Smith Senior Studio Art Major Baillie Vensel Reflects On Her Learning Experience

Baillie Vensel ‘16
Contributing Writer

I came to art kind of late and unexpectedly. I came into Smith thinking I was going to study international relations and English. When I landed on studio art, I knew right away it was what I wanted. I knew that it was going to be an exciting new path full of new ways of thinking. I would see art I had never encountered before and artists’ work I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. Now, at the end of my career at Smith, I feel I know what I want to do and what I am capable of, for the first time in my life.

This feeling was really cemented for me this last year, as I’ve been taking the studio major’s final two capstone classes. These classes are unique to the major because every graduating senior has to take them together their senior year. You basically spend a whole year together, becoming one community. In the beginning of the year, I knew about three of the other 24 studio art majors in my class.

Watching and facilitating the growth of our work over the course of the year was so enriching. You can see someone’s concepts and interests in September and, through that lens, understand the work they are making in May. It’s nice to have that sort of intimacy with your peers.

The art major here also allowed me to experiment with new media and try new things in ways that I probably wouldn’t have been able to as an undergraduate elsewhere. Because our program is so open and multidisciplinary, there are many students who make conceptual-based work, conquering whatever media their ideas require. I find that to be incredibly exciting.

While at Smith, I moved from photography to working primarily in video this last year. I am totally falling in love with working with moving images. The faculty here has done a great job encouraging me to do so, even though we don’t have a “video art” or “new media” program.

When I leave Smith, I am going to miss the faculty and the technological resources available to studio majors here. I cannot only check out very expensive equipment to experiment with on demand, but I can also get a book on practically any artist I am interested in on a whim. I can hide it in my studio, pretend it is mine, and use it in times of stress and sadness for inspiration and to revive my creativity.

The art department has become my home. I know every single professor, although I never took courses with half of them. The faculty has given me opportunities I couldn’t even have dreamt of, and has encouraged me to take myself and my work as seriously as I wanted to.

I am bursting with excitement, and I’m ready to test my making in the real world, and see what I can come up with next.

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