GTPulse: Interlochen Arts Academy Students Create Thought Provoking and Interactive Art

When I was a kid I thought collecting art was a true sign of adulthood. Before getting married, finding a place to settle down and developing a taste for blue cheese or marmalade, you start collecting art. I bought my first piece of art after graduating high school. It felt deliciously young and bad and sophisticated to spend a chunk of my graduation money on something that wasn’t going to help me buy a car or college books. The painting was by Detroit based artist Niagara and it has followed me for almost 10 years, along with two additions. I bought a second piece of art upon graduating college and recently, a third from a local Traverse City artist. When I look at all of them together each one feels like a marker for different times, places and states of mind I was in throughout young adulthood, and each is incredibly personal. We let art tell stories for us by how we relate to it, and some of the talented visual arts students at Interlochen Arts Academy told me how they find inspiration and relate to their art.

Mervyn Jones, Maud Negreiff and Colleen Ryan are senior visual art majors and they all recently had pieces up in an interactive gallery show at the Dow Center for Visual Arts. 

Like fellow arts academy students, visual art students have their school day split in half between academic classes and arts focused classes. Visual art majors take classes focused on a thesis, portfolio building as well as different technique classes spread throughout the year. All three of the students have been at the arts academy since their freshman year and are working on their senior thesis.

“We’ve been building up to it but this is the year that you really work to be cohesive and work together, and at the end of the year you have a senior thesis show where you’re able to present your work,” Colleen said.

The senior thesis project won’t be the first time the students have presented work in that gallery, however the senior thesis project will be the first time that they’ll have a whole wall dedicated to showing their work. 

“It’s a body of work, instead of just one piece in a show with a bunch of other students,” Colleen said.

At their thesis show each student presenting will talk about their work to attendees, including family and faculty.

“We’ll have an opening show with a reception, during that time an artist will talk to the group in attendance, usually families come in and the entire department is there,” Maud said.

Mervyn, Maud and Colleen each have designated studio space where they work, and each space offered me a snowglobe view into the artistic style of each student. Mervyn’s studio walls were decorated with neat rows of his black and white anime style drawings, Colleen’s space was filled with earthy tones and textures, and Maud’s studio held a cluster of her colorful paintings that showed lettering she was working on and paintings of cultural icons like Vlassic pickles and an ominous Sephora store.

The projects each student presented at the interactive show were unique and representative of their styles. Mervyn created Sit by the Fire, a book that asks viewers to fill in the blanks of the story with their own words or drawings. 

“My thesis is about storytelling and the way that interacts with reality so I combined my story into prompts where people could write their own stories and recall past memories, things like that.”

Colleen created a piece that asked viewers to sit at a desk, choose a fabric from the desk drawer and weave it into a loom. Maud’s piece asks the viewer to add to a list of words by writing down the first word they think of when they see the most recent word on the long scroll.

Each student plans on continuing with visual art after school in some way. Mervyn would like to publish a book and get into the entertainment industry. Colleen doesn’t plan on pursuing an arts education after graduation, she hopes to work in an environmental job but to always pursue art out of love. Maud is interested in pursuing art in a practical manner.

“I feel this dissonance between what a productive member of society is doing and what the artist is doing and so in any way I can form a career that still aligns with my passions and helps me be a participant in society and not in this outside club of fine art or higher artists that the public doesn’t have access to.”

Like my dearly beloved pieces of art that follow me wherever I go, Mervyn, Maud and Colleen will always have their passion and talent wherever they go.

Categories: GTPulse