Seniors continue to pursue artistic passions into college

April 29, 2019 — by Marisa Kingsley

During a trip to Europe in middle school, senior Isabella Taylor gazed at the grandiose ceilings and sweeping arches of the cathedrals and museums. When her family wanted to leave, Taylor wanted to stay just a bit longer to admire the intricate details of each building.

Back then, Taylor, who will attend the University of Southern California for architecture in the fall, didn’t think that there was a career where she could design buildings like those she had admired in Europe. In high school, she took engineering since she believed that she would go into a STEM-related field, but found that she didn’t love that as much as she thought she would.

“I liked 3D modeling and CAD (computer-aided design), but I didn’t like coding or circuits,” Taylor said. “I was like, ‘OK, maybe there is something I can do here.’”

However, when she took art in her sophomore year, she found that she really liked it and continued to take further classes; Taylor is currently in Art 4 Honors.

When it came time to apply to colleges, Taylor already knew that she wanted to major in architecture and what kind of school she was she was looking for. She only applied to one art school, while the rest were small to medium private schools.

She ultimately decided on USC because it’ll provide her with all the factors she wanted including: job opportunities, a diverse population, location in a major city and good resources for students.

Despite the fact that Taylor is going into architecture, her experience was not much different to students applying for art.

Senior Casey Holt, who plans to major in art and creative writing, said she rediscovered her love for art in her sophomore year.

When Holt was in elementary school, she and her classmates often drew and painted. When her school’s yearbook included her illustration of a tree, Holt’s dad enrolled her in art classes for the five years, which focused on realism.

“The kind of art I did in those classes are not the kind of art I do now,” Holt said. “But they helped my eye for shading and drawing the right shapes.”

Now, Holt said she much prefers more a more abstract style and, though she working on developing more realistic pieces as well.

Holt also attributes her love for writing to growing up a voracious reader who eventually started writing herself.

She took Drama 1 her freshman year and signed up again her sophomore year, but realized that it wasn’t what she wanted to do. Since the art classes were full, Holt took Digital Photography, which she said helped introduce her to different mediums. She took Art 1 her junior year.

Art teacher Diana Vanry saw Holt’s technical skill and creativity, and suggested that she take AP Art in her senior year to build up her portfolio.

“I could see the passion and commitment in her,” Vanry said.

Yet, Holt didn’t really know that she wanted to pursue art in college until she looked at the different majors offered at schools.

“The only major that sounded vaguely interesting to me was art and creative writing because those are things I actually care about,” Holt said.

With the help of a college adviser, she applied to liberal arts schools with good art and creative writing programs. Holt declined to say what school she has committed to for privacy reasons.

For students like Taylor and Holt who were applying for art-based majors, applications looked a bit different for them.

When students apply for art schools or art programs at any college, a critical aspect of their application is their portfolios. They pick and showcase pieces that exemplify not only their creativity and technical ability but also a willingness to experiment with different mediums.

“You basically use what you have and make more,” Taylor said. “Even if you do an animation degree or architecture, they want to see that you do photography or oil paintings.”

Taylor had to make four or five additional pieces for her portfolio during the school year, accompanying pieces she made at an architecture program during the summer. On the other hand, Holt was required to make a portfolio for the AP Art exam, so she used that for applying to colleges as well.

Taylor also credits Vanry for broadening her horizons when it came to art as a whole.  

“Ms. Vanry wants you to explore different mediums,” Taylor said. “She teaches you the basic skills and so you have the creative freedom to do what you will with those skills.”

Aside from creative freedom, Vanry also emphasizes personal voice, a key for prospective art students creating a good portfolio.

“The overlying message that I’m seeing [from schools] is that they want that personal voice,” Vanry said. “They don’t want them to produce something because somebody told them, ‘Draw this and you’ll get into RISD.’”

Reflecting upon her applications, Taylor also recommends aspiring art or design students to stay true to themselves and what they do.

“I would advise people to do the art they genuinely like, because college administrators can tell when you are being genuine and when you are not,” Taylor said.










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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.


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