Friday, December 9, 2011

Atomic Lime Project! New show! Holidays! Yay!

Hello lovelies. We missed you! Since you last heard from us, we have all been working hard in our bizarro, professional lives (you know, the ones that pay the bills n stuff) and, in the meantime, we have come one step closer to world domination by establishing three working studios in our respective cities of residency in order to do what we love most, making art!

For the holiday season, we are pleased to announce that we have a new show opening up tomorrow, Saturday, December 10th from 6 to 9pm at a lovely gallery/shop called The Artful Living Group in Carolina Beach. Here's their website to get you more acquainted. The show will feature the new work we've all created in our own separate studios, so the results will be a surprise (even for us!). The show will be up through the month of December, so if you can't make it to the opening, please feel free to check it before the new year!

As per usual, we've created a Facebook event that we encourage you to RSVP to. In addition to the ability to view and purchase the fruits of our artistic endeavors (Hey, what says "I respect you enough not to get you presents at the mall" on Christmas better than gifts of NC-made sculpture, furniture, jewelry, and 2d art?), we have kidnapped local musician Sean Thomas Gerard of the band Onward, Soldiers to grace your ears with acoustic goodness through the duration of the opening.

Come out and see what we've all been working on the past 6 months. Celebrate art, music, community, and the holidays with us from 6-9pm tomorrow, right here:
112 Cape Fear Boulevard, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

In case you're not convinced yet, take it from Artful Living Group's owner, Chris Higgins:

"How's this sound for an Atomic Lime Project drink....Atomic Lime Sunset - Tequila, cranberry juice, triple sec, a bit of sweet sour mix, lime with a grand marnier floater"

See you at the opening!

Atomic Limes

Sunday, September 18, 2011

iMuchos Gracias!

Hello. I just wanted to thank everyone for coming out to our show at Bottega! We had a good time and hope you did too. We love Wilmington and it seems as though the feeling is mutual. We'll be back, and it will be an amazing time once again.
Justin B.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Many thanks to everyone who came out to the reception on Friday!  It was awesome to see old friends and family while making new ones.  The night was amazing, and definitely the best time I've had in Wilmington in a long time.  Thank you so much to everyone at Bottega for all of their help and to Charlie the Horse for rocking out!
Here's a little bit of press you might enjoy whilst you sit on the toilet today....

The show stays up until Sept. 16th, so there will be plenty of time for all of you good looking people to show your faces!

Until next time, happy Monday everyone!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

All This Talk About Atomic Lime Has Got Me Thinking....

It’s been two and a half years since Eric and I jumped in my 1999 Chevy Malibu on voyage to Charlotte, NC to see an Andy Warhol exhibit.  A few months prior, he and I sold out in a holiday exhibition at ECU.  That week made me think a lot about what happens after art school.  So that December I sat at my computer every night reading as much as I could to figure out how artists survive post-academia.  I compiled all of my notes into a neatly organized binder labeled “Justin’s Plan For World Domination.”  In this notebook there were a hundred pages of ideas on how to market yourself as and artist, but one thing I had read was to surround yourself with other like-minded artists.  With Eric being one of my closest friends in art school, naturally I brought this idea up to him on our trip to Charlotte.  The birth of Atomic Lime Project started with this simple sentence, “So... This might be the dumbest idea ever, but I think it’s pretty good, but also kind of stupid.”

Before it was called Atomic Lime Project, our group and it’s structure was just Eric and myself taking more road trips to Charlotte and Raleigh throwing ideas of world domination at each other.  At one point in time, this collective was going to be a political party that would overthrow the government of a small country and somehow from there we’d own the world.  The final, and probably the best foundation we came up with was a small, tightly knit, group of artists.  From there we would try to recreate the things about art school that are beneficial to the evolution of an artist - critiques, collaborations, and comradery.  Together we’d have exhibitions, a website that would allow viewers to see our work and what we’re up to, updates on other art events in North Carolina, and community awareness for issues we care about.

