Every week, The Mac Weekly interviews one senior majoring in an artistic field at Macalester. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Studio Art major Samantha Leopold-Sullivan.
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Arizona. I grew up in both Phoenix and Tucson—but most recently Tucson.
Do you have any other majors besides Studio Art?
Environmental Studies with a concentration on Sustainable Design.
You were quoted on the Macalester Website as a first year saying that you wanted to solely be an Environmental Studies major. What inspired you to decide to pursue art?
I’d always been interested in art. I always enjoyed doing art and I really just like the making things aspect of it. And so when I came here I was thinking about [an] Environmental Studies major, art minor, then I switched to thinking art major, Environmental Studies minor, and now I’m a double major.
The Mac Weekly has written before about your work with environmentally friendly art. Can you speak some more about that?
Okay, well that’s how I’m combining them—is using art to convey environmental concepts or to make things visible that are not normally visible, in terms of what our relationship with the environment is. And that’s actually what I’m doing my senior capstone in art on. You’ll have to come to the senior show to see what it is!
Can you give us a specific example of a time when you’ve done environmental art in the past?
The summer after freshman year I made a reliquary for nature. Since it’s disappearing, and especially wild nature, there isn’t really any wild nature anymore. So I thought we should save a little bit of it. I have others planned…
Would you say you use your art as a source of activism?
Mhm, yeah! But I don’t want it to be shouting at people. I don’t want it to be a political cartoon; and so I’m working on the balance of aesthetics and existing for its own sake, and then also existing to serve a greater purpose.
What medium has been the most challenging for you to work with?
Most challenging…digital. Growing up I always made stuff. Sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking—they’re all fun and I pick it up pretty fast. But digital, since I can’t really reach in there and mess with it, is harder.
Do you have a favorite medium to work with?
Sculpture. So fibers, metal, and wood. They all have their strong points and their weak points and they work together pretty well.
So as much as art can be fun and playful, it can also work in therapeutic ways. Would you say that art has ever served as a cathartic source for you?
Yeah. It helps me work through emotions and stuff. I find it relaxing, just the process of making art. It helps me stay sane, definitely…and I think it’s a good balance with Environmental Studies, ‘cause Environmental studies tends to get depressing quickly. So art makes me happy, Environmental Studies makes me depressed, what makes the world better! Combine them and it’s a winning combination.
Now that your time here is slowly weaning away, what’s something that you wish you did at Macalester?
I found out that we had this engineering program with Washington University in St. Louis. And I found that out too late to explore it; but I wish I’d explored that, ‘cause that also seems like a good overlap for me.
Besides doing your final senior project, how do you see yourself finishing off your work with art at Macalester?
Well, I’m not finishing off my time here! I’m hoping to stay in the Twin Cities and apprentice with Stan Sears. And continue to work in the Art department on sculpture-y things, and also help out with Stan’s classes and probably getting the foundry more in order. I’m not ready to say goodbye yet!
Have you found a particular draw in the Twin Cities that has made you want to stay?
I think it’s really good for starting artists. It has a lot of supportive non-profits, a really good arts network that I found, and also a lot of grant availability. And so I feel like I’ve generated a really good network here. I have a lot of friends outside of Macalester in the arts community. It feels good to stay.
What are some of the ways you’ve been involved in the arts community outside of Macalester?
I interned at Art Start and then I volunteered there and then I worked there—and so I’m still involved there somewhat, but I was abroad last semester…I also volunteer at ArtiCulture, which is the Minneapolis version of Art Start. I volunteered at Northern Spark; and volunteering at Northern Spark I met the local steampunk group and so now [I] go do stuff with them. And then working in the gallery here, I’ve met a lot of the artists that come through since I help with the installations. So I’ve kept those contacts alive. And then I’ve also just been getting out and about, going to openings and then e-mailing artists that I like their work. It’s been really good.
If you could sum up your Macalester experience in one phrase what would it be?
Highly beneficial in unexpected ways.
Besides working in the Art department, do you have any other after graduation plans?
Eventually grad school, for an MFA. But I’m taking the year off to work. I’ll find a day job so I can still eat and stuff. And then make a lot of art and then apply to grad school and then hopefully become a teacher at the college level, or a museum gallery or something. And make more art!
Would you want to work at Macalester?
We’ll keep that in there and maybe someone important will read this article! Do you have any last words, pieces of advice, mantras, jokes, or catch phrases?
If you want to do something, do it. If someone does something that you want to do, talk to them about how they do it. And just the sooner you start doing that the better things go. So don’t be afraid to ask!
For this and more photos see http://www.samanthaleopoldsullivan.com