francois ‘10
I was really blessed to have Jackie as my dance teacher for four years at Commonwealth. I entered Commonwealth without any dance experience. I was initially intimidated because most of the other students had previous experience, but Jackie cared about me so much and had so much confidence in me that, within a few months, I found myself looking forward to her class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Although I had not intended to continue dancing after fall of freshman year, I ended up dancing every season of every year at Commonwealth. Jackie believed in my ability to both master skills and create my own choreography and made me feel proud of every accomplishment, even small ones. I think that her class is part of why I have the confidence to take on new challenges today.
—Irene Miriam Kaplow ‘06
Jackie was an example of strength and beauty during my time at Commonwealth. Jackie taught me perseverance. What I learned from Jackie was that if I kept trying, I would achieve the goals I had for myself in dance. Eventually I became a more graceful and confident dancer which translated into my becoming a more graceful and confident young woman. I find myself saying to my daughter who inherited my limited flexibility to keep stretching and practicing each side of her body because she doesn't want to be a "one-sided dancer." That advice followed me into life. I learned to work not only work on what came easy to me but also on what I found difficult. Jackie's lessons have served me throughout my life. She will always have my gratitude and admiration.
—Eva Castro-Dwyer ‘94
Although I only started dance in my senior year, Jackie remains one of the most influential teachers I had at Commonwealth. When I approached her at the beginning of the year after the 'sports presentations' in the library - a tall, physically somewhat awkward guy - to say I wanted to try dance, she smiled and made me feel immediately at ease. In time, she encouraged me to come to the advanced classes in addition to the beginning class - enabling me to perform in the school concert at the end of the year. I went on to perform modern dance professionally in Los Angeles for several years. I learned from Jackie to trust that my body knew what to do, even if my mind wasn't sure yet, and also to frame challenges not as things I "couldn't" do but as things I was having "difficulty" doing - and which could be accomplished in time with practice. These lessons served me well beyond the dance studio throughout my life, and I am forever grateful.
—James Kravitz ‘84
I took ballet and jazz with Jackie all four years and took advanced dance and choreography as an arts elective in my senior year. I'd taken dance classes as a child and come to dread them as a pre-teen. Ballet can be brutal. Jackie rehabilitated my love of dance. To teach is to attempt an impressive balancing act between nurturing enthusiasm and pushing boundaries. Jackie is a born performer. No one balances like Jackie. There was nowhere with enough room for us to dance in the school itself so we made the journey across the city to the Gamble Mansion or the Boston Center for Adult Education or the Boston Center for the Arts. For me, these few blocks represented a journey between worlds. Afternoons dancing with Jackie were a respite, to use my body in a positive way, to create rather than analyze. I often felt like Jackie understood me, she knew what it was like to be a normal kid with the insane but insatiable dream of making it in the performing arts. I tried my first point shoes with Jackie, learned who Martha Graham was, and got my first shin splints. Jackie had four or five catch phrases she'd shout out as we danced. "Don't sickle!" "Bend your knees or you'll get shin splints!" Eventually all she had to do was shoot you a look and you'd be telling yourself "shin splints!" I've always had to learn by doing, so I did get shin splints, and Jackie smirked and made me dance anyway. One year, she organized a showcase for us at the Roxbury Community College theatre. She choreographed a number to a jazz piece called "Flight" and made us all bird costumes. As an insecure and ungainly teenage girl, Jackie's class was the only place I felt like I could fly. I am still dancing, a decade and another continent away. In classes and rehearsals, I still sometimes look down at my feet on the marley and hear Jackie’s voice in my head- "don't sickle!"
—Sarah Stearns ‘10
My dearest memory of Jackie is at Hancock...an event she dreaded, yet met with an astonishing mixture of humor and warmth. We would sit huddled against the cold in the dining room at Winona, as she spun stories and hurled barbed jabs, cocooned in love, at the primitive state of Maine.
Jackie Curry is the reason I became a teacher. She shared her passion with us, and she helped us navigate the stresses of high expectations and teen angst. She taught us ways to deal with anything that might get in the way of following our dreams. I remember her funny expressions like, "It's mind over matter, I don't mind and it don't matter." She made us feel like we were very important to her, no matter our level of talent or ability, and she had a special relationship with every single one of us, which brought out the best in each one of us. She taught me the value of discipline in every endeavor. I am a teacher who puts relationships first, and that is because of Jackie's commitment to us as developing minds and hearts first, and dancers and students after that. I love all forms of dance, because of her, and I have never stopped dancing or creating choreography for my students. I am a grandmother now, but I still dance almost every day, and that is because of Jackie Curry. I will always love her!! I will always remember what she did for me, and how she was always there for all of us. Thank you Jackie, for all your love, dedication, commitment to the art of dance, and to all of us.
—Susan Storey Frank ‘76
About 40 years ago at Commonwealth, my girlfriend was a dancer, and she told me how great it would be if I took dance with Jackie. So I signed up and found myself learning choreography for the "Holiday Performance." The themes included holiday shopping, and a group of us sprinted on stage and took a slide together at one point-- combining the ideas of rushing to shop and scoring a run by sliding into home base. Jackie's influence led me to try one modern dance class in college (ouch, that hurt). After a long hiatus, dance has returned, and become a powerful part of my life over the past 15 years. I dance 7 days most weeks, and I'm teaching Contact Improvisation dance almost every week. I dance for health (physical and mental), and to practice skills I want to use in the "big dance" of "real life"-- listening, creativity, generosity, curiosity, kindness, and community. Thanks Jackie!
—Zach Pine ‘77
Jackie changed my life. She helped me to find a way to be in the world, fully present physically. She taught me how to challenge myself and in so many ways overcome the challenging parts of life. I no longer dance in any organized fashion but continue to be physical in my life with Baptiste Hot Yoga and competitive road and cross country racing. Forever grateful.
—Drusilla Pratt-Otto ‘77
I took classes with Jackie all through high school and can still remember walking up the many flight of stairs at the end of the day to the studio where the stress of academics fell away. I attribute my lifelong engagement in dance to the classes and performances to Jackie at Commonwealth. I now have my own young dancer and it's wonderful to watch my daughter find her outlet in dance performance. Thank you and congratulations on all you have accomplished and given to so many students over the years.
—Juliet Bromer ‘85
I took dance for three years at Commonwealth and loved every day of it. Jackie always set high standards for her students and worked us hard to make sure we lived up to them. Some of my favorite memories and jokes from high school are from Jackie's dance class, and it was a highlight of my school experience.
—Feyga Saksonov ‘14