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Quick gets a new lens on life after time at Doane

LINCOLN – On any given Saturday, Ron Quick and his camera are on the chase, hunting new subjects or the perfect shadow to turn an old shot new.

He’s not looking for sunsets or live action.

Instead, he finds art in urban images people see – without really seeing – every day.

Streetlights.

Stairwells.

Junction box covers.

Parking garage posts.

“No matter where I go now, I see abstract, repetition and patterns,” said Quick, an amateur photographer who didn’t care a thing about photography until he took a nine-week digital photo class during his undergraduate years at Doane’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) in Lincoln.

Today, his work has been included in a Focus on Nebraska book and the First Friday Art Walk in Omaha. His photos were selected by the Nebraska Arts Council to grace the Nebraska Governor’s residence next year, as well as the Fred Simon Gallery exhibition in Omaha.

 

It’s a hobby that’s taking on a life of its own.

It’s not what he pictured would come from returning to school in his late 30s.

But that’s the reward of Doane’s non-traditional student program, he said – they offer a broad base and a fair amount of introspection.

“The thing that struck me the most about Doane wasn’t so much what I learned, but that it came down to how much I didn’t know about myself and the world around me. A lot of it was self-reflection about your belief system. The journey really blew my mind.”

Quick arrived at Doane in 2005, deflated by the failure of his small business. Closing doors had knocked the wind out of him. To that point, his career had been 20 years of success, advancing in each of his jobs. He had worked in property management in Lincoln. Then he started his own freight brokerage company with an office in the Haymarket.

“I really thought I found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But like so many small businesses, the odds of success are against you.

“This was a huge failure for me and it led to my crossroads. I was afraid that if I did not reset my course, I would be stuck in a loop of job after job.”

That’s what GPS is to the majority of its students – a crossroads – to adults looking for a new path or purpose.

Quick worked at a manufacturing company while he earned his undergraduate degree in human relations. He graduated in 2009, just as the economy downsized his position. His Doane degree and management background secured a materials management position at Lincoln Surgical Hospital, a job he loves. He is also enrolled in Doane’s Master of Arts in Management program.  

But if you talk with him about Doane, it’s photography that dominates the conversation. The class and its results were the most unexpected aspect of his undergraduate degree.

“I hate to say it, but I took it because I needed the credit and it sounded easy.”

Until that class and the artful instruction of John Keller, he had used a camera only to document events in his life, such as birthdays, travels and holidays. 

“About the second week into the course, my brain just blew up, like, ‘Where has this been my whole life?’”

He fell in love with lessons on compositions and mechanics. Every spare minute outside of class, work and family, he took photos. By the time the course wrapped up, he had much more than three credits. He had a new passion. 

He now he carries a little black book everywhere he goes. When he sees a subject to shoot, he writes it down and goes back, usually more than once, trying to capture color, light, shade, rain or a rare hue in the sky.

“It’s a little bit of obsession, a little bit of craziness,” he admits.

His art is built on repetition, patterns and contrasting images. His most popular seller is “Red Escape,” a green fire escape against a red background in the Haymarket. People pass by it every day in an alley on North 9th Street. But his lens isolated it and made it art. 

His favorite photo? It’s a question he doesn't like because it's a bit like asking someone to pick a favorite kid. But if he has to, he chooses “Blast Off,” a black-and-white of funky streetlight bulbs that look like they are about to be launched in the sky.  He picks it for its back story. It took many photo shoots, dodging freight trucks, to find the perfect shot. 

Ron can find art in just about any urban setting: a row of green arena seats with a lone red Coke cup left behind; a jumble of electric box covers; in the linear repetition of parking stall outlines.

At this point, his photography is still a hobby and a stress reliever.

“I don't want to turn (it) into work,” he jokes.

He’s content to see where it goes. 

No matter what field students choose, in his opinion, Doane builds a foundation for future success. For him, it turned out to be a career and a hobby.

“I would encourage anyone to give Doane a try. The longer you are out of the school setting, the more you dread going back. … The beauty of Doane is that they put all that to rest. It’s a small environment and the best part is that you find so many people sitting next to you who are in the exact same boat as you.”