On February 9th, the Nielsen Center for Visual Arts had its grand opening at Eckerd College. As a senior Visual Arts major, I was given a studio space in the new building, and I am incredibly grateful to be one of the first students to claim such an honor. As graduation draws closer, I have begun spend much of my free time at the studio, taking apart vintage hardcover books in preparation for the opening of my senior thesis show on April 15th. My space is on the second floor with a clear view of Chapel Pond, and I've already made myself at home by covering the walls with ephemera and works-in-progress.
Being present for the grand opening of the new building was a particularly moving experience, not only because it comes just in time for my final semester at Eckerd, but also due to my personal history with the Eckerd art department. When my parents moved to St. Petersburg, I was about five years old; shortly after my father began his career as a professor there, my mother got her undergraduate degree in Visual Arts at Eckerd. When it became clear that I was to follow the same path during my own undergraduate experience, she was eager to speak with me about her favorite professors. She particularly cared for Professor Arthur Skinner; she told me about his constant kindness and encouragment, even when the stress of going to school and raising my siblings and I weighed her down.
During my freshman year at Eckerd, I experienced Prof. Skinner's instruction firsthand, when he taught a mini-workshop on monotype printmaking for freshman recipients of the Artistic Achievement Award; since then, I've had numerous classes with him and have been his Ford Apprentice Scholar for the past two years. Prof. Skinner's compassionate approach to teaching is shared by the entire arts faculty, and I am excited for the department to have a facility that will allow arts to flourish under their guidance.
At the beginning of this semester, I struggled with my senior thesis; in fact, I considered dropping the Visual Art major entirely. It was a turning point in my relationship with art; I wanted to focus on writing and reading. I felt as though my visual art did not communicate my emotional and academic interests, whereas my writing had become a source of healing and excitement. At Professor Skinner's encouragement, however, I continued to think about and work on art throughout the Fall semester.
After a few months of struggling to come up with work that I was passionate about, I found myself returning to modes of art-making that I had neglected since high school: collage and multimedia. I dusted off the ephemera and old books that I had collected for years, and immersed myself in the process of taking apart and putting together scraps of paper and cut-out images. So far, I've shredded books, torn pages from their binding, and painted dozens of covers gold. I've invited my friends to my studio (and bribed them with pizza) to help me create delicate strips of paper, which I plan to use for an installation piece. As the work has progressed, I've begun thinking about the intersections between written and visual art-making, and, finally, I have an clear vision of my thesis.
I am grateful to be one of the first students to work in the new Center for Visual Arts, and I look forward to completing my show. Even though my post-grad plans are to write, read, and teach, this experience (so far) has taught me not to give up on parts of myself just because my focus has shifted elsewhere--exploring many venues of creativity can be unexpectedly rewarding. Especially with a view like this:
All photos in this journal entry belong to Eckerd College.