My Summer@Brown experience: Abby

Abby is a high school senior in Phoenix, Arizona, who took Professor Phoenix Savage’s class “When Old Artists Were You: Gaining Your Edge through Critical/Creative Making” last summer. Here, she writes about her experience and what first drew her to the program.

Abby building paper sculpture.

The independence given to Summer@Brown students is what first attracted me to the program. Being responsible for getting my own meals, arriving to class on time, completing assignments, etc. sounded very exciting to me. The opportunity to go out and experience new things both inside and outside the classroom was something that no other summer program offered. This compelled me to apply because I wanted to gain a perspective of what it is like to be in college, not just at Brown, but anywhere.

I have always had a passion for art. However, I was not interested in taking a typical art class where all you learn is how to draw a still-life. I wanted to be challenged and push myself out of my comfort zone. That is exactly what Professor Savage’s class offered. It seemed like a unique class where I could explore my own creativity and learn how to put it into something the world can see. I chose her class because I was hopeful I would learn that there are no limits to my creativity and the things it can produce.

Making paper was a highlight of the class. Before this class I had no idea how paper was made. Let me tell you, it is no easy task. The class was two weeks long and by the end of the course I had made about 15 pieces of usable paper. Even though it was a tedious process, I fell in love with it. There is a certain unexpected craftsmanship that comes with making paper. Each new piece is like a new canvas to blend colors, textures, patterns and even an accidental flower petal in whatever way your heart desires. I now have a new appreciation for handmade paper not only for the process, but because it reflects the person who made it. Although making paper wasn’t the entire objective of the course, it was definitely my favorite part.

More generally, this class taught me how to turn failures into successes. I am undeniably a perfectionist in everything I do, especially when it comes to art. But in this class I made countless mistakes every day. However, instead of stressing over the mistake and starting over, I learned to use it as an asset to my art. For example, I was cutting and rolling strips of paper for my final project and I accidentally tore a piece. At first I was extremely frustrated, but when I rolled the torn piece of paper I loved the way it looked because it gave it a more interesting and organic texture. My project would be so much more boring if it were not for the torn and imperfect edges.

Thinking back to my time outside of class, one night immediately comes to my mind. I grew so close to the friends I made at Brown in the first week that by the second week we already felt like family. A couple days before we all had to say our goodbyes (a day we tried to put out of our minds as long as possible), we decided that we were going to cook and eat a meal like a family. We made a trip to the Whole Foods a couple blocks away to get our ingredients. After gathering some supplies from the dining hall, we headed to my dorm kitchen. We played some music, cooked up pasta and laughed harder than we had ever laughed before. After we finished cooking, we got dressed up and scooted some tables together for our family meal. This still remains my favorite memory of my entire summer.

Getting a glimpse of Brown’s open curriculum has made me certain that that is what I want in a college. I also know that I will only go to a college that is as welcoming and accepting as Brown was and has a similar sense of community. Summer@Brown made me a more independent thinker and independent person. I was challenged to come to the answers on my own, both inside and outside the classroom. This is something that will benefit me in college and beyond.

Learn more about Professor Phoenix’s approach to teaching and what she hopes students get out of her class here.

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