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Meet the Artist

William Rowan on his journey to photography

William Rowan discovered calligraphy through his interest in composing and arranging music.
Courtesy Image
William Rowan, this week’s Summer of Art artist, came to visual art through music. Rowan holds degrees in piano, organ and harpsichord performance from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and the University of Michigan. His interest in composing led to an interest in calligraphy, which was his gateway to visual art.

“Great art and music has always been my source of inspiration,” Rowan said.

Rowen, 64, picked up a digital SLR camera for about four years ago.

“Thanks to the digital format, one is able to progress much faster in photography than was possible in the days of film,” he said.

For Rowan, photography is a way to capture fleeting moments of beauty.

“We often experience extraordinary moments in our lives, yet they rush by, buried in the avalanche of time, and quickly grow dim in our memories,” Rowan said. “Photography helps us capture the spirit and feel of those cherished experiences, and, just as important, enables us to share them with others.”

While Rowan enjoys nature photography, he tries to open up his experience and try different things.

“I dabble at everything from macro (photos of very small things) to wildlife to people photography,” he said.

While photography has gotten more accessible with digital cameras and smartphones, Rowan feels that the accessibility allows people to take photography for granted. He argues people should have a greater appreciation for the power of photos.

“Photography, especially good photography, is the single best way to preserve the memory, spirit and essence of what we cherish,” Rowan said.

The key, he said, is to take these resources and work to improve your art.

“Talent exists,” Rowan said. “And though few people believe this, anyone can learn to do almost anything well, given a good attitude and concerted effort.”

Rowan was music director for 17 years at Lansing’s St. Mary Cathedral but now works as a departmental analyst for the Michigan Department of Education. He still carves out time for creative pursuits.

“Being creative is profoundly rewarding,” Rowan said. “And no matter what your age, it’s never too late to take up or cultivate your passion.”

Rowan encourages aspiring artists to watch “I Will What I Want,” a video available on YouTube starring African-American ballet star Misty Copeland.

“It features her dancing while she reads a devastating rejection letter from a ballet school listing all the reasons she will never succeed,” Rowan said. “It’s the finest example of an artist transcending discouragement and believing in herself I’ve ever seen.”

Rowan is currently working on an ambitious Lansing-focused project.

“We have a wonderful, diverse community, and I am planning a ‘Faces of Lansing’ project,” he said. “How marvelous it would be to record a sampling of our city — the homeless, children, immigrants, artists, educators, workers, City Pulse reporters, etc.”

Great art, Rowan said, helps us make sense of the world around us.

“Creativity and art helps us hold onto our birthright ability to experience beauty and mystery, Rowan said. “It helps give meaning in a world of chaos.”



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