The students of Professor of Art Mark Wethli's Senior Seminar left Maine and got an invaluable glimpse into the world of professional visual artists last weekend. The trip took the class comprised of the senior visual arts majors to the epi center of the art scene in America: New York City.
In order to truly give the students a "cross-section of what's happening in the New York art world," the ambitious exploration went at a "serious pace," said Wethli. In a day and a half, the students met and heard from 14 artists and arts professionals, many of whom were Bowdoin alumni.
The trip also included visits to The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, several galleries and the studios of three working artists. The experience was, in the words of Wethli, "too good to pass up," as it was a chance to not only see fantastic works of art, but to learn more about the lives of the artists behind them.
For visual arts majors committed to Wethli's course, the ability to engage and network with alumni who have made strides in their field was also a career opportunity.
A highlight for Wethli as well as Kringdon was a dinner held at Coleman Burke Gallery, which is co-run by Wethli and Lecturer of Art John Bisbee. Students ate and interacted with 10 Bowdoin alumni ranging from the class of '89 to '09 who are actively involved in the arts. Because they graduated from Bowdoin, these professionals' career advice to prospective artists was particularly pertinent.
"It was an eye-opening experience," said Molly Kringdon '11, "and gave us the opportunity to start a conversation within the Bowdoin network."
Kringdon continued, "It's difficult to imagine the life of an artist until you see them in action, in their studio-various paintings, drawings, sculptures or studies plastered to the wall and scattered on the floor. It's really a wonderful thing."
The alumni "were very generous and forthcoming about both the challenges and rewards of being a working artist," said Wethli, whose course also involves attending artist talks and studio visits in Maine.
Another highlight of the trip for Kringdon involved a "pit stop" at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass. on the way back to Maine. At the museum, students viewed a collaborative sculpture piece by alumnus Wade Kavanaugh '01, who had met with them earlier that weekend.
"The work was incredible, and having heard the artist speak, that much more impressive," said Kringdon.
For Kringdon, her New York City trip was yet another testament to the strength of the College's art program, which she said she feels is sound in both its products and its philosophy.
"The trip further reiterated...that the art department at Bowdoin has done a great job [encouraging students] to do what [they] enjoy and to do it with passion," said Kringdon. Students are never "told to leave an idea behind but rather, we are encouraged and challenged to push our work to its full potential, and to experiment along the way."
The itinerary for the trip included free time for students to enjoy a list of recommended museums and galleries.
Senior Shoshana Cohn met up with a few other students and Wethli in the Metropolitan Museum of Art late Friday evening. Cohn's visit to the Met was a highlight of her weekend, and she particularly enjoyed viewing paintings by Johannes Vermeer.
"It was almost like a mini-art history class in the Met on a late Friday night," said Cohn.
Wethli had been planning the New York trip since August, even scouting out the city the weekend before with student's individual work and interests in mind.
"I threw in a couple of things that I imagined might challenge their preferences, assumptions and expectations as well," said Wethli.
Wethli's planning surely paid off.
"It's a trip like this and the ever-invested visual arts professors that make students like me feel incredibly fortunate to be here," said Kringdon.