Kelly and the Wabash-New York Arts program
'd encourage anyone with any thoughts of pursuing art to go there," Kelly says of the College's New York Arts Program, which he credits for getting him "fired up" about pursuing a career in photography.
Kelly was apprenticed to photographer Agnes Denes, who continues to be a supporter and mentor. When Kelly began working with her, Denes had just completed photographing a huge field of wheat she had planted on vacant land beneath the Manhattan skyline.
"Agnes had hauled in dumptruck loads of topsoil, made 3 1/2 acres of arable land on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, and planted it with wheat," Kelly explains. "It gave these people on Wall Street the smell of fresh ground. As the wheat grew, people started coming and breathing the air around Agnes' wheat field as it blew in the wind."
Among Kelly's job as Denes' intern was the cataloging of slides the photographer took of the wheat field during various stages of growth.
"She has photos of golden wheat waving in front of the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center," says Kelly with an appreciative laugh. He believes his experience with Denes--and his time apprenticing for his other arts program mentor, sculptor/photographer Sandra Skoglund--showed him the passion and commitment necessary for pursuing a career in the arts.
"They worked so hard," Kelly says, recalling that Skoglund would not even break for a meal without her husband's persistent insistence. "I saw in both of them the willingness to pour themselves into their work."