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Each year, committed art and design students are invited to share a private studio space to complete an independent project of their choosing.

Student Studio Offers Unique Opportunity to Emerging Artists

The studio is small but the creativity is larger than life. In room 110 in the Bush Art Center, art students are taking full advantage of a one-of-a-kind opportunity that allows them to dig deep into the crevices of their imaginations. Across the room, they pick up brushes, cameras, tablets: exploding color across canvases, reimagining narratives and even inventing their own mythology.

On one side of the room, a project of cardboard and colored Sharpies. On the other, a Photoshop file bursting off the page with a fresh take on advertisement design. And in between, there’s no telling what else these student minds may spill next.

This is the Student Studio project, where committed art and design students at SNC are invited into a private studio space to complete an independent project of their choosing. The year-long project is one of the most innovative and portfolio-building opportunities the department has to offer. It gives students a place to let their artistic ambitions run wild, an opportunity to complete professional work among peers and a chance to develop a concept that means something personally to them. 

A unique and ambitious project
Students interested in participating in the project must first complete a proposal for their intended body of work, including the purpose of their work and the timeline they wish to follow. If chosen, they will receive a key to the studio where they will be able to work and store their materials. All participants must exhibit or present their work by the end of the school year. This can include showing their work in the Senior Art Exhibition if they are graduating, presenting in Bush’s Clubhouse Gallery or participating in an off-campus gallery.

While the art department offers programs that include printmaking, painting and graphic design, the Student Studio does not fall into any one category. It is a workspace, not a class: a privilege assessed not by grades, but by the meeting of personal goals. Members are required to present their progress at the end of the fall semester or risk being asked to leave the program in the spring. This halfway-point progress is assessed by art profs Debbie Kupinsky and the Rev. Jim Neilson ’88.

Three-time Student Studio member Katie Hopkins ’19 explains, “The philosophy behind the Student Studio is that students with the drive to create art above and beyond the call of academic classes should have the space to do so.”

Caution: Students at work!
This year, seven students were accepted into the limited studio space: Hopkins, Annabelle Broeffle ’20, Bridget Van Beckum ’20, Elizabeth Hein ’19, Emerson Bartch ’19, Maddie LeBrun ’20 and Nicki Sylvain ’19.

While these emerging artists may share a room, they have each raced off in their own direction on their projects and are hard at work.

Sylvain’s project, which she describes as “large-scale contemporary abstract works,” uses layering of patterns, explosive color and complex symbolism to create acrylic- and spray-paint hybrids. Recognized by De Pere gallery artlessBastard for her “bold, distinct typographical aesthetic,” she presented a solo show at the gallery this January.

Just across the room, Van Beckum works on developing conceptual art and visual design work for a mythology-inspired video game she tentatively calls “Otherworld.”

“I find it fascinating that some beliefs of humanity’s ancient ancestors still survive,” Van Beckum says. “I want to study and give new visual life to these concepts that were born from the imagination of the earliest humans as they first began to seek explanations for the unknowable problems such as – in the case of the Otherworld – where we go when we die.”

Despite the difference in projects, the students all support each other’s creative journeys. Hopkins praises the warm and encouraging atmosphere: “There are a couple of students in the space right now who have been in there for a few years just like I have, and that helps create this sense of strong community, especially for those of us who are now seniors and have seen each other's work grow and evolve. Sometimes we ask each other for help and opinions, and other times we’re satisfied with just working in companionable silence.”

Hopkins is currently working on a particularly practical project for her third year in the studio – getting into graduate school – but recalls all of her time in the space as a place for personal and professional growth. In her second year, she used the space to create illustrations for “Gladys Pearl, the GLAD Camp Girl,” a children’s book about SNC’s summer leadership camp for girls.

“The Student Studio provided me with a properly equipped, dedicated space to get that professional work done, and now I can say I’m a published illustrator before I’ve even graduated,” says Hopkins. “[It’s] something I wouldn’t have done if I was just focused on creating assignments [for class].”

The emphasis Student Studio puts on working as an artist rather than a student is key to the program’s success, Hopkins says: “A spot in the Student Studio isn’t necessary to build up a portfolio or explore new ideas, but it’s kind of a reward for those students who are constantly driven to do more.”

Emma May ’19, a member of the Student Studio last year who converted “seemingly drab” cardboard into beautiful sculptures, also remembers the experience fondly. “My experience with the studio allowed me to extend my own thoughts into work,” she says. “I was able to further a personal project of choice and have fun with it. I would for sure recommend the experience. The space is worth it.”

Feb. 5, 2019