An Education

A few Sundays ago, my friend Tara’s dad decided to finish off his weekend visit to Baltimore by taking a group of us out to brunch. This was especially memorable for two reasons:

  1. We went to Alchemy, where their carnitas grilled cheese satisfied both my unparalleled ardor for chorizo and my stomach.
  2. Tara’s dad, Rob, is a Hopkins alum, and an incredibly enthusiastic one at that.
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Slowly but surely joining the Lawrence clan

Listening to Rob reminisce about his time at Hopkins, how he’s continued to visit former professors (so many of which still teach here—that’s commitment), and how much he understands the Hopkins experience was so refreshing. He was so excited that we all chose to come to this university and was adamant that we would see it pay off in every corner of our future endeavors.

This conversation isn’t the only time I’ve been struck by a certain post-Hopkins reassurance: art history majors in years above me have testified that the work ethic they developed here allowed them to succeed when entering some of the top doctoral programs in the country; recent graduates have explained that they felt worlds ahead to tackle their first out-of-college jobs. If there’s one thing that we Hopkins students may at times take for granted, it’s the fact that we’re receiving an unfathomably great education.

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This is me striving for that great education—if you purse you lips, it comes all the more easily

Let’s take this week for example. Monday I sat in awe as my art history professor give an off-the-cuff synopsis on the relationship between Minimalism and anthropomorphism. Tuesday my film theory professor made Walter Benjamin actually approachable, presenting each aspect of one of his most important essays as if she was describing a best friend. Wednesday I met with my thesis advisor (the aforementioned art history professor) who can astonishingly provide complete titles and years of publications for suggested readings off the top of her head. And we’re only half way through the week.

My happy place

My happy place

We are unbelievably fortunate to be receiving the kind of education that we do here at Hopkins. However, I think that many students’ qualms about the school ultimately stem from this fact. At times, it can seem as though we work without respite, and for some weeks this is true. This is because not only do we believe in success, but we are given the tools and the means to achieve it. It’s there within reach, and you can feel it. Unless you’ve ended up in some oddity of a class, the hours you put in here really add up to something tangible. If you want to come to Hopkins and leave as the best 22-year-old art historian the world has ever seen, you can. Everything you need is right here on campus, right beneath your overzealous fingertips. On the other hand, that’s not all there is to college; in fact, it’s far from it. I find that it can be difficult to find a balance between social life and academics, especially when the latter is at the caliber that it is here at Hopkins. There’s no shortage of opportunities to go out, but at certain points in the semester, it can feel like you have to actively carve out the time from studying.

I’m hopeful that the nights I chose to enjoy myself vs. crack down on my thesis, for example, will not be the make-or-break moments of my life or ostensible success. Besides, there’s a) only so much work one can tolerate in a day, and b) so many great people to spend time with and adventures to be had. In the end, I’m beyond grateful for my (nearly completed) Hopkins education, and even if rationalizing and finding a balance may have proven tricky, there’s no feeling like knowing that you’ve done the best you can at the tail end of four rewarding, albeit long years of college.

Something about a journey and/or foreshadowing my next blog

Something about a journey and/or foreshadowing my next blog

Going to the movies

I blame Paris with a lot of things: my constant longing for real butter and kouign-amann; my French vernacular mirroring that of an angsty Parisian teen; and the fact that my wardrobe has become one-third black, one-third gray, and one-third navy. While I’ve been able to cope with most of these, one aspect of my time abroad has continued to plague me ever since my return to the US of A. You see, during my year in France I was spoiled with an abundance of film. My host mom’s ardor for cinema coupled with the unforgettable video art on view at the Pompidou and the Palais de Tokyo had me hooked, eyes glued to the screen, wanting more. While I will shamelessly throw Anri Sala (fyi), Christian Marclay, and even Oliver Lutz under the bus for this newfound addiction, I wanted to find a solution. But what was I to do? As a senior art history major on the cusp of graduation, I assumed that I had missed the chance to pursue some type of film-centric studies. Oh, how I was wrong.

