Non-traditional students, a mother-daughter duo, make PCA&D their creative home

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Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

When Lindsay Sensenig starts as a Foundation student this fall at PCA&D, there’s at least one student that this aspiring Photography & Video major will be able to turn to for advice:

Her mother, Mickey Hess, is a Fine Art senior at PCA&D. 

Both of these non-traditional students pursued careers in the healthcare field before life changes brought them back to their creative roots. And both credit PCA&D and the faculty and staff they’ve met for helping to ease the transition back to college to earn their BFA degrees. 

From health care to the creative life

When Mickey graduated high school in 1989, she enrolled in what was then the Pennsylvania School of Art and Design, PCA&D’s precursor. She intended to study interior design, a major the school then offered, and switched to fine art before “life did life,” Mickey says, and she left PSAD. In the years afterward, she earned her Registered Nurse degree, raised a family, and built a career working long hours in health care. 

After a serious car accident left Mickey unable to perform her job to the standard she felt she needed to maintain, it was turning again to art, she said, that saved her. Pushing through an accident-triggered concussion, anxiety, and depression, Mickey said, “art started bringing me back into things … it has been a savior for me. The creative process, the planning, have been a lifesaver for me. It took my brain off losses after the accident and the loss of my career – it’s my purpose.”

Daughter Lindsay, meanwhile, followed in her mom’s footsteps, earning her CNA license and stepping into health care roles. Still, she said, she’s always had a creative mind and a love of photography, serving as an unofficial recorder of life events and for local organizations. And after being accepted into nursing school, she said, she finally came to the conclusion that going further in the field of health care wasn’t what she wanted at all. 

So it was in that state of mind that Lindsay accompanied Mickey to a PCA&D Admissions event. It turned out to be a turning point for them both. 

“From that tour alone I felt like, I’m supposed to be here,” Lindsay said of the College. “It kind of made the decision for me. It’s the creative path I want to take.” She applied without telling her mother, was accepted with a stellar photography portfolio that earned her a scholarship, and then surprised her mom with the news that they’d both be attending PCA&D together. 

Mickey Hess, left, and Lindsay Sensenig. Photo credit Bonnie Kern.

Art ‘makes me feel alive’

When Mickey stepped back into college last fall after an absence of decades, she says, she didn’t necessarily feel right at home right away. Old enough to be the parent of most of her classmates, it took a bit of time before she became “one of them.”

“I just kind of felt out of place, even though everyone was so friendly and the professors I’ve had have been so supportive,” Mickey said, looking back at her first few weeks. “But Bonnie (Kern, Admissions counselor) was my lifesaver in the beginning; she was just a wonderful support person.” And, Mickey added, after her classmates got to know her, “they just see ‘a person’ now, not the gray hair and the fact that I’m not their age.”

“Young people do inspire me,” Mickey added, “just the way I hope that they look at me and see you can make a change” no matter what your age is. 

And her daughter, too, is excited for the changes coming her way this fall when she’s finally enrolled full-time and pursuing her BFA. “It will allow me to have as much creative space in my head as possible, and absorb everything,” Lindsay said. 

“The photography side (of my creative mindset), the only way I can explain it, is that I enjoy it for the other people (I’m photographing) as well,” Lindsay added. “You see yourself in a photo from a different perspective – I want people to say, ‘I never saw it that way.’”

For Mickey, PCA&D has been a jumpstart back into a full-time creative life that for years she pursued as a hobby when she was able to fit it in around life’s demands. This September, she is excited to share, she has been accepted as an emerging artist into the Long’s Park Art Festival: The juried Labor Day Weekend event has been named one of the nation’s best top-rated art festivals. 

Art, she says, “makes me feel alive. I get lost in it … it’s my breathing now, and I didn’t realize all those years what I was missing. I’m so glad I got it back.”

You can see more of their work online: Lindsey Sensenig shares her photography on Instagram at @Linzilouuphotography, and Mickey Hess’s work at be found on Instagram at @theartbox_bymickey