Art in the Big Apple
Jamie Gardner wasn’t expecting to see a close friend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. But there it was, right before her eyes − the very painting by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin she had so carefully copied and reinterpreted for her senior art exhibition at Southwestern, “The Presence of Words.”
Gardner and two other art students, Candace Weigand and Nikki Grona, spent the Spring 2014 semester in New York City through the New York Arts Program.They interned with artists throughout the city, attended gallery openings, visited museums and experienced what it is like from day-to-day to be practicing artists in a large metropolitan area.
Gardner interned with artist Bruce Pearson’s studio in Brooklyn and at Ellen Altfest’s studio in Long Island City. Weigand interned with Lisa Corinne Davis in Brooklyn and with Michele Oka Doner in SoHo. Grona worked with Jes Wade, a couture designer in Tribeca. She learned to sew by hand and how to make patterns from scratch, as well as how to grade them for sizing.
“The experience in New York opened my eyes to how tough it’s going to be as an artist, but also how potentially rewarding it can be,” Weigand said.
The New York Arts Program is the longest-running internship program in the Sarofim School of Fine Arts. Southwestern students have participated in the program since 1980 through the Great Lakes College Association, which created it.
Victoria Star Varner, chair of studio art, says it was the late theatre professor Richard Hossalla who saw the program’s potential for all fine arts students (art, art history, music, theatre) as well as students majoring in communication studies.
“It’s been a great program for us,” Varner says.
Varner says Southwestern has several art graduates living and working professionally as artists in New York who took advantage of the New York Arts Program. Among these is Andrew Arnold, a 2004 graduate who now works as a children’s book illustrator with Roaring Brook Press, a subsidiary of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, which is housed in the famous Flatiron Building.
Arnold surprised Varner by popping into one of her classes last fall after attending a wedding in the area, and she talked him into giving an impromptu presentation about his life as an illustrator.
2011 graduate Jessie Cragg now works at Henri Bendel as a technical designer. She and fellow 2011 graduate Laurel McEuen also have started a handbag design company called TEXI. They participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University to find out about responsible manufacturing in the United States, and Cragg was invited back to make a presentation at Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) in the summer of 2013.
“These are only a few alumni success stories in art − we have so many graduates of whom we are very proud,” Varner says.
Varner says the New York Arts Program is an excellent choice for the final semester of the Southwestern experience for art students because it requires them to put their knowledge, skills and critical thinking to the test in one of the most important cities for the arts in the world. She says some of the artists take students under their wings and stay in touch with them after the internship to help them with their careers. This, in addition to the continuing assistance that faculty members give alumni, helps make the Southwestern art experience distinctive.