Ways every student can benefit from art
Among family members, friends, peers and strangers alike, the onset of a new year sparks a rejuvenated spirit and a fresh hope in clean slates. Of course, the decision to make better or different personal life choices can be made at any point in the year with enough motivation. Nevertheless, one can successfully achieve a better version of themselves or simply a goal by the end of the year. This, at least, is something to appreciate — whether you support the concept of New Year’s resolutions or not.
And why not let art tag along on your new journey this year? Below are suggestions for how to tap into your artistic side (it’s in there somewhere) in 2018.
1. Visit local museums and art galleries
Students can experience art through museums and galleries on campus, in Davis and in the Bay Area. To start off, there is the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, which is located right next to the UC Davis Welcome Center. On Jan. 16, there will be two new exhibitions to check out. There is also the C.N. Gorman Museum located in Hart Hall, the Design Museum in Cruess Hall and the Basement Gallery in the Art Building which features student work and is run by undergraduates.
Off campus and in the city of Davis, there’s the John Natsoulas Gallery (easily identifiable by the large cat sculpture in front of it) and the Pence Gallery downtown. In the office of the Davis Cemetery there is Gallery 1855, which features a different exhibition monthly.
In Sacramento, you can visit the Crocker Art Museum, the Sojourner Truth African American Museum and the Verge Center for the Arts. Two popular San Francisco destinations are the de Young museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Julie McGilvray, an academic advisor for the Arts Group Advising Center, explained how museums help display the world as it’s seen through different lenses.
“Visiting art museums, attending theatrical productions or music productions is a great way to learn how art intersects with everyday life from the artist’s perspective and to learn about the influences of cultures, politics, societies, ethnic groups, race and gender and social movements,” McGilvray said.
Adam Cochran, a first-year graduate student in the art studio program, appreciates the power of museums to connect people.
“Museums offer an inspiring, quiet place for reflection and to connect with other people from the past,” Cochran said. “Humans began making art thousands of years ago not just to decorate a wall, but because it also enriches and informs our lives. It is a means of expression and thus a record of culture and a visual way in which we can connect to it across time and distance.”
Keep in mind this is a short rundown of options, but there is much more to discover. All you need is a Google search to unveil a world of art. Frequently visiting sites like thedavisdirt.com or local venue websites (or even joining email lists) can help you keep up with nearby events and prevent you from missing out.
2. Take up a new art
Starting an art practice might seem obvious or daunting as there are many options to experiment with, but you never know what artistic skill you may gain. Cochran has some advice on where to begin.
“Each art form has its inherent qualities that others don’t, and this might help direct someone […],” Cochran said. “My biggest recommendation would be to try a little of everything you can. What a person is interested in will become very obvious very quickly, even within just one or two projects.”
Patience is key for many things in life, including art. Keep that in mind if this endeavor proves more difficult than you had imagined
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying something, not liking it and then trying something else,” Cochran said. “Remember there is a difference between trying something and stopping because it is unenjoyable and quitting because it’s frustrating at first.”
Another important note is to let loose and not worry so much about proper technique.
“A lot of students avoid art because they feel like they aren’t doing it ‘right’ as opposed to allowing themselves to relax and discover the joy that the medium can bring,” Cochran said.
Specifically for painting, Cochran suggests starting with a couple brushes, cheaper materials such as acrylic paints and less expensive canvases or a pad of canvas paper.
“Painting can be an expensive practice, so don’t buy the most expensive tools before you are ready,” Cochran said. “By using the cheaper tools and gradually moving into the better ones, the student will appreciate why things are priced the way they are and will develop their skills without feeling as though they are wasting money. Wasting materials is an unavoidable part of the process of learning.”
Classes at the Craft Center are an on-campus opportunity to get hands-on experience and special attention, with many to choose from every quarter. As described online, these classes provide “a comfortable, encouraging atmosphere in which you can explore and develop creative skills.” Pamela Pretell, an undergraduate advisor for the Arts Group Advising Center, suggests other classes as well.
“Students may also consider taking a course like ART 10, Fine Art Appreciation, which exposes students to a wide range of artists, or they could take a beginning studio in Art Studio,” Pretell said. “Art Studio provides multiple lower-division studios every year in drawing, ceramic sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture and video.”
4. Keep a sketchbook
A notebook of paper provides a blank canvas to fill with anything that comes to mind. Carrying it with you wherever you go may motivate you to eliminate its empty pages. Plus, it keeps all spontaneous thoughts, ideas, poems or drawings in one place for inspiration. Often the best writing stems from streams of consciousness. As Cochran explains it, drawing can also serve as a stepping stone in the process of trying out other art platforms.
“I would recommend drawing as the springboard for all other art forms,” Cochran said. “Painting, sculpture, ceramics — their common ancestor, for lack of a better word, is drawing. From there, most people begin by just trying out what interests them.”
5. Attend live performances
Live performances include events like concerts, underground shows and theater and dance productions. On the surface, these examples may seem more like opportunities for entertainment and not as outwardly artistic. If appreciated the right way though, music as art becomes very apparent and just as breathtaking as looking at a painting.
For music on campus, the Ann E. Pitzer Center holds free Shinkoskey Noon Concerts every Thursday for an hour. The Mondavi Center also hosts plenty of artists yearly, spanning many genres of music. Students can redeem one free ticket during their academic career at UC Davis.
Underground shows taking place in Davis and the surrounding area are listed on undietacos.org. Along this line, Sofar Sounds can help you find “intimate gigs all around the world,” including San Francisco and Sacramento if you don’t want to travel very far.
The UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance holds free productions every quarter. All students are welcome to audition for the shows.
There are many local, accessible ways to engage with art, in one form or another. Art “[…] offer[s] diverse perspectives in the human experience,” as Pretell puts it. Victoria Lee, a third-year art studio peer advisor, agrees.
“Art has a strong impact to reveal and revitalize the thought processes of those who seek to find out something new,” Lee said. “It can also be an opportunity for students to learn about history and the society we all live in, since one could say art is a reflection and the outcomes of our lives.”
Students can also benefit from art for other reasons. According to McGilvray, it is a way to enrich daily life.
“I feel the process of engaging in a creative activity or attending an event related to the arts can be a meditative, learning and social experience that can enhance the routine of everyday life,” McGilvray said.
Cochran expanded on the meditative quality of art.
“I find that intensely concentrating on creating artwork can have the same effect as meditating, in that by focusing intently on one activity, all of the worries and random thoughts that pop into our heads throughout the day stop for a while as we are working on the art,” Cochran said.
Written by: Cecilia Morales — firstname.lastname@example.org