Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2024

Title:A leap to the arts

Author: Karen Doss Bowman
Date Published: April 8, 2024
a painting of a woman in a black long-sleeve shirt with black hair and brown eyes
A self-portrait of Marsha Massih (C’84). Image: Courtesy of Marsha Massih

As a government and French major at Georgetown, Marsha Massih (C’84) was prepared for a job in international relations. Though she had always dreamed of being an artist—a passion inspired by her father, an amateur painter—her parents instilled the belief that she should enter a “secure” career.

“Growing up, it was always understood that I could pursue art on the side,” says Massih, who grew up in Iowa. “It was hard for my parents to imagine that anyone could make a living in the arts, so they taught me that a professional degree would be more reliable.”

After graduating from Georgetown, Massih embarked on a dependable, steady career path in government. She earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and worked for several years for the Financial Services Corporation (FSC), now the New York City Economic Development Corporation. For pleasure, she took night classes at The Art Students League of New York.

Though Massih found her FSC job intellectually stimulating, “it didn’t pull at my heartstrings,” she recalls. After taking art classes for about five years, Massih took a leap of faith: she quit her day job to focus on becoming a professional artist, supplementing her income by teaching English and art classes, and ushering at Carnegie Hall.

Massih’s tenacity and devotion to her craft paid off. Over the past 25 years, she has become an award-winning oil painter, exhibiting her work throughout the country and abroad. One of Massih’s paintings was purchased this year for the Hulu series Only Murders in the Building, and displayed in the apartment of actress Meryl Streep’s character. A founding member of the Gardiner Artist Open Studio Tours, she paints and teaches out of her private studio in Gardiner, New York.

Massih credits her perseverance and independence—traits she honed at Georgetown—for her success in the arts. She also spent her junior year at Georgetown studying abroad in Paris, a pivotal experience that exposed her to some of the world’s finest works of art.

“Coming to the East Coast from Iowa to attend Georgetown was quite a transition,” says Massih. “It’s not an easy road to make a living in the arts. It’s a real leap of faith. But my years at Georgetown helped me develop some grit and tenacity, and I’ve been able to apply those experiences and skills to my life as an artist. Those experiences made me who I am today.”

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