Video by Saba Aregai, Danielle McColgan, Breland Moore, Marjorie Thomas, Luis Rodriguez, and Ian Rose. Edited by Brittani Miller.
You could say Michael Rigmaiden lives two separate lives, but he would deny it. On one hand, he is a fixture of the Main Campus community and is working his 21st year as part of the Department of Security and Protection. On the other, he embodies the archetype of the working artist and is blossoming into a successful painter of scenes and landscapes.
After discovering a love for painting in the most unsuspecting of places, Rigmaiden devoted his creative energy to improving his ability. Three years later, he sold his first painting and has an exhibit at Temple in the works.
The Temple News: You seem to be well-known among students. Where do they meet you?
Michael Rigmaiden: I’m in Johnson and Hardwick dormitories at Broad and Diamond streets. I’m pretty personable, and [security officers] should be. You’re the first person that people see when they walk in. No one wants to start their day off seeing a grump. You want to be pleasant.
TTN: How did you start painting?
MR: I would walk along Germantown Avenue to visit my mother who was in Sacred Heart nursing home at the time, and this was about two-and-a-half, maybe three years ago. There was an art gallery belonging to Lucien Crump, a great Afro-American painter. I saw Mr. Crump’s gallery and his paintings were out on the window, and when I was on my way to see my mom I stopped there.
I got to talking with him, and I would stop in routinely on the way to see my mom. I don’t know how many times I went in to talk with him. Every time I went in, he would tell me something different about the aspect of painting. He taught me a lot of how to set up a scene, about backgrounds, about colors and mixing certain colors, those kinds of things. I retained a lot of what he told me, he impressed me so much. I said to myself, “You know what, I really need to get myself an easel and I need to get some canvases.”
TTN: You have a painting hanging up in Chief of Staff William Bergman’s office. How did that happen?
MR: I told him about my painting and he asked me matter-of-factly, “Could you show me some of your work?” I brought about five or six paintings over and he seemed impressed. He asked me, “If I send you a digital photograph, could you try to paint it?” I said I’d try. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It was probably one of the toughest things I’ve tried to do to date. At one point I had to use a magnifying glass and was actually tapping the figure with color. I brought it over to him, and within five minutes he told me, “Hey, this is just great.” I was riding on a cloud for two or three days after that.
TTN: Do you see yourself primarily as a security officer or an artist?
MR: I think I’m both. I’m learning the profession of painting, but I’ve been a professional security officer since 1988. So I kind of have a corner on both of them. But being an artist is a great thing; I think everything else ties into that. I try to have vision, to see things clearly. This job helps, though, being around the professors and the people in my department that have been very helpful to me – giving me helpful opinions about my paintings. They’re both very important to me.
TTN: With your security job here and your painting, does one life influence the other?
MR: Yeah, you could say that. I think basically artists take from life itself. I don’t think there’s really a boundary when it comes to vision, so I think I draw from being at Temple. I know when I come here to campus in the morning the skies are always a different color through the seasons. I’m walking down Montgomery Avenue from Broad maybe 25 minutes after 6 a.m. and I look at the sky and the skies are just magnificent. If I’m walking down Norris Street and I’m looking east and it’s all open sky, there’s crimson, gold, different kinds of colors. It’s just spectacular what I see when I’m on campus at that time of morning.
Zack Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.