By Eliza Sneeden
Professor of Art and Department Chair of Art and Art History Craig Hood understands both the initial appeal of the art program as well as the less widely known rigor that an art student will ultimately endure in the future.
“Serious art students find out sooner or later that it’s not easy. Most people take it up because it’s enjoyable or fun, but things get a lot darker later on when you’re actually trying to make something original,” Hood says.
Students in the UNH art program can choose to pursue a BA in Studio Art or Art History or a BFA with a concentration in specific mediums such as photography, printmaking, painting, sculpture, drawing, or woodworking.
Hood stresses the importance of an interdisciplinary education and because of this, the Fine Arts program is not something to be dismissed.
“We try to give our students, at the same time, an education that is both deep and broad, which isn’t that easy to do, by the way,” says Hood. “It’s something that people denigrate to some extent because it’s not thought to be a practical type of education, but our art majors get a liberal arts education in addition to an art degree, which we think gives them an advantage.”
The inevitable obstacles that Professor Hood mentioned ring true for Jillian Ryan, a senior from Nashua, who is pursuing a BFA with a concentration in photography.
“It’s this road of walls. You just always run into a wall. You either have to get through, climb over it, go around it, something. There are constantly walls and if there weren’t any, then it wouldn’t be art,” she insists.
Ryan talks about her work in a calm, steady voice, but her passion for the arts and for her specific BFA program shines through her relaxed demeanor. She came to UNH as a biology major and during her sophomore year, decided to unpack her secret interest in photography and pursue a major in the arts.
“I love learning and I love science, but I just wanted to do something for myself. I didn’t want to be 50 and go through a midlife crisis and wish that I had been an artist when I was younger,” she admits.
Ryan expresses appreciation for the intimacy of the BFA program and the community that it supplies her with. The program, which is made up of 7 students (2 photographers, 5 painters), is something she knows she won’t have after graduation.
“We all know each other’s work inside and out. It’s really nice to have this group of people because I know we won’t have it when we graduate. I’ll have to build up a community again,” she says.
Ryan specifically enjoys her workshops outside of the BFA program because they allow her to create work that is, according to her, more profound and abstract.
She smiles nostalgically when she explains her plan for her final project in a lighting workshop.
She has revisited a book that she remembers her mother reading to her during childhood: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Rereading it, she has decided that she wants to print her self-portraits directly onto the pages of the novel itself, incorporating both film and text into the pieces.
It’s interesting to see, from the perspective of both Ryan, who has a background in Biology, and Hood, who has a background in English, how interdisciplinary the Arts truly are.
Ryan notes, “For me, I was more interested in the concepts behind photography. I’m very meticulous; I’m very organized. I love systems. I did chemistry freshman year as a Bio major, so I loved all that. To be able to have a very specific process was nice for me.”
Having to overcome the assumptions that are made about students in the arts as well as coping with the classic struggle of being an artist creates an environment that is not all fun and games, as some people may assume, but rather one filled with demands and challenges that eventually lead to a sense of both internal and external accomplishment.