Julia and Josh Jalowiec Aren’t Typical Undergrads

Two Meadows art students, both in their 40s, are navigating a new career

When Julia and Josh Jalowiec talk about their art, they sound like they are talking about loved ones. You can hear the devotion and excitement in their voices. They love working with iron and bronze and, well, aluminum is good too, and painting! And metal casting and ceramics! Printmaking—can’t leave out printmaking—and book making. And photography! They cherish their study-related travels to New Mexico and to France. They’ll tell you they’ve gotten more out of the museums in Dallas, thanks to the behind-the-scenes access they get as art students at SMU Meadows School of the Arts.

Julia and Josh are not your typical undergraduate students: Both are adults in their 40s. They married young, at ages 19 and 20. They have four artistic children, the youngest of whom is 12, the eldest, 22. And they live in McKinney, Texas, a 45-minute drive to campus. They recently transferred to SMU Meadows from Collin College. Their experiences at Meadows have gone beyond what they had expected.

Art in high gear

The past six years have been a roller coaster ride for the couple.

“I’d never made art before 2013,” says Julia. “I’d never even taken an art class before going to community college.” Her decision to start art classes was spurred by a cancer diagnosis in 2012. Reeling from her 16th round of chemo, she made the decision to change the trajectory of her life and enrolled in Collin College. There, she found art to be a healing experience. “It is my zen place,” she told a reporter for Collin College News.

And Josh—who had been offered a scholarship to The Art Institute of Chicago as a high school student but couldn’t afford the remaining tuition at the time—had largely put his own art making on hold while he and Julia raised their children. He spent 12 years working for The Container Store, most of those years in the sign shop. He followed Julia to Collin College in 2014 and quickly became reacquainted with metal casting, sculpture and more. He worked as a studio assistant in the Collin College art labs until last December.

Julia was first to apply to SMU.

“I went to one of Meadows’ art portfolio reviews for high school kids and transfer students,” she recalls. There she visited with faculty members Mary Vernon and Barnaby Fitzgerald. “The portfolio review was so helpful because community college is a very different experience, I think, than a university setting. It gave me a feel for the department and the professors. The professors were probably the most helpful part; they give you a critique mixed in with the review of your work.” Her interest was piqued. She applied and was accepted.

Josh followed suit.

“I had the luxury of watching Julia’s early experience here,” he says. “She would come home and talk about her classes, the people she was meeting, the things she was doing. Sometimes I’d come to visiting artist lectures with her, or I’d just come up to the school and visit with Brian Molanphy, associate professor of ceramics, and learn more personally what was happening at Meadows.”

Josh attended the fall 2016 portfolio review and became a Meadows B.F.A. art student in January 2018.

Julia Jalowiec, "The Audience." Ceramic vessels, 2017

“I think the biggest draw for me was, one, the caliber of the professors and their background, not just educationally, but the work that they’re producing,” he says. “And then, two, the amazing networking opportunities that exist here.”

Julia agrees. “They have incredible people come and do studio visits here with the students — like, somebody from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It just blows my mind.”

Community art: wall mural at the Dallas Farmers Market in downtown Dallas

Julia has been getting extra attention for her art lately. Thanks to her SMU French professor, Paola Buckley, she was introduced to the owners of the Dallas Farmers Market, who in turn invited her to exhibit her art on the 15-acre market’s South Pearl Street side. She said yes immediately—saying “yes” is a habit of hers—then realized she might have underestimated the scope of the project.

“They also said they have this 150-foot construction fence, and could I do something with it?” she says. “I was like, of course I can do something with it, and asked when did they want it done? And they’re like oh, a few weeks. I was, like, okay, I can do it. I just said yes, thinking, of course I can paint 150 feet in three weeks, right?

“This was a great opportunity to bring in fellow artists to assist in such a large and fast project. I called on friends and artists from both SMU and Collin College,” she says. “It was about community and support of local artists. That is everything I am about. We all painted together and something incredible happened there. That mural changed the aesthetic of that entire street.”

Julia ended up painting 10 black-and-white portraits, each 8 feet by 8 feet. Josh painted a 16-foot by 8-foot section commemorating the Farmall tractor, farm history and work ethic, which fit nicely into themes he often uses in his art, namely blue-collar life, work, labor, tools and more. The other panels were painted by myriad artist friends, depicting vegetables and aliens and hearts and fish and flowers and pumpkins, a cornucopia of color, art and styles. In addition to the mural, Jalowiec was able to showcase her art during a special one-night show, "Humanity: Portraits from Paris and Dallas in Sculpture, Prints and Paintings," on November 10.

