Why I am running for City Council (the longish story)
While attending my second year in graduate school in New York City at Parsons School of Design in 2001, I lived in Astoria, Queens—my life, all our lives changed, on 9/11.
It was the most frightening, real experience. I was hundreds of miles away from home and only a few from Ground Zero. I watched that second tower fall on my TV then the screen went to static. My radio did not work. My phone didn’t either. I thought it was the end of the world. In some ways it was.
My phone calls to assure my family that I was ok, would not go through until later in the afternoon. The tower we all needed was on top of Tower 2 which was destroyed.
It was chaos. My school was closed for two weeks. The air smelled like burnt flesh, paper, buildings. Ashes fell from the sky daily. Papers littered the streets. Jets flew low and overhead.
I was supposed to present my summer thesis research that September morning. I did not get stuck on the subway because my colleague was already in Manhattan and called me when it was reported that Tower 1 had been hit. He said, “Sonia don’t go to school yet. Wait. Turn on the TV. A plane has just crashed into a building downtown.”
Fast forward to 2003. I successfully graduated and earned my Master of Fine Art in Design and Technology from the top school of design in the world. My first job with that terminal degree was at Monroe College in the Bronx. I taught HTML to community college students.
In that year, I had interviews at Columbia University, Ontario College of Art and Design, (OCAD U, the largest and most comprehensive art, design and media university in Canada), and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, with a student population that was 80% Native American heritage. I turned down some schools, others sent the rejection letters. I just wasn’t finding the right fit for me.
That Spring I took a trip to Hawaii. When I stepped off the plane on the Big Island and breathed in the humidity and could smell soil and plants it was as if a giant weight of stress melted from my body. That was the beginning of my realization and healing from PTSD-like symptoms.
Less than 2 months later, I was back in Arkansas. During that incredible time in Hawaii I realized that I needed to be back in Arkansas with my family! I asked myself why I was ever in NYC. The answer—there was no design school in Arkansas! So that became my mission—to bring the first school of design to Arkansas and there was no better place than South Fayetteville!!! Northwest Arkansas had an impressive concentration of corporations—Tyson, JB Hunt, Walmart—that all needed top talent!!
I could train up people to go into those jobs, but only with these conditions:
1. It would be affordable
2. It would be fast!
3. It would be practical! They would get hands-on training with real professionals from the area willing to mentor them.
4. And it would fit with an adult’s real work schedule
By 2006, we founded New Design School (New Design Center, because we could not yet call it a school until we gained our license in 2007). Enrollment the first year was 4 students and we continued to grow.
By 2009, the economy tanked. We only had one student enroll that year.
Then, there was Fayetteville Forward!
Mayor Lioneld Jordan invited the community to share their dreams for Fayetteville with one another at at 4-day community event.
I was hooked!! I began connecting myself to the City, to resources, to anything I could get my hands on!!
The Mayor saw my zeal. I received a phone call one day, “Hi, Sonia, this is Mayor Jordan.” I about fell out of my chair. He said, “Would you lead the Creative Economy Action Group in Fayetteville?” Of course, I said a resounding, “YES!”
I never stopped!!
Today, I am still connected to that ever-growing community of incredible individuals of this amazing town!
I want to see Fayetteville continue to provide resources to people for success. That is why I am running for City Council. I believe all people should be financially fit, feel they are in a welcoming town, friendly, and enjoy all of its unique wonders—funky!
I love Fayetteville. There is no other place in the world that I would rather call home.
I want to serve as your next City Council member.
Vote, Sonia Gutierrez for Ward 1, Position 1!