Decorated to Disabled: A Lifeline in the Arts - New England College
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Decorated to Disabled: A Lifeline in the Arts

IAD graduate Andrew Dow

An Iraqi mortar attack left Andrew Dow, BFA in Fine Arts ‘21, with fractured teeth, memory loss (he suffered a traumatic brain injury that would not be diagnosed until years later), and a gunshot wound to his wrist. Formerly a decorated officer with a dozen medals of honor, Dow was eventually discharged from the National Guard 100 percent disabled. A graduate of the Massachusetts Military Academy and Officers’ Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia, Dow had mastered military hummer mechanics, field artillery, amphibious assault, and jungle warfare before retiring from his military career.

Graduate Andrew Dow serving in Iraq

Upon returning home with injuries, Dow counted on medication to help him cope with the pain. Only he couldn’t sleep. For 21 days, Dow stayed awake. When his body couldn’t take it, he landed in a VA Hospital, where he was diagnosed and treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Thirteen electric convulsive therapy sessions—during the last of which he flatlined—caused other health issues, like seizures. He knew something wasn’t right. Finally, it took a different doctor to realize that Dow had been misdiagnosed.

“Two years later, I was still on meds, and, frankly, suicidal,” said Dow. “I was driving, and I thought, maybe I should just speed up and slam my car into a wall.” It was then that he spotted a pylon sign announcing a going-out-of-business sale for a stained-glass company, all reasonable offers considered. He ended up buying it for $200.

“I was inspired,” said Dow. “I was doing stained glass, etchings, lead cane kiln-fired pieces, carvings, and paintings. I have a 30-inch state seal, carved and painted, in the Visitor’s Center at the State Capitol. It is one of two independent pieces in the permanent collection.”

New Hampshire state seal crafted by Andrew Dow

As more people saw Dow’s work, they encouraged him to take it to the next level—to meet with the artists at the New Hampshire League of Craftsmen, for which he is a juried member, and to seek formal training from master artists. That was when he discovered the Institute of Art and Design at New England College.

“What attracted me to NEC was the impressive faculty and the opportunity to have real-world experiences,” said Dow. “My photography professor, Yoav Horesh, introduced me to Eric Schwartz, the engineer manager for the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. He developed and built mirrors for space telescopes, like the Hubble telescope. I had the honor of doing an internship with him at his Boston business, InFusion Art Glass.”

Andrew Dow working at InFusion Artglass

Dow found NEC to be worth the hour commute to experience world-class faculty who are working artists. “I wanted to learn from the masters, and I feel I have,” he said. During his time at NEC, Dow earned an Art and Civil Engagement award, an induction into Omicron Delta Kappa, Serve Honor Society, Alpha Chi Eta, and a place on the Dean’s list every semester at NEC. He has received letters of appreciation from the New Hampshire Governor’s Office for his drawing and silk screen printing of the State Seal on the statehouse office door, the Martin Luther King Jr. Estate for his tribute art piece to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s passing, and from the President and Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives for the carved State Seal that remains in place today.

Ceramics made by graduate Andrew Dow

For Dow, his graduation from NEC was truly a commencement. Next up, artist residencies, art shows, and new discoveries. “My faculty mentors have opened a new world for me,” said Dow. “People like Professor Eileen Green, who taught me watercolor painting and the power of believing in someone. She reminds me of my saintly mom, and I think the world of her.”

View Andrew’s work on Facebook and Instagram.

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