I’ve been home for a few days now and it’s hard for me to grasp that August is already here. I just spent a little over six weeks in Chicago beginning my grad school adventure at the School of the Art Institute and it was crazy. This is the inaugural year for the Low-Residency MFA program at SAIC so a few things were figured out along the way and we were asked to give a lot of feedback on our experiences.
My class consists of 37 amazingly talented individuals from all over the world, of all different ages, and with a range of experiences. One of my favorite parts of the program was getting to know them and learning about the work they do. Several of the students are also art teachers so I had lots of conversations with them about the challenges of maintaining an art practice while teaching full time.
The 6-week residency was super intense because there was so much going on all the time. I took a total of 9 credits during the residency and then there were workshops, authorizations (so we had access to different resources), local artist lectures, visiting artist lectures, meetings, critiques, museum visits, etc. Of course I also had to find time to work in my studio, so you can see in my calendar how I blocked off most of my free time for that:
I can’t give an adequate summary of the residency without leaving out a lot of important things, so I’m just going to make a few points and then I’ll elaborate on those in future posts.
- I’m the third youngest student in my class (the average age is mid-30s I think) and I was constantly surprised/inspired by the level of thinking I was surrounded by. The discussions and conversations were so intellectual and the questions and ideas I was constantly confronted with were mostly things I had never thought of before. I often felt overwhelmed and I did a lot more listening/thinking/reflecting than speaking.
- One of my biggest reasons for going back to school was so that I could get feedback on my work from lots of other artists. Something I’ll talk a lot about soon is the use of sugar in my work. I don’t experiment much with non-traditional materials, but I was talking to one of the other students early on in the residency and he suggested I try painting with sugar. Why sugar? Well it makes a lot of sense actually, and I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself. I was doing research on diabetes myths and also thinking about my childhood and how I and also other people thought about diabetes. The idea of sugar came up frequently and it wasn’t until I had that conversation that I actually thought about using sugar as a painting medium. More on that later though.
- Conceptual vs. Formal. This is something I thought about constantly in Chicago and I’m still thinking about it. I would definitely call myself a formal artist, but I’ve been venturing into the realm of conceptual art and it’s something that scares me. Again, that’s a conversation for another day.
- Living in a big city was an experience in itself. I loved Chicago, but living downtown had its ups and downs and I can’t see myself living there for much longer than six weeks. The noise was something that took me a while to get used to, but the food was amazing <3
- Faculty + Local Artists + Visiting Artists: it was incredible being in the company of such passionate and successful artists. I learned so much from them.
- Aside from the sugar discovery, my “Yes” wall was an important turning point for me and I will dedicate an entire post to that.
Overall, I had an amazing experience and I feel like I grew significantly as an artist. I’m still in a state of transition and life slowed down quite dramatically when I came home, but I’m glad to be back and I look forward to continuing my studio practice and interacting with my classmates and teachers online :] Thanks for reading!