Rachel Rose, 'Mini Minute Ago'

Rachel Rose, ‘Mini Minute Ago’

My final term at Hopkins has ushered in the semester of film, and I couldn’t be happier. Thanks to flexible scheduling and tapping previously unknown opportunities, I’ve been able to satiate my budding interest in the moving image. Here’s how:

With the help of a very understanding professor, I was able to forgo a perquisite and enroll in Intro to Film Theory. Said professor, Meredith Ward, has turned out to be one of the most down-to-earth faculty members that I’ve yet to encounter. Through approachable and conversational class sessions, I’ve been able to delve into the concepts that make up the cinema experience. Plus, I get to chill with JHU_Genevieve (s/o).

Every Wednesday night for film theory, we have mandatory screenings that relate back to the topics of that week’s class. These screenings are awesome and, since they’re my last class of the week, it’s a nice way to segue into the weekend, albeit a bit early. So far we’ve watched Cinema Paradiso which was, for me, a bit difficult to stay with, but our most recent screening of In the Mood for Love was beyond great. I was enthralled and highly recommend it. I’m especially eager for our upcoming viewings of Boyhood and oddly enough, Blue Velvet.

Livres

Livres

It’s always refreshing to be able to draw parallels between different courses, and The ‘Long Sixties’ in Europe has proven to do just that. In the first two weeks alone it felt like an extension of Film Theory, as our earliest unit dealt with expanded cinema through the lens of the Lettrists. One of our final projects for the course is a student-curated exhibition of Lettrist books and ephemera, and I was lucky enough to get a book and a journal—each on film—as my objects of research for the next few weeks. I’ve yet to encounter a study of film from an art historical perspective, so I’m excited to have a class that allows me to do so.

All of this focus on film has proven especially useful as I continue on the journey known as my Senior Thesis. My first chapter addresses the spectatorial effects of Pierre Huyghe’s 2010 film The Host and the Cloud, and while I had previously struggled in my attempt to write on the work, I now feel much more equipped to tackle an analysis of this work thanks to my current coursework.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to experience film outside of the classroom as well. Just last week my friend Liana who’s in the Honors Program in Humanities invited me to a talk entitled “The Permeable Screen: Stalinist Cinema and the Third Dimension.” The Humanities Center is certainly one of the hidden gems at Hopkins, combining a wide array of humanistic studies and cross-disciplinary approaches, so I’m looking forward to attending more of their programs in my final semester.

Walter Smith at White Flag Projects

Walter Smith at White Flag Projects

Lastly, I’m beyond lucky to be living in a city as vibrant as Baltimore, especially for the sake of experiencing filmic works. The nearby Charles Theater, the black box series at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and even last night’s screening of Let the Right One In and Dracula at the Windup Space, for example, all contribute to a cultural landscape that’s in a league of its own.

One of the reasons that I chose Hopkins over an art school was the ability to delve into various facets of the liberal arts should my interests expand; now more than ever I’m reaping the benefits of this decision. The opportunities made available through the Program in Film and Media Studies, the Humanities Center, and even the History of Art department have collectively added up into an exciting senior spring. Hopkins is unique in that it’s beyond strong across the board, and this semester I’ve been able to experience that firsthand.

The plan

If I’ve learned anything as a college senior, it’s that sometimes—not always, but sometimes—”the plan” likes to veer off 180˚ and leave you in the dust wondering what the point of planning ever was. Of course it’s productive to set aspirations and to envision various means to get there, but upon recently finding myself with overly specific expectations, when things started to go awry I felt lost and, frankly, like a bit of a failure.

Fast-forward through much reflection and a much-needed winter break back in Saint Louis, and I’ve come to see that, while planning ahead is one way of doing things, it’s certainly not the sole means to an end. Since then, I’ve embraced uncertainty—when else in your life can you afford to leave so much up to the unknown?—and I’ve learned how to find peace without a plan.

