Art Professor Spehar-Fahey ‘really brings out the best in students’


Contributed by Professor Terry Spehar-Fahey

Professor Terry Spehar-Fahey’s preferred medium for her artwork is watercolor.

Christer Maxine Schmidt, Reporter

After a colorful career, California Lutheran University Professor Terry Spehar-Fahey is soon retiring from her 15-year teaching role. She has worked as an art professor teaching watercolor and design.

Spehar-Fahey grew up in an art-oriented family and took art throughout middle and high school. She continued art into college but said she didn’t mesh well with University of California Los Angeles art professors.

She ended up being a technical artist at Hughes Aircraft Company. During this time she got an MBA at Loyola Marymount University. She moved to Thousand Oaks, entered Thousand Oaks Art Walk in 1989 and won Best in Show shortly after obtaining her degree.

Cal Lutheran first discovered her paintings in 2006 at a gallery in Thousand Oaks. They invited her to display art at Cal Lutheran after seeing portraits she had created during psychotherapy.

“Those 72 paintings were done when I was in psychotherapy for depression,” Spehar-Fahey said. “These paintings were portraits of me working through art therapy.”

Spehar-Fahey said she has been influenced by many artists throughout her career and had always had a fascination with Vincent Van Gogh.

“I would say Vincent [Van Gogh] has always inspired me,” Spehar-Fahey said in a Zoom interview. “Kinda interesting to end up in therapy and do art therapy because of Vincent’s mental health difficulties.”

Spehar-Fahey said she tried to get a job at Moorpark College shortly and ended up being invited to teach art at Cal Lutheran.

She was also hired as a budget analyst for the provost, though she said she found it difficult due to the growth of Cal Lutheran during her time in the role. She retired from the position a few years ago.

In 2012, Cal Lutheran created a gallery of Spehar-Fahey’s Venice paintings, large watercolor paintings depicting the various waterways of Venice, Italy. These paintings were created during several trips she took to Europe.

“Watercolor is one of the most difficult mediums to acquire really good skills in,” said Tim Hengst, chair of the Visual Arts Department and professor of Multimedia, in a Zoom interview. “You’re dealing with a wet media that kind of moves around and interacts with color. It’s not an easy thing to get a hold of.”

She has long been close friends with Dru Pagliassotti, another professor in the Communication and Art departments.

“[We were] introduced in one of the local pubs in Thousand Oaks,” Pagliassotti said in a Zoom interview. “Terry later on… she sort of cornered me during the president’s Christmas party and she was like ‘You took sabbatical in Italy, right? I’ve always wanted to take students watercoloring in Italy.”

In 2011 and 2013, Pagliassotti and Spehar-Fahey took students to do watercolor painting in Italy as part of a Cal Lutheran travel seminar.

These trips have left the professors with many fond memories.

“There’s part of Venice we dubbed the Bermuda Triangle, because we always get lost in there all the time,” Pagliassotti said.

The two also taught ComicComm, a Communication course teaching students how to write and draw their own comic strips. For the nontraditional course’s “final exam,” each student turned in a comic panel.

“[Pagliassotti] introduced me to comic books,” Spehar-Fahey said. “That was after we had done the Venice stuff.”

The two also worked on a comic together, although they have only completed one chapter so far.

“If we’re doing a comic book class, we ought to be doing our own comic,” Spehar-Fahey said. “How hard can it be? Very.”

It is taking a long time to write due to both having full-time jobs. They hope to get more of it done after Spehar-Fahey’s retirement.

“She’d been looking at these comics with this really gorgeous watercolor art and she was really excited about doing that,” Pagliassotti said.

Spehar-Fahey also helped design the William Rolland Art Center alongside much of the Multimedia and Art departments.

“CLU has let me be so creative as a person and a faculty member, and it seemed like every time I had another hair-brained idea I was allowed to do it,” Spehar-Fahey said.

She said she will miss her students and fellow faculty members most as she retires from Cal Lutheran.

“She just always is excited to see [students] progress especially in some areas, like watercolor and design she teaches,” Hengst said. “She really brings out the best in students. It’s always been great to see the energy she brings and the enthusiasm.”