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Puskas Pursues Prolific Passions

It’s not too far a leap from the dance studio to designing store window displays.They’re both creative outlets for self-expression. Both are visually artistic and attract large audiences, at least when there’s a high enough degree of talent involved.

And for Alec Puskas, BPA ’87, elements of both disciplines were necessary in his first job out of college at the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie.

“I was hired because I could perform on stage and run a table saw,” Puskas explained.“It was a brand new theater company so we all had to have multiple skills.”

Puskas now owns a design company in Seattle calledVisionart. He specializes in staging new homes, retail merchandise displays, and storefront windows.Among his many clients is the Space Needle, which includes a famous Christmas tree display.

“It’s fun knowing that hundreds of people take photos in front of that tree every year,” he said.

With the type of design he is known for, the Christmas season is his busiest time.

“Some people think of the holidays as a very stressful time, but I love it. People just seem happier, more spirited, and more willing to treat each other with respect. I love that time of year,” he said.

Puskas opened his own design firm after working for the Nordstrom retail store company for 10 years.There he designed

and built window displays and floor displays, and spent many years setting up new stores around the country. His first job at Nordstrom was in the scenic shop, where crews build handmade, hand-painted decorations for stores around the Pacific Northwest.

Puskas got into decorating at a young age. During a celebration of one of his more recent birthdays,his mother recounted a story about his propensity for decorating his room.

“I didn’t have clothes in my closet,” he said. “Instead it had a bunch of brown grocery bags full of decorations I made for my room. I kept changing my decor and saved everything I thought I might use again.

“When my dad redid my room after I moved out, he said he didn’t realize what a mess I was making.There was all this tape stuck to the ceiling and walls—it was tough to clean it off.”

Puskas grew up in the Detroit area. He would take family trips to Chicago during Christmas breaks from school and remembers being inspired by the many unique, creative, and intricate store window displays on State Street downtown.

His mother sang opera, so Puskas grew up around performance stages. His father taught woodshop in high school, so he also grew up around craftsmanship.

He took tap dancing classes throughout high school and helped design and build scenic designs for plays. He said he was torn between pursuing theater tech work and performing for a living.

A family member had heard about the dance program at OCU, and Puskas said a visit convinced him that he should make the move to Oklahoma. It was 1983, and Jo Rowan, chairwoman of the dance department, had recently started traveling the country on recruiting trips for her new dance program.

“Jo and John (Bedford, dean of the school) were so influential to me.They not only excel in teaching dance, but also in preparing you for life,” he said.“Jo had all of these little sayings she would use, little lessons that translate into any field you want to work in.They conveyed a way of life, a way of thinking that put me where I am today.”

For example, before his interview for a job with Nordstrom, he said he went out and bought new clothes so that he would look the part to his future employer.

“I went in and did everything I thought it would take to work at a company like Nordstrom, and it worked out for me.”

His advice to students preparing to graduate from college is similar to what he learned at OCU:“Follow your passion, no matter what it is—dance, painting, music. You’ll be your best if you’re doing something you like to do.”