Finding What Makes You Tick: Reiker Dean’s Path to Self-Discovery

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As a young boy, rising senior Reiker Dean sprawled out on the floor with paper and watercolors next to his mother as she brushed oil paint onto a canvas. It was the beginning of a lifetime appreciation for art and a strong relationship with his mom, Amy (Gardner) Dean ’92.

Reiker attributes his success in part to his mom’s influence. In fact, Amy, a graduate of Olivet’s studio art program, was the one to introduce Reiker to Olivet.

“My mom’s been a big inspiration in my life,” Reiker said. “She has supported me 100% of the way.”

The visual arts major originally wanted to pursue biological illustration, but after he fell in love with painting, he switched to a concentration in studio art.

“I knew I’d be betraying myself if I did something else,” Reiker said. “I knew I was lying to myself if I wanted to take the cushy, easier route with biological illustration. I was lying to myself if I didn’t take fine arts. Olivet helped me find my passion, truly discover what it is that makes me tick, and for that I’m eternally grateful.”

Amy wasn’t surprised when she heard Reiker wanted to change his concentration. She’s offered her complete support over the years. In high school, Reiker dreamed of becoming a psychiatrist. Amy, recognizing the talent her son had, encouraged him to start sketching in his free time. Eventually his plans of medical school dissolved and Reiker dove head first into the world of art.

“My mom said she could tell I was going to be a studio art major from the first time I showed her one of my paintings,” Reiker said. “She has been fantastic for me my whole life. If I have a question about anything art-related, she’ll answer right away.”

Promoting the Arts

Reiker Dean: Oranges with Blue Cloth and Knife, oil on panel, 8”x 10”, 2018

As an artist, one of the projects Reiker is most proud of is the Arts and Culture Showcase series he helped create as the vice president of Art Alliance. The project started when he and rising senior Tyler Thenikl displayed some of their paintings and gave a lecture describing the process. The showcase is held weekly at the library and explores all kinds of art, including music, literature and performing arts. Reiker believes it’s important to be exposed to the arts no matter the facet.

Besides his involvement in Art Alliance, Reiker is also the president of Alpha Lambda Epsilon and a graduate of the President’s Leadership Institute. He claims that both roles have helped develop his leadership skills. But some of the most important lessons are ones he’s learned in the classroom.

“Learning to work with others has been a big lesson,” Reiker said. “A lot of the time you can be very introspective when you’re doing work with art. It’s helpful to bounce ideas off one another to achieve the goals you’re trying to achieve. And as that relates to professionalism, you really have to work as a team even more for the arts because everything is so personal. You learn to critique valuably and find kind ways to critique people. You have to learn how to take criticism.

“My major also teaches how to promote yourself and network, which will help me along the way. If you can get your foot in the door like Olivet allows you to do, you not only learn something, but you grow as an artist and as a person.”

Doing What You Love

After taking a residency and attending graduate school, Reiker dreams of becoming a working artist like his mother. The studio arts field is hard to get into, but he is ready to face any challenges before him. With determination and passion, he believes, success can be found. He’s putting in the work.

“My experience at Olivet has taught me time management and patience,” Reiker said. “Each painting I do, I put at least 80 hours into. It really takes diligence to wait for paint to dry and keep a constant schedule going so you can achieve what you want to do.

“But the hard work you put into yourself will reward you, and whenever you feel like you can’t work anymore, there’s always 10% more to give. You make what you make in your life. And you can’t betray yourself no matter how much the odds are stacked against you. The results are incomparable with anything when you put in the work. The more time you dedicate to the things you love, the more rewarding life will be.”

To learn more about The University of Olivet, contact the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu.


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