It was on our way back to Greenville from Raleigh, blasting Beck’s “Girl” when Eric and I almost missed an exit because we were so stoked we had the layout of our new project.  And that’s exactly what it was, a new project for us to work on.  We told each other that we needed to start thinking of other artists we could approach for recruitment... GOOD artists.  We each had one person in mind, but neither one of us mentioned him in our long list of shot-down friends.  Despite his lack of being mentioned it was almost fate that our good friend Justin Campbell was at the studio late-night when we returned to Greenville to unload art supplies.  After carrying a shanty-town’s worth of wood into my studio, Eric and I called Campbell over, gave him the pitch that made him our first recruit.

For months we had lunch, dinner, and drinks at Christy’s Euro Pub, Sup Dogs, or at someone’s abode.  We needed to figure out a name for the group and a plan for the future of the group.  We had plenty of random-ass names that we couldn’t get a unanimous vote on.  I went home one day getting very frustrated with it and just started writing down any word that came to mind.  When I had finished the list I decided to make a gin and tonic before putting words together, “But shit, I forgot we don’t have any limes for a gin and tonic - oh, I should right down lime.”  After I made the drink I looked down at a stack of CDs and saw U2’s “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.” (Yes, I listen to U2)  And given the impact that the word “atomic” had I figured I’d write that down.  The next day I called Justin Campbell and gave him a list of five name ideas, he agreed on Atomic Lime Project and it only took a few minutes to convince Mr. White.
After the bad-ass name, we needed to put our thoughts into action.  We got this website, Eric and I had “Form & Dysfunction” in Greenville and Wilmington.  Campbell continued showing in Wilmington and Greenville.  And more recently, we’ve got our newest member, Melina Reed.  But finally, we've put together our first exhibition as a group, “Atomic Lime Project” at Bottega from July 22nd to September 16th in Wilmington, NC.  More information can be found at our facebook event page.  Hope to see you lovely looking kids there.
Justin B.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Melina's Studio Update 1: A Balancing Act

Preparing for a gallery show is something like the evolution of a tiny universe. It begins with coarse fragments that, alone, do not speak greatness. These are simply nondescript pieces that will eventually build upon one another to create something that speaks for itself.

Behind any given universe, a certain level of respect is demanded of the artist responsible for creating it. Sure, a pile of copper scraps doesn’t look like much, but an understanding of the potential of said scraps exists within the artist's mind. My approach to metalwork is this: evolution is both inevitable and is also my greatest ally. Following this mantra, you will never find me creating a blueprint for a finished product from, very literally, square one. Rather, I control the size of the initial chaos - the scraps - and allow inspiration to guide the rest.

It is my belief that as artists, we are vessels equipped with the ability to channel a creative energy outside ourselves in order to produce physical representations of that energy. Essentially, we are completing a circuit between initial inspiration and resulting piece. This is where respect is a powerful tool: our ability to listen is just as vital as our ability to control. To master individual artistic form, a balance is to be reached between the two, and each artist seeks unique methods to create it.

My own methods begin with respect for details, no matter how small. Sanding a 1/4" copper disk to perfection is just as important as doing the same to a 1 1/2" pendant. Both elements will play a vital role in their eventual universe. What's important is not to fear the minute detail's potential to go unnoticed. It is my experience that the smallest piece can have the largest impact, and learning to harness the immense energy packed into such a tiny element can be an incomparably powerful tool to an artist.

Equally as important in finding a balance between respect and control with regards to artistic evolution is utilizing the right tools. Sometimes, acquisition of the right tools can be very, very financially painful.

My newest purchase: Paragon SC2 Kiln
Take this kiln, for instance. Yes, it cost me a pretty penny, and yes, it sat in my virtual shopping cart for months before I finally built up the courage to press "purchase."

The truth is, if we are serious about what we do, we must sometimes make serious sacrifices and commitments to amplify our creative output. I like to think of this kiln as a megaphone for my artistic voice. It is the epitome of control and respect, as its results vary from firing to firing.

A process called "enameling" turns powdered glass to sheet glass on the surface of metal inside the kiln. These are the beginnings of my enameling workstation, where I have already learned that regular exercise of my persistence and patience muscles is yet another important method in finding artistic balance. The magic of a kiln is that its results can either be meticulously controlled via exact time/temperature documentation, or it can be freely operated in order to produce unique results upon each firing. Not surprisingly, I opt for the latter. With this freedom, however, comes a sizable margin of error.

One night, several hours of enameling resulted in a slew of dull orange-coated pieces. Annoying? Very. But lessons were learned: not all elements of metalwork can be guided by inspiration alone. Some require hours of research, be it physical testing or calling the enamel distributor and asking for help.
With persistence and patience comes balance.

Evolution of the same shade of transparent enamel. Success on right.

These methods only skim the surface of what will likely be a lifelong process of learning how to properly handle the balance of respect and control within my own artistic universe. In the meantime, I will be mindful of my progress from show to show, festival to festival, attempting to capture what balance I have gained with hopes to transfer it into each piece that I create. Most important is to know when to listen, and also, not to forget when to reward oneself for a hard day's work.

2 a.m. cookie session after a long studio day
Stay tuned for more updates from my fellow members of Atomic Lime Project. We will be hard at work the next three weeks preparing for our July 22 art opening at Bottega. If you missed the event on facebook, you can find it here. Til next time, internet.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Atomic Lime Project w/ Special Musical Guests Charlie The Horse

Check it out! Atomic Lime Project is proud to present our first ever collective exhibition. Come out to Bottega Art & Wine, located at 208 North Front Street, Wilmington NC, on July 22nd for the opening reception, featuring a special musical performance by members of Charlie The Horse. You can check out their music here: Also, if you're on the Facebook, let us know you're coming, by clicking here.

The show will be up from July 22nd to September 16th, so if you can't make it to the opening, drop by any time or come out to the closing to see all our work. We'd love to see your beautiful faces!

Stay tuned for some sneak peeks on the goings on at Suite 16 studios (our top secret headquarters) over the coming weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Honored Introduction by Melina Reed

Hi everyone! In light of my recent acceptance into the Atomic Lime Project family, I’d like to tell you all a bit about myself to get you more acquainted with me and my decision to join this incredible group of artists.

My name is Melina Margaret Reed, born to James Forrest Reed and Jonna Mary Reed on May 24, 1986. I am from a very small town just off the shore of Lake Erie known as Chardon, Ohio.
The average annual snowfall in Chardon is 106 inches. Scenes like this are not unusual between the months of October and April:

In my early adulthood, I decided that six months of snow were no longer beneficial to my state of mind. It was time to get the hell out of the cold in favor of warmer climates, which landed me here: - Wilmington, NC

As my body began to thaw in these warmer climates, my heart and mind followed suit. As a result, I have lived in North Carolina for nearly five years. I have since become a devoted student of English in pursuit of an eventual master’s degree in some written discipline (yet to be decided) in favor of teaching community college upon graduation. I owe that decision to my auspicious time at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, where I became passionate about writing under amazing professors such as Marlowe Moore, Dylan Patterson and Margo Williams. Also at CFCC, I cultivated my skills as a metalsmith under the tutelage of Melissa Manley. See her work here. The University of North Carolina in Wilmington has seen a continuation of that passion as I wrap up my final year of undergrad with plans to begin master’s work in the fall of 2012.

Since my aforementioned scholastic renaissance, I had been searching for an outlet with which to share my overflow of creative energy. To my delight, an incredible opportunity knocked in early 2011.

When the members of Atomic Lime Project approached me with interest in adding me to their collective, there was no deliberation as to what my answer would be (I believe it was “HELL YES!”, actually). I am honored to call myself a member of this group.

Atomic Lime Project represents something vital to an artistic community. Deep within the heart of every artist is a strong desire to tap into the universal rhythm of all other artists: to promote each other, to create together, to express ourselves as a collaborative whole in order to show the world our Truth. As we work together to invigorate, resuscitate, and revitalize the artistic community in Wilmington and the surrounding areas, we will become pillars of support for the artistic community. Sharing this role as a member of Atomic Lime Project is as epic for me as…. well, this moment:

I hope this doesn't require a caption...

Nonetheless, I will never forget my humble beginnings out of a corner of Marlowe Moore’s dance studio, where I worked for several months to produce all of the work that you see on my artist page.

My first studio: where it all began.

Looking to the future, I will dedicate much of my summer to cultivating what Atomic Lime Project is getting ready to launch in the coming months. Stay tuned to catch sneak peaks into the goings on at the Atomic Lime studio. Also, be prepared to hear from me regularly. In the words of Onward, Soldiers Sean Thomas Gerard: "I can't keep my thoughts to myself, my head's entirely open."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meet Our New Member

Melina Reed. Do. Etched copper, enamel, silver, found objects.
Atomic Lime Project is pleased to announce the newest addition to our group - metalsmith Melina Reed!

Melina's art is an extension of herself in the most literal sense. As she pursues a career as an English professor, she seeks ways to use words to express herself creatively and professionally while attempting to apply this knowledge to her work and those who absorb it. Metalswork has created for her a new outlet for this artistic expression. Each piece is comprised of many pieces that, together, represent a greater whole. For Melina, metalwork reflects a marriage of opposites: connecting the warm tones of emotion, words and memory to the cool tones of metal. Within each piece is a universe, assigned meaning by its wearer.

Melina intends for her pieces to become interpretations of self, capable of holding many meanings bound by a single word or concept. Right now, Melina is primarily focusing on etched copper and fold forms with silver accents, enameling, and the incorporation of found objects within necklace, earring, and bracelet designs. The diversity of her pieces reflects the rawness of human expressions; no two will be the same.

Melina Reed. Stitch. Copper, quartz.
Originally from northeast Ohio, Melina currently resides in Wilmington, NC, where she has studied under Melissa Manley, an accomplished ECU alumni (Melissa's work can be found here:

To see more of Melina's work, check out her Artist page here.

This is just one of many exciting new things on the horizon for Atomic Lime Project - check back in the coming weeks for important announcements and updates.

Photo credit: Ashlie White

Friday, February 18, 2011

Art School Part IV: Walls, and How Best To Climb Them.

As I mentioned in part I of this blog series, there’s always something that stands in the way of a person and their goals in life. I refer to these things as walls. Walls come in many forms - physical, mental, and emotional - and the long, winding path through art school is rife with them. Most walls are built to keep you from getting somewhere you’d like to go, or to keep you out of a place you’d like to be. People build walls around their property to keep their neighbors out and their pets in. People build walls around themselves to keep other people from getting too close or to keep themselves from getting too close to others. In art school, most of the walls are built to keep those who would weaken the program from moving forward successfully. One such wall is the foundations program – a topic I covered in depth in part II. But there are many more along the path to successful completion of art school, and each of these has to be dealt with in one way or another. To be successful, it’s best to know how to climb these walls, find secret passages through, under, or around them, or in some cases, tear them down with a bulldozer.

Each course you take in college can be seen as a series of miniature walls. In most cases, the door to your eventual graduation will be hinged on your successful completion of these courses, and if you’re not careful, you could find yourself unable to move forward because you need to complete a course. At a public university like ECU, some of these required courses seem completely irrelevant at first (such as the need to have 12 hours of Fine Arts credit for which your Art classes don’t count), but the key to climbing these walls is to accept the importance of a broad education in your life. By studying Music, History, Math, Science, English, and yes, even Exercise, you are only building upon your life experience, something which every artist draws from in order to create their work. If you see these things as obstacles in your path, climbing the wall will be a daunting task. But if you learn to appreciate them as experiences along your path, and put forth the effort to truly allow yourself to grow in knowledge, passing right through them will come naturally. Find a way to game the system – pick classes that count towards whatever credits you need that will interest you and enrich your life, and which you feel can apply to your art. You don’t have to be stuck taking classes that don’t matter to you in any meaningful way, and this is something a lot of people don’t seem to understand. For English lit, I took a Film Studies class. We watched and analyzed movies, and the class bettered my understanding of composition. For my exercise class, I took rock climbing.  I work with stone and my work is inspired by nature – a no brainer – but this also helped me understand the importance of goal setting. I would pick a difficult route and practice it repeatedly until my skills and strength had reached a point where I could complete it. This was something that I could apply to just about anything in life.  I appreciated every class I took as an opportunity for me to grow and learn, and even when I couldn’t always put forth a solid effort in a class because I was stuck in the studio all the time, I still enjoyed it as a welcome escape.

In the School of Art and Design at ECU, the next huge wall that you will approach after foundations is the portfolio submission. Each person must submit a portfolio to a chosen area in order to declare a concentration. This is a bigger deal in some of the more competitive concentrations, but still a very important wall that must be dealt with. If you’re denied admission into that concentration, you’ve now spent at least two years of your life in art school only to be stopped dead in your tracks. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you – learn the value of communication. Talk to your professors. Have them critique your work prior to submission and get advice on what to include in your portfolio. Figure out areas where they think you should try to improve your work, and USE THAT ADVICE.  Sometimes just the fact that you showed the initiative to do this will be enough to separate you from the competition. And if it doesn’t open that secret passage through the wall for you, at the very least you’ve been shown the route you need to take to climb it.  

I want to reiterate that last point of advice. Communication is key in everything you will do for the rest of your life. 95% of the walls that will stand between you and your goals are in the form of other people. Learning how to communicate effectively with them is the easiest and most effective way to climb these walls. If you’re struggling in a class, for whatever reason, go talk to your professor. If you’re struggling to keep up with your workload, and know you’re going to miss a deadline, go talk to your professor. If you’re just having a rough time with life in general, and it’s affecting your work for a class, go talk to your professor. If you need help with something, ask for it.  Don’t be afraid of sounding like that whiny student who’s just coming up with excuses. You might, but so what? You have nothing to lose but your pride, and if you’re in art school, you might need a good ego-bashing anyway. It might just earn you those extra few days you need to get your head straight and get your work done. I actually received a couple of incompletes in my time at ECU simply because I asked for them.  It’s a very humbling thing to admit that you’ve failed yourself to your professor, but that humbling experience was something I needed in order to complete my work and avoid a low or failing grade in a class. Once you understand the value of communication, and learn to utilize it, things will become much easier for you. Remember: If you never ask, you’ll never receive.

The final wall I’m going to talk about is one of the most annoying, obnoxious things you’ll ever have to deal with, and that is the bureaucracy of higher education. I firmly believe that going at this wall with a bulldozer is probably the most effective method of clearing it from your path. My experiences with the administration of ECU have been less than pleasant, to say the least, but this is not just a personal thing – many of my peers have also had very unfortunate run-ins with the bureaucracy of ECU. I’m a firm believer that secretly, institutions of higher education do not actually want you to graduate. If you graduate, then they can no longer take your money (and in the case of a public institution, receive money from the government because of you), and thus it’s just a simple matter of economics. The longer they can keep a student in school, the longer they can milk the cash cow. The only real way to deal with this is to tackle it head-on early, and never stop pushing until you’ve made it through.  Lost paperwork, missing files, miscommunication, and incompetence are just a few problems you’ll run into when dealing with administration. You have to anticipate this, prepare for it, and do everything in your power to make sure that the wheels are turning in your favor, or they won’t. A good friend of mine found out 3 weeks before graduation that, even though he had sat down with his advisor and discussed his graduation requirements and registration on multiple occasions and everything was good to go, there were somehow still 3 credits that they “missed.” One class that he still needed to take in order to graduate. In my case, the bureaucracy tried to keep me from getting my job by somehow deciding that I wasn’t actually graduating when I was supposed to be. For no reason at all, really – I had applied for graduation, signed my senior summaries, all of my degree requirements were met, and I had walked across the stage. They just arbitrarily decided my graduation date should be something other than what it was, and proceeded to tell the school board trying to hire me that they couldn’t actually hire me. After 2 weeks and dozens of phone calls and emails, the issue was resolved – they just had the wrong date on my graduation paperwork. But had I not been proactive, I’d be stuck without a job and a degree right now because of a clerical error. Be prepared, triple check every requirement, anticipate any possible problem that the administration could throw your way, and have your bulldozer gassed up and ready to go when something inevitably goes wrong. If you don’t, this wall could be one that shows up out of nowhere and diverts you away from reaching your goals for quite some time.

When you reach the inevitable walls along your path, don’t let them stop you. Remember that there’s always a way to get over them - it just takes a little perseverance and planning to figure out how.

Check back next week for the final installment of this blog series, Art School Part V: How To Be An Artist – Something They Don’t Teach You In Art School

Friday, February 11, 2011

Art School Part III: And Now The Fun Begins

If you can make it past the first year of art school without cracking under all the pressure or losing your mind entirely from sleep deprivation, there are actually some extremely good times to be had – the problem lies in finding time to actually experience and enjoy them. But at this point, your body is already accustomed to functioning on little to no sleep, so you find your days are much longer than most other people’s. You still have tons of work to do – arguably more now than you did in foundations – but if you’ve stuck it out this long you’re now taking survey and studio classes in your choice program areas, which makes the work feel less like work. As I mentioned before, art school pretty much destroys any sort of social life you may have had, but your old friends have been replaced by, well, everyone else in the art department.

When you work and live in the same building with the same people for so long, you undoubtedly befriend a lot of them, and at the very least you know the majority of them on a first name basis. You find ways to break the monotony of working on a piece for endless hours by engaging in impromptu activities with your studio mates – from 4 am rolly chair races down the ramps to huge building-wide hide and seek matches. Most of you have all pretty much lost your minds from sleep deprivation at this point anyway, so you can’t help but find enjoyment in the simplest of distractions.
Extreme bathroom biking - a sport only witnessed in art school.

One of the fondest memories I have of art school is one such occurrence. A fellow sculpture major and I were tasked with watching a plaster investment kiln overnight – checking it every hour to make sure that it was reaching a high enough temperature and staying there long enough to burn out the molds without getting too hot that it cooked them to death and destroyed them. A certain wood design major chose to stick it out with us. When you’ve got 12 hours to stand around in the cold on a Friday night and make sure something doesn’t catch on fire, what else is there to do but start a fire? So that’s what we did. In an old rusted steel barrel, bum style.  You learn a lot while standing around a bum fire. I learned that when you douse a sculpture in linseed oil and toss it in a fire, you can actually get a pretty nice patina. I learned that a wood fire CAN actually get hot enough to melt aluminum. I learned that, after an extremely long-winded monologue about the fleeting nature of love (and after what may or may not have been several adult sodas), two grown men will simultaneously step away from the fire and call their ex-girlfriends that they haven’t spoken to in years. At 6 o’clock in the morning. Those voicemails must have been priceless. And at the end of it all, I learned there’s nothing better than waking up sprawled out on the hard, cold concrete floor of your studio, putting on your leathers, and pouring molten metal on a Saturday morning with your sculpture professor. That was the smoothest pour I ever participated in, and a lasting memory I will look back on with fondness for years to come.

You see, being cooped up in the same building slaving over your artwork for hours at a time might make you go insane, but the bond created with the people that are right there beside you the entire way is something that can never be reproduced. They become more than friends – they become family.

Check back next week for Art School Part IV: Walls, and How Best to Climb Them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Art School Part II: Foundations, or the Don't-Sleep-For-A-Year Experiment

There’s a point, somewhere around the 72-hour mark, where sleep deprivation starts to feel like an extremely potent hallucinogen.  A person starts to have micro-sleeps, or periods where they slip in and out of consciousness for seconds at a time without realizing it, and the real world becomes entwined with the dream world. It becomes extremely difficult to decipher what’s real and what’s not. Anyone who has had the pleasure of staying awake for days on end has undoubtedly experienced this, but I can say with some confidence that it is probably most prevalent amongst art students, especially within the first year of art school.

The ECU School of Art and Design’s entrance requirements differ from those of many other art schools – there is no initial portfolio requirement for admission. Instead, one is tentatively accepted into the program contingent upon successful completion of the Foundations Program – a series of courses consisting of Design I, Design II, Drawing I, Figure Drawing, and a few art history classes. You must pass each of these classes, as well as the Foundations Exam, with a C or better in order to move on to the survey level. The theory and premise behind the foundations program is sound: It levels the playing field and allows anyone to have the chance to go into the art program, despite their background and experience in art. After all, someone may have a passion for art, but come from a school with a very poor art program where they weren’t able to build an adequate portfolio.  In practice, however, it becomes something much more sinister.

The problem is that, when you open the floodgates, chances are you’re going to get a flood.  By allowing anyone to declare themselves an art major and participate in the foundations program, many more people will do so than the school can feasibly accept.  As such, the foundations program becomes less about teaching design and drawing, and more about breaking the will and spirits of the students. You have to weed out the ones who can’t handle the pressure. There’s a rule for foundations professors (perhaps secretly stated, or perhaps just unwritten and widely understood) that you can only allow a certain percentage of your students to pass. The rest you MUST fail.  I can’t be entirely sure of the attrition rates – they’re not exactly posted. But with a little bit of deductive reasoning, it’s not too hard to guess. In the fall of 2007 (records for 2006, my entry year, were not available, but they are undoubtedly similar) 11 Design I classes were offered with an average class size of 15 - that’s roughly 165 new entrants. This past December, I walked across the stage with 24 of my peers. You do the math.

