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Visual Arts @ MIT by Danny and Allan G. '20

how we practice and pursue it here

Throughout high school we loved drawing, painting, animation, fibers, etc., but were only ever able to practice those things independently, because for 9th and 10th grade, we were in the music program of the arts high school we went to, and for 11th and 12th grade, we transferred to a purely academic high school. So, we really wanted college to have classes that teach, communities that center around, and clubs that do visual art things. After finding out we were adMITted, one doubt we both had before comMITing was that MIT woudn’t have those things. MIT does a great job sharing and publicizing all the STEM that goes on here with the world (it is a technical institute after all), but a less great job (though actively improving) at communicating about the vibrant art community here.

Being members of the visual arts community here, we are writing this to share all the awesome ways that we have gotten involved in the arts here*. For the artsy admits, who are questioning if/how they can practice art here, we hope this sheds some light!

*this is not an exhaustive list, but rather a personal one

Clubs

Art Club

Art Club is a super chill club that has meetings on Saturday Morning in the art studio in the Student Center. We set out art supplies on paint splattered tables, turn on music (musical soundtracks if we get our pick, but usually this exact playlist), and let people work on whatever projects they want to work on! We also have fun workshops like mug decorating, pumpkin painting, and Henna!

Borderline

Borderline didn’t exist 3 semesters ago. In fact, Borderline actually had it’s first birthday a couple weeks ago, where we went to the graffiti alley in Central and spray painted our logo after getting very aesthetic boba from Abide!!

we look pretty hardk0re in our protective face masks, don’t we?

Anyways, Borderline started in Spring 2017. We mentioned it in these blogs, but never formally talked about its origin, what it is, and our involvement. So we’ll do that now. Borderline was started by a group of students (Julia R. ‘18, Jessie W. ‘19, Tara L. ‘17, Iris F. ‘17, and Emma D. ‘18) who wanted to create more opportunities for people at MIT to make art projects. The pilot project, which gained initial funding from the Council of the Arts at MIT, was to create murals with augmented reality animations in the MIT tunnels, the main goal of which was to make the MIT tunnels a less dreary and more aesthetically pleasing place to pass through. What actually came out of it was so much more! In the end, with the collaborative effort of 25 artists, 6 animators, 20 painters, and some coders, they were able to fill a 200-foot long wall with 25 murals, and make an app that enhanced 6 of those murals with augmented reality animations. By the end of the semester, over 200 people came to the Grand Opening and a Borderline community formed! That first semester, we each painted a mural and made AR animations for them! It was a lot of hours, but honestly THE highlight of our freshman spring semester, if not entire freshman year! The following semester, in Fall 2017, we joined the exec team because a large portion of the founding team graduated or could no longer be involved. This changed our roles from making art to more organizational/planning, but it was still a lot of fun! We expanded our wall of murals by 26 feet, added around 15 new murals, and 10 new animations, and had a end-of-semester showcase! This semester, Borderline became an official ASA recognized club!! We are still very much involved on the exec team, and our main goal this semester is to finish up making our wall look polished, adding animations, and expanding our reach to other local colleges! There is a blog section of our website where you can keep track of our latest projects and endeavors!!

taken during the Grand Opening in spring 2017

Borderline has been a very formative part of our MIT experience, and has really showed us that if there is something you find that MIT is missing, as long as you have initiative, MIT will help you make your vision a reality! What started out as an idea from a couple students is now a fully functional an operating club that has fostered a beautiful art community!

Animation Group

This is an awesome club that hosts many fun workshops like flipbook making and a recent manga workshop! We were involved our freshman fall, but since haven’t been very involved, so we cannot write about it nearly as much as we want to! We are getting involved this semester by participating in their aniMIThon, which is an animation hackathon (in true MIT spirit) to make a 30 second animated short!!! We have some rough sketches and thumbnails, and really REALLY want to finish! Hopefully writing it on these blogs will give us some more accountability!

Student Art Association (SAA)

The SAA provides a vast variety of visual art classes ranging from drawing to painting to ceramics to photography! These do cost money unfortunately and cannot be taken for credit, but MIT students get the cheapest rate!

We took an oil painting class during our freshman fall, and it was really fun and helpful! This was actually the first formal art class we’ve ever had, so we were very grateful for it! It was three hours on wednesday nights, and our instructor was very helpful and constructively critical! We have not been able to fit more classes into our schedule since, but we really want to! Here are some of the paintings we made in the class.

   

Danny’s on left, Allan’s on right

Student Galleries

On the second floor of the Student Center is the newly renovated Wiesnar Student Art Gallery!! Every month, it features the artwork of either one student or of a group of students! And anyone can apply to either showcase their own work or to curate a gallery of others’ work! The galleries are ALWAYS amazing!! We wrote about seeing our friend’s gallery here!

Art Scholars

From the Art Scholars website:  “Established in 1998, the MIT Arts Scholars Program brings together students who are passionate about exploring the diverse array of arts available at MIT and in the Boston area, and interacting with fellow students, faculty artists and other experts in the art world. The program is structured around monthly excursions or workshops, with an expert in the relevant field of art in attendance.

The mission is to foster an active community of MIT students with an exceptional interest in the arts. The community’s resultant role is that of an arts leadership group, cultivated through events and mentorship. The Arts Scholars Program is funded in part due to the generous support of the Council for the Arts at MIT.”

Art Scholars is a super awesome community of undergrads and grads who either practice some sort of artform (not just visual arts) or are art enthusiasts! They accept applications every semester on a rolling basis, and we joined at the end of Freshman Spring! We haven’t been able to go to too many of the excursions because the semesters never fail to get really busy. But we went on the annual New York trip a few weeks ago, where you get to see TWO plays or operas in New York for FREE with breakfast and dinner provided for FREE with trasportation to and from provided for FREE !!! It was a crazy fun and crazy long day! Honestly, that day deserves a blog in itself, especially because of the second show we saw (Sleep No More) was a RIDE and a half!

