Jim Potterton: Keeping It Real

Dr. Jim Potterton’s 37-year career at San Jose City College (SJCC) spanned from 1978 as an adjunct social psychology instructor who became a full time hire in 1980, to his service as Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities between 1995 to 1998, and then back to teaching until retirement in 2012, and adjunct teaching until 2015.  In his classes Jim strived to link psychology to real life and he usually offered students a range of projects to complete which involved reflective journal-writing and classroom presentations. The journals were structured around answering target questions related to the various learning objectives of each course.  In the late 1990s, Jim was a key member of a steering committee that brought the Service Learning Program to San Jose City College. He became a strong advocate for service learning so much so that it was always an option for his student projects. Service learning involves students performing community service which an instructor links to the course curriculum.  Jim’s students explored aspects of psychology in child care, education, immigration programs, homeless shelters, museums, the Alzheimer’s Activity Center, physical therapy centers, youth recreational programs, and the criminal justice system. He also allowed students to suggest a project that was of personal interest to them. For Jim, service learning was about empowering students to make the course about real life outside the class and to pursue their own goals.

Jim has lived much in the same way as he has taught, driven by his great desire for social change, which he is continuously promoting even in retirement. While teaching psychology at SJCC in the 1990s, Jim and a colleague created a consulting business that helped unions recruit staff. Over thirty years later as a retiree, Jim is busier than ever.  His firm, Margolies, Potterton & Associates, has recently expanded and even has international clients. They are active during the pandemic promoting their new website, unionsearch.org . When there exist hiring freezes or radical changes in the workplace, such as in this pandemic, they provide other assistance to unions.  In particular, Jim offers wellness consulting and classes, remote or onsite, in stress management and mindfulness practice in healthcare, criminal justice, and other government settings. A favorite and long-time client has been the Public Defenders Office of Monterey County.

Rio San Lorenzo, Spring 2020

Another passion of Jim Potterton has its roots in the doodling and drawing he did for fun as a youngster.  As a psychology instructor he was fascinated by the link of psychology and creativity.  He took advantage of the excellent art classes at Jose City College, and was inspired and encouraged by instructors Joseph Zirker, Luis Gutierrez, Michelle Gregor, and especially Eve Page-Mathias, who, he says, “ignited” his artwork. Eve curated Jim’s first exhibit in the SJCC Art Gallery in 2005, done for his sabbatical. Jim continued developing his painting in acrylics.  From 2006 through 2018, he has participated in one or two group shows yearly, and has had two solo exhibitions.  He has won numerous awards, mainly in California and several in New York City. He was nominated for a Rydell Fellowship for 2018-9.  Jim’s images are mainly  of nature:  waters, California coastal formations, countryside; some are of urban landscapes.  The style is most often realistic, but with some paintings done in an abstract mode.  You can see some samples in this newsletter and numerous others online at jimpotterton.com.  Also, Jim has produced a very interesting video, “Jim Potterton Painting with a View,” which is readily available at YouTube.  It demonstrates how he paints and his creative process. In the video, Jim explains how the process of painting is “magical.” He describes the energy and joy that he derives from nature and how he aims to convey this same energy and joy to the viewer. His artwork is an exploration of his deeply-felt interaction with nature. During Open Studios Santa Cruz each year, you can visit Jim’s studio and see and purchase his most recent paintings. The address is at the website.

Not surprisingly, Jim has found ways to connect his desire for social change to his passion for painting.  One year, he permitted Save Our Shores to create a calendar using his images of the coast.  This supported its effort to fight for clean beaches and clean ocean water.  Then in the fall of 2016, Jim created the program Art for Social Justice. To encourage charitable giving in the community, he offered forty landscape paintings for free if an individual committed to donating to a charity an amount equal to the value of a painting, which ranged from $50 to $250. He raised over $3000 for some worthy organizations in one day.

Jim Potterton, retiree, keeps extremely busy, by being highly engaged in the fight for our environment as well as in the ongoing struggle for social justice for workers and for the underserved in our communities.  What an impressive picture this paints!

Please enjoy this video of Jim describing his artwork and process:

Click on an image below to be taken to the collection on Jim’s Website: