Crit Happens: Finding Art in a World Apart

Mia Council ’16
Features Assistant

“There are times when I feel really isolated as an artist,” said Elise Parisian ’16, who is midway through an explanation of Crit Happens, a new unofficial art organization which she helped to found. Now its president, Parisian is trying to raise visibility for the organization, which aims to strengthen Smith’s art community.

“Our mission is to create a collaborative environment for artists where they can come together and make creative work outside of class, but still get feedback from other artists,” said Parisian, sporting a tattoo on her ribcage representing art and design.

Many students find fault with Smith’s art community, or rather lack thereof, although the art department and its faculty are held in high regard.

“Right now it’s a core group of people from a cross-disciplinary studio class last semester that had a really supportive community,” Parisian, who plans to major in studio art, said of Crit Happens. “And a lot of us feel that that’s lacking at Smith. There’s a lot of individual artists who are really talented, but they don’t come together.”

Other founding members include Becca Shipper ’16, currently taking a semester off, and Sarah Essex ’16. The group holds weekly meetings, with critique days and studio days every other week. “You bring something that’s finished, or you think it’s finished, and people can give feedback and help you further your work,” Parisian explained. “And then on studio days we just talk while we’re making stuff, bounce ideas off each other.”

“We’ll, like, dance to music. There’s a lot of random stuff that goes on. We look at each other’s stuff, go, ‘What’s that? Oh, awesome.’ I love that environment, where it’s just laid back, creative,” Parisian continued.

Jinan Martiuk ’14, a curly-haired art history major, pointed out that the studio art and art history students can sometimes lack connection.

“There is an art community, but it’s not as strong as what other schools have,” she said. “We’re in the process right now of reactivating the charter of the Art Resources Committee, which is a group that focuses specifically on art activities.” The group plans to lead excursions to galleries downtown and have artists come and give lectures. Martiuk praised the facilities and faculty of the art department, but said that most creative people on campus weren’t affiliated with it.

“I think the art community is trying to make a comeback,” said Sammy Driscoll ’14, a studio art minor who was working in the art library, pointing out that the community, such as it is, is very limited to Hillyer. “I would like to see it more around campus.”

“I think Smith has a community of academic masturbation and a minimal community of actual creation,” said Rosie Smith ’15, who was sharing a cigarette with fellow studio art major Stephanie Greene ’15 outside of Neilson Library. “People love to talk about artwork, love to talk about literature, talk about poetry, but so few people are actually making it. I’m not a huge fan of Hampshire, personally, but I admire them because they have this culture of constant creation and I think Smith is really lacking in that.”

“Now it’s my turn!” interrupted Greene. “I kind of disagree. There are really strong relationships between professors and students. It’s growing. Crit Happens is a perfect example of a space where people can come and make artwork even if they’re not in a class. You have to search for a little bit, but there are possibilities. And I think the art department’s trying to reach out more. I think the department is trying to have a more contemporary, interdisciplinary approach.”

The sentiments of all were echoed as the conversation dwindled down.

“There need to be more outlets on campus, and it needs to be easier to just make art,” said Smith, shrugging and finishing off her cigarette. Hopefully now there will be.

Crit Happens plans to submit a charter next semester. For now, the organization meets on Sundays in Hillyer at 2 p.m.

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