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Imaginations unleashed: Eight student artists show their stuff in annual Honors exhibit

By Eleanor Mooney

Imagine challenging legendary poet Robert Frost. Or exploring the correlation between imagination and insanity. Or leaving hidden messages on sidewalks, revealed only in the rain.

These are just three of the ways eight Honors College students chose to express themselves in the third SCHC Artists in Residence exhibit, on view through the end of the semester in the Honors Residence Hall.

“Originally, I was conflicted about what to major in, visual art or science,” says senior Megan Mitchell. She ultimately chose biochemistry and molecular biology, a decision that turned out not to be “as drastic” as she expected because “there are so many visuals in science.”

Mitchell’s paintings reflect those visuals. She used ink, watercolor, and acrylic paint to depict cellular DNA translation and transcription. Indeed, “Translation” and “Transcription” are the titles of her contributions to the exhibit. “People can’t always read science papers,” she notes, “but they can understand art.”   

Nursing senior April Drafts-Johnson wrote a collection of short stories from the perspective of a college nurse resident. During the January unveiling ceremony, she read a heart-wrenching excerpt from her short story, “Just Enough to be Dangerous,” recounting a nurse’s first experience with a patient death. 

“Nursing provides a peek into people’s lives in a way that most careers can’t,” Drafts-Johnson explains. “I wanted to share these special and oftentimes difficult moments.” 

The opening reception included remarks about why the Honors College supports the Artists in Residence program.

“We want to give students an opportunity to create art, particularly if they’re not art majors,” said Ed Munn-Sanchez, program director and SCHC associate dean. “If you were artists and musicians in high school and are still an artist, but are studying to be chemical engineers, you need an outlet and we hope to provide that.”

Interested students submit project proposals to Munn-Sanchez and a student curator each winter. Student artists are selected based on their online applications and in-person interviews. Once chosen, they then receive an $800 stipend for their projects and work together to provide feedback on each other’s work. The completed projects vary from photos and paintings to picture animations and short stories.

“The idea is to provide students with the means to not have to worry about money and to create an environment where they can grow as artists and people,” says Olaf Tollefsen, this year’s student curator and a studio art senior. “The program was set up to allow students of any major a chance to explore their creative ideas.”

This year only one art major, studio art freshman Joshua Jackson, is featured. Others include biochemistry sophomore Lindsay Covington and physics and chemistry sophomore Sarah Stanshill.

One unique contribution is a short story by freshman public relations major Haley Kellner. “Backtracking” describes how a traditional family evolves into an unconventional one, challenging Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.”  

The exhibit also displays the talents of water-graffiti artist Sterling Robertson. An international business sophomore, Robertson produces uplifting messages that are printed onto sidewalks across campus using stencils and waterproofing sealant spray. In a distinctive twist, these messages appear only in the rain, to counter the gloomy weather.

“Art’s important,” Robertson says simply. “It’s a reminder that life goes on; the sun comes out.”

The Artists in Residence exhibit is on view at the Honors Residence Hall through the end of the semester. For more information, contact Olaf Tollefsen.


2016 Artists in Residence:

Lindsay Covington

Stephen Cupschalk

April Drafts-Johnson

Joshua Jackson

Haley Kellner

Megan Mitchell (pictured above)

Sterling Robertson

Sarah Stanshill