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The Mac Weekly

Meet a Mac artist: Ilana Budenosky on public and political art

Ilana Budenosky ’17 works in the print studio. Photo by Maddie Jaffe ’17.
Ilana Budenosky ’17 works in the print studio. Photo by Maddie Jaffe ’17.
This week, The Mac Weekly chatted with Ilana Budenosky ’17, a senior studio art major from Manhattan, Kansas. We met in the Dunn Brothers on Grand, which was filled with Mac students on a Friday afternoon. It was a delight to clutch a cup of tea in the bustling coffee shop and chat with Ilana about something powerful: public art. I jumped in with the biggest question: how did you decide to become an arts major? For Ilana, it wasn’t a surprise, because she’s always been an artist: “I’ve loved doing art my entire life, and I entered Macalester thinking that I would be an art major. And then I got distracted by all of the departments, and everything I’m interested in. So it’s made me take a lot of classes that I’ve really loved in other departments. But I ended up coming back to art, because I can’t really imagine spending so much time on anything else!”

Next we talked about some of the types of art that Ilana creates, and the themes that she explores. “I do a lot of work in printmaking, so lithography, screen-printing and linoleum prints. I also like to paint and draw. I’ve got a variety [of methods] under my belt, but I prefer 2-D, installation and public art.” Ilana was thoughtful and contemplative as she discussed the themes that she likes to engage with, and, given that we spoke on the Friday after the November 8 elections, it seems that the work that she does is ever more important. “I think in the past I’ve definitely dealt with vulnerability, or tried to deal with it in my work. Now, especially in light of the results from Tuesday, I think I’ll continue to incorporate political [themes to a greater extent]. I’ve dealt with issues like that before, but it’s pretty essential right now.” For her, public art is of great importance. “I’m taking a History of Body and Performance Art course right now, which has been eye-opening for me, to consider the ways in which art and body can manifest publicly, and really force people to ask questions. I think that art should be for the people. I hate the idea of it being limited to only those who can get the gallery … that can be very classist, and whenever I get to interact with public art, or create public art, it becomes more participatory,” Ilana said.

“Games,” a lithograph print by Ilana Budenosky ’17. Photo courtesy of Budenosky.
“Games,” a lithograph print by Ilana Budenosky ’17. Photo courtesy of Budenosky.

I was curious about the ways in which Ilana’s works have been publically displayed. Her works have been shown around Macalester, and she also has a few pieces on display at Sencha, the tea shop on Grand Ave. She hopes to engage more with public art and collaborative work in the near future, so I asked her about some of the collaborations that she has worked on. She said, “So far, I’ve only collaborated in printing things with people, and so that’s more of a collaboration [process].” But Ilana has been taking action lately. When we spoke, she was in the process of organizing Art Build Against Hate: Public Protection of Our TC Communities, an event for the community creation of banners, zines and other types of public art “in response to the rise of hate and violence.” She is also working on a collaboration with Talia Young ’17, to combine art and poetry in performance at local venues like Sencha.

In the spring of 2015, Ilana studied abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico, taking classes at la Universidad de Guanajuato. She explained the impact the experience had on her: “There was a really great art community, and everyone was very supportive of each other’s work, and showing up to work all the time, which was really something great to be a part of … I got to spend a lot of time with friends, and we’d work for hours carving wood blocks, and I saw students doing collage, and really being brave and experimental in [their themes]. And also seeing the way that they organized themselves as a community was a big influence.”

Aside from studying abroad, there have been many classes at Macalester that have impacted her a great deal. “I love all my classes … I wish I could minor in everything!” She has taken a number of classes in the Latin American Studies department, and says that these classes have had a large effect on her. It seems that Ilana is in many ways driven by the process of learning new things.

When our conversation turned to life after graduation, Ilana became a little hesitant. “That’s a big question for me. It’s real. I’m definitely trying to find ways in which I can create art in a way that isn’t siloed off, and [in a way] that is actively connected with my surrounding community. And I’m not sure how that’s going to manifest yet. I’m really in love with what Heart of the Beast [Twin Cities theater] does, and the May Day parade is my favorite thing about the Twin Cities. And so I would love to work with them. But I will get a job. We’ll see what that is, but I’ll figure out [how to incorporate art].”

But there’s no denying how important the department and the art major has become to Ilana. She was effusive and excited as she described the department. I asked her what advice she would give future majors: “Do it. If you’re thinking about majoring, do it. The department is one of the kindest groups of people I’ve met on campus. I feel very lucky that I split my work study between being a studio supervisor in the sculpture studio and a shop assistant in Printland. And I get to learn so much from Mark [Holte] and Ruthann [Godollei]. Everyone is just amazing to be around. Study abroad, take new classes. I mean, it’s great to be an art major, but my other classes inform my work. And if I were in a different type of program, that might not necessarily be the case.”

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