Painting a Design I project. At a friend's birthday party. Brush strokes are forbidden.

In order to make sure this quota of failure is met, foundations professors assign the most grueling, monotonous, and time consuming tasks, and will accept nothing short of perfection. Each studio class meets 6 hours a week – for which you only receive 3 hours of credit – and it is expected that you will spend a minimum of two hours working outside of class for every one hour of class time in order to receive a C.  How about an A? You should probably double that number. And don’t forget that you’ve got those other classes to attend, too. There’s simply not enough time in the week, and so the ones who make it through foundations are the ones who find that time by learning the art of surviving without sleep.  You learn that you can’t possibly have a social life, and so your social circle becomes your fellow art students. You spend every waking hour of your life in one building, painting color swatches and drawing cubes, and you find time to nap in your other classes. You tell yourself that 6 hours of sleep every 3 days is fine, and you can make up for it on the weekend. Except you’ve got that crit on Monday. You start to break down, physically, emotionally, and mentally. And on the precipice of complete mental collapse, when your body is running on paint fumes and caffeine, you reach a nirvana of creative clarity that makes it all worth it. And when it’s all said and done, and you officially make it out of foundations, you realize you’ve learned so much more about being an artist than you ever knew paint swatches and cubes could teach you. You’ve learned the value of hard work, perseverance, and the creative energy that mental instability can bring.

A vast majority of the people who fail out of foundations were never meant to be artists to begin with, and would have never been able to make it in the art world if they’d made it through. But perhaps there’s a better way to go about letting them know this without destroying their GPA and wasting a year of their life and thousands upon thousands of dollars in tuition and art supplies. Perhaps we could remember that these are still people we’re talking about, and that they are betting their future on their educational investment. Or maybe that sweet feeling of success just wouldn’t feel so good if we didn’t know so many other people had failed.

Check back next week for Art School Part III: And Now The Fun Begins.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Art School Part I: Dreams and Obstacles

Almost five years ago exactly, I began my final semester of high school. I was full of naivety and willpower, as all seventeen-year-old adolescents are, and thanks to the support of a fantastic mentor and art teacher (and to the dismay of my parents who only wanted the best for me), I had a goal for my future. As I look back, it was truly this final semester that would set me on the path to where I am today.  I had late arrival and was enrolled in only two classes – 3D Design and AP Studio Art – and it was this 3D Design class that sparked my love for sculpture.  I became drawn to the tactile nature of working with the materials, and was overcome by the feeling of stepping back from a finished piece and experiencing the realness and immediacy of a three-dimensional creation. At the same time, I also became drawn to walking around the classroom and providing thoughtful feedback to my peers about their work. By the time graduation rolled around, my mind was made up –I would double major in Sculpture and Art Education at East Carolina University. I was headed for art school.

 My home for the past 4.5 years. Photo Credit:

In five days, I will begin my first semester in high school – this time from the other side of the teacher’s desk. I am very aware of how fortunate I am that somehow, over the past five years, I have been able to hold strong and stick to my goals. I am also aware of how incredibly rare that is.  You see, there’s always something that stands in the way of a person and their dreams, and in this case, that something is the only thing that has been constant in my life for the past four and a half years. That thing is art school. Think of it as less of an obstacle and more of an insane bipolar obstacle course of dastardly-designed traps, temptations, pitfalls, and dead-ends disguised beneath a facade of higher education. Please don’t get me wrong: the years I spent in art school are some of the best and most fulfilling years of my life. But I believe anyone who has been to art school can tell you that they have a love/hate relationship with it.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting my reflections on the educational highs and lows of my experience with art school, along with some anecdotal experiences of my peers.  Though my praise and criticism will highly be directed towards the School of Art and Design at ECU, I believe it will largely hold true for just about any art school. 

Check back next week for Art School Part 2:  Foundations, or The Don’t-Sleep-For-A-Year Experiment.