Josh Jalowiec's "After breakfast he put on his snowsuit and ran outside." Cast iron and enamel, 2016.

“Now they’ve asked me to paint a mural on Cesar Chavez Boulevard, which is huge!” she says, beaming. “And I have opportunities to work with the City of Dallas, as well.”

Julia says her SMU professors are helping her navigate the business side of art.

“Professor Lauren Woods advised me on the Farmers Market project,” she says. “And Dr. Michael Corris really helped advise me about contracts, and what’s expected, what happens to the work after they take it down, and all of these things that I just hadn’t even thought about before. I’ve also met with Dr. Simon Mak from the Cox School of Business to discuss business development.”

“There are things that will change your life.”

“What I want people to know is, if you look closely at SMU, there are opportunities to do anything that you want,” says Julia. “Like, my mentor for my Engaged Learning Fellowship [SMU’s funded research program], Brian Molanphy, has encouraged me to submit to publications. There are grants available to do incredible things. There are things that will change your life and put you in places to promote your art and to do the things that you’re coming here to do. I just don’t know that everybody knows about all of the opportunities available. They’re just so incredible, and so beautiful, and the hearts of the people here are so great.”

“I second that,” says Josh. “I was impressed that we have some really nice travel opportunities, like SMU-in-Taos and all the study abroad programs. And Meadows has been doing the New York Colloquium for a couple of decades now. From friends that I have at other art colleges, I know that it’s somewhat unique here—there’s less begging and scrapping for travel and resources. It has been sort of unexpected and very enriching.

“I’ve researched some other schools. I recommend that, if you’re looking at art schools, to really look not just at what’s happening inside the building. Investigate what’s happening outside the four walls of the art school and see the amazing things that are happening here.”

Julia Jalowiec will graduate with a B.F.A. in art and a minor in art history from SMU Meadows in May 2018. During the commencement ceremony she will serve in a position of honor as Commencement Marshal for SMU Meadows Division of Art. Josh Jalowiec will graduate with a B.F.A. in art from Meadows in December 2019.

Read more about Julia Jalowiec and Josh Jalowiec.

Read more about SMU Meadows School of the Arts Division of Art and the twice-yearly portfolio reviews for high school and transfer students.

The Farmers Market Mural Project:  A Cornucopia of Artists

Phoebe Peng, left; Qusai Aqeel, center (with scarf); Jorge Nunez, center (with orange backpack); and visitors at the Farmers Market.

Julia Jalowiec invited art friends from SMU and from Collin College to help paint a 150-foot wall at the Dallas Farmers Market in fall 2017. In addition to Julia and her husband, Josh, the mural artists included:

  • Qusai Aqeel, SMU B.F.A. Art ’18
  • Emily Carter, Collin, painter
  • Celina Doro, Collin, painter
  • Karyn Doro, related to Collin student and hadn't ever had a chance to work publicly
  • Charlotte Flowers, painter
  • Sarah Fun, SMU B.F.A. Art ’18
  • Ray Garton, a patron of Dallas Farmers Market. “We met him while we painted,” says Julia. “He worked for DART for 20 years after graduating with an art degree. So we gave him a place to finally paint.”
  • Bea Goldflam, a patron of Dallas Farmers Market and a local artist, met the Jalowiecs during the mural project.
  • Ian Grieve, SMU B.F.A. Art ’19
  • Derrick Hamm, Collin, painter, printmaker
  • Chris Hoover, corporate artistic director, professional artist 
  • Abby Lane, artist; daughter of Julia and Josh
  • Jorge Nunez, patron of Dallas Farmers Market, met the Jalowiecs while painting. “He had a hard start and just needed a place to paint,” says Julia.
  • Jiayun (Phoebe) Peng, SMU student, studied painting in China since she was 3 years old, potter
  • Suz Perry, Collin, painter
  • Caleb Riney, Collin
  • Robyn Rozelle, Collin, painter, drawer, printmaker
  • Jennifer Seibert, Collin, painting professor
  • Yao Yao, artist. “She paints an almost dead language spoken only by a small group of monks in Thailand,” says Julia. “She studied with them and they asked her to spread their language so it wouldn't die. She painted a blessing in this language on the mural.”