The Star Store was where I took my first steps as an artist. Within its walls, I flourished, pouring my heart into each creation with hard work, dedication, and joy. I was guided by three remarkable teachers, a dynamic trio as I fondly refer to them: Charlotte Hamlin, my beloved fiber professor and adviser, who imparted knowledge with unwavering dedication and precision; Jim Lawton, whose passionate teachings in ceramics left a lasting impact on his students and me; and Alan Thompson, professor of jewelry and metals, a critic whose sharp insights constantly improved my work.
Initially, I was nervous about joining the program due to language barriers, cultural differences, and lack of familiarity with American coding. However, my determination to succeed turned these challenges into significant milestones in my personal growth.
Sometimes I reflect on my decision to come to the United States to study, considering it was a family choice. Uncertainty arises regarding my family’s adjustment, but this trip has opened up new opportunities for all of us.
After my mother passed away and the inability to say goodbye to her, the Star Store became a source of comfort. The MFA program deepened my life’s purpose. Within these walls dwell our stories of struggle, disappointment, and dreams. As the program drew to a close, attendance at MFA Fibers decreased. There were fewer and fewer students, and during that transition period, my classmate Sung JI and I were the last students in the fiber program.
Even today, passing Union Street and catching a glimpse of my studio window, I feel an overwhelming longing to return to that building, one that genuinely makes me feel at home. A fragment of the Star Store will belong to me forever, just as I belong to it.
Paulina Fuenzalida-Guzmán is a native of Chile who now lives in New Bedford.
Editor’s Note: Fuenzalida-Guzmán is the wife of New Bedford Light multimedia reporter Gerardo Beltran Salinas.