In a career spanning more than four decades, sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg is arguably most famous for crafting the iconic “Rocky” statue, which sits near the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
During a series of talks on the Lincroft campus on Oct. 12, however, the artist reminisced on his lesser-known beginnings as one of Brookdale’s first art professors.
“It means a lot to me to come back here, because Brookdale was kind of an important part of my career,” said Schomberg, speaking with a group of faculty and community members in the CVA Gallery as part of the 2015 Visiting Artist series. “It was a great opportunity for me at the time.”
Schomberg recounted his winding career from 1950’s Iowa, where he began to form his identity as a young artist, through a series of advanced academic programs and a sprawling tour of nearly three quarters of the great museums in Europe. After earning a Master’s degree in fine arts, Schomberg accepted an offer from a classmate to teach at a relatively new community college on the east coast.
Teaching life drawing and art appreciation, Schomberg said he enjoyed his life as a teacher at Brookdale. Over time, however, he began to realize he would have to choose between the demanding life of a professional sculptor or that of a full-time classroom professor.
Soon after, he met his future wife and long-time agent Cynthia, who was taking a night class at Brookdale and who supported him when he decided to choose the uncertain path of the artist.
The two made a formidable team, allowing Schomberg to carve out a prolific artistic career over the following 30-plus years. Today, the sculptor’s work can be found in China, Ireland, Switzerland and Poland, at Yankee Stadium and the New Orleans Superdome, and right here in New Jersey.
Schomberg also spoke at length about his artistic process, his inspiration and some moments that defined his career, including his chance meeting with actor Sylvester Stallone, who would go on to commission the now-famous Rocky statue during the filming of “Rocky III.”
The sculptor also related some of the same professional and artistic advice he gave to a class of Brookdale art students earlier that same day.
“Know thyself,” he said. “Early on, I tried to focus as much as I could on finding out who I was. I probably spent a lot more time doing that than most people do…Write your name down on a piece of paper, look at that, and focus on that personality.”
Schomberg also gave his compliments to the Brookdale faculty in the audience, many of whom have remained friends with the artist since his departure from the college.
“My career has certainly been blessed, and I was very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing,” he said. “But I love teaching, and I honor those people here who teach. You are influential, and you are important…As I told the students earlier today, ‘Educate, educate, educate. They can’t take that away from you.'”
The 2015 Visiting Artist Program is sponsored by the Brookdale Art Society with additional support from the The Monmouth County Arts Council.
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Check out more photos of Thomas Schomberg’s presentation here.