aka: Joanne Motichka

Prescott College AffiliationAlumni
Area of StudyLiberal Arts
Graduation Year1974

The diverse educational experience I received at Prescott College almost 28 years ago evolved into a multi-faceted career which has been, to coin a 60s phrase, "one long, fantastic trip."

After leaving Prescott in 1974, I worked in a variety of professions including being the first (female) 20-year-old New York City taxi cab driver, playing in a rock'n roll group and joining a construction crew. In 1990 I began working with the Central Park Historical Society creating curricula for their Leadership Program and conducting tours of Central Park, the Museum of Natural History and my art studio in NYC for special education students. During that time I led classes in recycling, helped rehabilitate injured birds and directed workshops for public school teachers at NYU. 

My work shifted in 1991 as I explored the environmental link to disease, having become a new member of the cancer club. My investigation into the medical/cancer industry yielded disturbing results. "We're practicing politics without principle, science without humanity and medicine without logic," was my motto. With my direct visuals, speak-outs, demonstrations and articles I helped bring attention to the 'silent epidemic' and to cancer prevention, and I became an advocate for alternative treatments. My alliance with Greenpeace, Wac, Wham and 1 in 9 (to name a few grassroots groups) inspired numerous works that received extensive exhibition and press coverage, in addition to many awards and proclamations.

From 1994-1997 I received the Rachel Carson Award, the best Environmental Poster Award, Humanitarian of the Year Award, Person of the Week (Peter Jennings worldwide news) and the Gilda Radner Award. One of my pictures was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and received six gold and silver prizes from design and newspaper competitions, including a front page award from the Newswomen's Club of New York. In 1996 I produced an award-winning catalog with a grant from the New York Foundation of the Arts. Many of my pictures, articles, essays and interviews have been published in a variety of venues from Glamour magazine and Encyclopedia Britannica to documentaries and made for TV films.

My advocacy has its roots in Prescott College, beginning with the endangered red tail hawk, which provided both a metamorphic and metaphoric approach to my pursuits. In 1974 I witnessed one student's determination to protect his pet hawk and subsequent heartbreak when the captive flew away. Ironically, when I returned east a month later I was confronted by my father's trophy: a stuffed red tail sat on top his television set! I realized then that education is the most powerful tool we have to inform the public.

Years later I was fortunate to watch a bird I rescued set free in Central Park after six months of rehab . . . Its flight to freedom set a pace for putting my dreams and thoughts to use. If a person is determined and committed to something she believes in, she can fly free, dream and soar to record heights. The trick though, is returning to earth with aspirations that can help advance society through personal contribution and commitment.

Advice for students:

  • When you want to do something that you know in your heart is right, don't take no for an answer.
  • Experience: get as much of it as possible.
  • Examine how others have approached projects you wish to explore - then do it differently. Be original.
  • Embrace diversity, but don't conform. Adjust when necessary but always stay true to your truth and vision.
  • Always make time to dream.
    Do things that make you happy.