For many people, traveling across the United States is a lifelong goal that too often goes unachieved. Greta Van Campen '05, however, will set out on her cross-country journey with a unique purpose; she plans to paint a portrait of America.
"I've always wanted to see all 50 states and drive across the country and go wherever I want to go—not just go to see all the big sites, but to be free and explore," said Van Campen, who decided in October 2010 to pursue her passion for art by traveling across the country.
"Art has always been the number one thing I've always wanted to do, but haven't been able to," said Van Campen. "It's so exciting and such a good way to meet new people and promote my artwork along the way."
Van Campen decided to embark on this project after a friend introduced her to a website called Kickstarter, an online company that provides a funding platform for creative projects. Van Campen successfully launched her project in November 2010.
"I want to explore contemporary America while also learning about the history of the land and people in our country," wrote Van Campen on the Kickstarter website. "My goal will be to preserve and share the experience of paying close attention to all that I see and learn by capturing it in paint."
Originally, Van Campen thought of painting the American landscape because "it seems people don't do that anymore," she said, but then decided against it.
"I decided I don't really want to go out with this idea, and something else entirely will happen," said Van Campen. "As I travel, I might be more inspired by the individuals I meet, so I might do more portrait than landscape art."
"I don't want to go in it with a set plan except for painting all 50 states," added Van Campen. "I'm aware there are lots of roads that might lead me down a certain path."
Some roads, Van Campen is sure, will lead her to fellow Bowdoin alums.
"The nice thing about the Bowdoin network is that I know friends from all over the country....[so I find] places to stay and people to meet up with along the way," said Van Campen.
Van Campen, like others who utilize Kickstarter, is expected to raise a certain amount of funds for her project online. She reached her goal of $8,0-00 within 90 days of launching her campaign. In fact, she has well surpassed her goal: as of February 22, she raised $9,531.
"[Funding] came from mostly people I know, friends of friends, people have passed along my project," said Van Campen. "I'm really excited about it."
To show her gratitude, Van Campen plans to reward all her supporters—even those pledging a minimum of $1. Rewards, determined based on the amount donated, include naming objects after supporters, sending postcards, sending a DVD documenting her travels on the road and giving away an original oil painting.
"People are relying on me and believing in me...that really pushes me even more than if I try to do it on my own," said Van Campen.
Before commencing her Kickstarter fundraiser, Van Campen worked in Chicago both as a full-time assistant teacher at the Near North Montessori and as an assistant for artist Tony Fitzpatrick during evenings and weekends.
Even though she said she loved teaching, Van Campen said, "I really wanted to focus more on my art since I was 5 years out of college and hadn't really done much with it."
After Bowdoin, Van Campen picked up various jobs, such as working at a toy store, serving as a sales associate at a clothing store, bussing tables at a restaurant, working as an assistant at a gallery and even traveling to the Netherlands to work as an au pair.
"After graduating, I had to find a way to make money so I did all these jobs," said Van Campen.
"I had kept with art through the years even though I had all these jobs," she added.
As a visual arts major, Van Campen took painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking and many other art classes at Bowdoin.
"I actually knew I wanted to be an art major before I went to Bowdoin," said Van Campen. "I especially chose Bowdoin for [its] art department."
During her time at Bowdoin, Van Campen participated in a lot of art activities, and won the Annual Delta Sigma/Delta Upsilon Art Competition. She also completed a solo portrait show and an art show with friend Dave Aaron '05. Van Campen was also one of two graduating seniors to be awarded the Anne Bartlett Lewis Memorial Fund for excellence in creative visual art.
Van Campen is appreciative of her liberal arts education because she got the opportunity to take other classes, like history, alongside her art course load.
"All the areas of study are so connected," she said. "I'm glad I got the chance to be at a school like Bowdoin."