Another really cool perk of being an Art Scholar is you get to take SAA classes at a discounted price (it may even be free :O)!

Classes for Credit

There are many visual art classes offered through course 4, which are very cool, but these are fairly far from traditional art classes (like those offered by the SAA). These all have a technological, experimental, modern, or architectural spin to them, which is not bad, just different. We both took 4.100 over Freshman IAP, which was a 3 unit lamp fabrication class, and we had a blast designing and fabricating our light fixtures! Danny took 4.520, visual computing, over Freshman Spring, which was a really cool (and time consuming) rule-based design class. We actually considered course 4 for a while, but after taking these classes, realized it isn’t *exactly* in line with what we want to do, or at least not what we want to spend our time here doing.

In general, classes for credit in the visual arts (as in the type of traditional art studio classes that the SAA offers) is something that we and many other students we know find very lacking at MIT. With that said, there are a couple classes we want to highlight!

Drawing for Designers, which is under the theater department, is a traditional life drawing class! You get to spend class time drawing a mix of models and still lifes! It is a very popular class, and is always over enrolled, so you may have to try a couple semesters before getting in. Danny’s in the class this semester, so here are some of his homework assignments!

  

We haven’t taken more classes in the theater department, but along with what most expect from a theater department like acting and script-writing classes, it has a lot of classes that involve drawing!!! Aside from this one, there is Costume Design, which Anelise blogged about! We’ve also heard that Set Design is a class with some fun projects!

Crafting Comics is a special subject offered for the first time in the CMS department! Allan is taking it, and it’s been a LOT of fun! You actually get to, as the name implies, craft comics, from scripting to thumbnailing to drawing every panel!! Here are two pages he made for the class!

    

Publications

There are many publications that students can have a varying level of involvement in! The most we’ve been involved in is making art for or submitting our already-made art to these publications.

Rune is MIT’s art and literature journal! We both have some of our pieces in the latest edition!

Chroma is a brand new (started last semester) student run magazine that features articles accompanied by art! They had their first printed edition a couple weeks before spring break (which is now), and it was SUCH QUALITY! It also had very smooth paper! We both had art in this edition and are making art for their second print edition!

   

We have not been involved in these, but there is also the The Tech that you can illustrate for, and Technique that you can do photography for! Our descriptions for The Tech and Technique are very limited, but we know they do awesome work! Check out their websites and definitely check out their booths during CPW Activities Midway!

Keep an Eye/Ear Out

MIT is a buzzing campus! New projects and opportunities pop up left and right! Join all the mailing lists, and when walking through the infinite, at least glance at the flyers! One project we found out about by just looking around at flyers is Open Mind::Open Art!

Open Mind::Open Art

This was a project that took place during our Freshman IAP, and since we were on campus taking 8.01L*, we decided to apply! Essentially, it was a student gallery funded by the MindHandHeart Initiative that centered around mental health and wellness! It was honestly the best part of our IAP (and though it doesn’t take much to be better than 8.01(hel)L, this was actually amazing)! We remember that the energy during our Thursday night workshops and then during the actual opening night was ELECTRIC! The gallery transformed a very dilapidated room on the first floor of the Student Center and stayed there for two weeks! The piece we made was a series of 6 portraits, entirely made by hand sewing pieces of felt together. Our combined effort took more than 100 hours, but it was completely worth it! There are articles about it here and here and we blogged about it in more detail here and here !

Unfortunately,  Open Mind::Open Art was a one-time project, but these types of opportunities appear ALL the time if you keep your eyes and ears open!

*8.01L is the longer, slower paced, version of the Physics 1 GIR that goes into IAP for students who have had limited physics/math background prior to MIT.

Cross Registering

To fill in the gaps of the art classes we can’t take for credit (or at all) at MIT, we cross register at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (which is 10 minutes away by uber)! Many people on campus are aware of being able to cross-register at Harvard, but few people know that MIT students can cross-register at MassArt! We blogged about it once already, but are here again to tell you, “MIT students can cross-register at MassArt!” And more people should! This is our second semester cross-regging there, and we LOVE it! We both took Animation 1 last semester (and it was highkey our favorite class). This semester Allan is taking Digital Toolbox 2 (which teaches how to use animation software, something that can be stressful at times, but will be very useful in the long run!) and Danny is taking Character Animation (which is kind of a continuation of the traditional paper animation we did in Animation 1, but with more of a focus of character movement)!

We are EXTREMELY grateful that MIT lets us cross-register at MassArt. Also, you can petition your classes for Hass-A credit! We have yet to do so, but should get on that!

Freshman Arts Program

This is a Freshamn Pre-Orientation Program (FPOP) that started our sophomore year off FAPulously! It is basically a week long immersion in the arts! We did not get to participate in it as frosh, but were counselors at the beginning of this school year! As participants in the program you get to take part in many awesome workshops, work on a interdisciplinary week long art project, and interact with your equally artsy peers! It’s honestly a blast! As counselors you get to basically do all of the above, and more! We think we may have had more fun as counselors than some of the freshman had!

Closing Thoughts

We want to emphasize that these are the things that we have done to get involved in the visual arts at MIT, but are definitely not the ONLY ways! There are so many things we have heard of and haven’t gotten involved in, and probably more things that we haven’t even heard of! If you are to take away anything from this, we hope it’s that there ARE opportunities here to pursue the visual arts and there ARE people here who actively do! We also reccommend to read Ben’s Post to get another perspective about visual arts at MIT!