STL happy place

STL happy place

In this same spirit, it almost feels fruitless to discuss my hopes for my final semester at Hopkins. Instead of assigning an assortment of expectations onto these next few months, I’d rather focus on what I do know and let what’s uncertain figure itself out as time goes on. I’m hoping that by spending my time and effort focusing on things within my control, I can enjoy the moment without stressing about what’s next (because, admittedly, there’s a lot on the horizon of a soon-to-be-graduating-senior that merits some worrying).

A literal horizon (c/o Vancouver)

A literal horizon (c/o Vancouver)

The only issue with this newfound approach is that I typically write a blog about what I anticipate before each coming semester and chronicle my thoughts and feelings about what’s to come. Since this doesn’t fit in with my growing skepticism of setting grand expectations, I’ve instead crafted a list of undeniable facts about my final months at Hopkins to still give you a matter-of-fact glance into the good life.

1.  I’ll be finishing off the year in my favorite rowhome in Waverly, also known as home. It has lots of space, might be haunted, and I’m currently trying to revive my beloved plants after abandoning them for winter break.

2.  I’ll finish off my yearlong internship at The Contemporary. These are some things happening at TC:

2a.  Letha Wilson artist talk on January 29, co-hosted with ICA Baltimore
2b.  The opening of Bubble Over Green, a solo project by video artist Victoria Fu, in the Kagro Building on February 21
2c.  The release of the second issue of Scroll, an intern-produced publication, in March

3.  I’m taking sixteen credits. These include:

3a.  The second half of my Honors Thesis exploring spectatorship in the work of contemporary French artist Pierre Huyghe
3b.  A Senior Capstone through Museums & Society, which will take the form of an upcoming exhibition here in Baltimore
3c.  The Business of Museums, an online graduate course through the MA in Museum Studies program
3d.  An introduction to film theory, aptly named Introduction to Film Theory
3e.  The ‘Long Sixties’ in Europe, an art history class on the multitude of movements that both bookend and span the 1960s
Are you all tired of me talking about art yet? I hope not ...

Are you all tired of me talking about art yet? I hope not …

4.  I’ll continue writing blogs for Hopkins Interactive.

4a.  I will inevitably and nostalgically read through all of my old posts during the last few days of classes

5.  I will spend too much money at:

5a.  Dooby’s Coffee (not on coffee, but on sandwiches and snacks)
5b.  Charles Village Pub
5c.  The Bun Shop
5d.  The pizza place next to The Bun Shop
5e.  Iggie’s (for actual, good pizza)
5f.  The Crown (this has already happened—help)

5 cont.  It’s good to acknowledge this upfront.

Snapchat excerpt from Dizzyland at the Crown this weekend (tempura shrimp not included)

Snapchat excerpt from Dizzyland at the Crown this weekend (tempura shrimp not included)

6.  I will listen to each of these albums on repeat until I start to hate myself and move on to the next one:

6a.  Lushlife, Plateau Vision
6b. Kanye West, Graduation (very fitting)
6c.  Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste
6d.  Black Moon, Enta Da Stage
6e. Jacques Brel, Les Bourgeois

7.  I will go on a rad Spring Break trip with rad people.

8.  I will spend an exorbitant amount of time in Gilman which is very much okay with me.

9.  I will reach new heights vis-à-vis the corndogs at Spring Fair.

Had to abandon my corndog partner-in-crime while I was abroad last spring—I will not make this mistake again

Had to abandon my corndog partner-in-crime while I was abroad last spring—I will not make this mistake again

10.  I will guilt people into doing fun/weird things with the useful adage “…but it’s senior year!”

11.  I’ll figure out my next steps when the timing’s right, graduate from college, and go from there—and that’s a-ok by me.

Use "me learning to ride a bike at the age of 22" as a metaphor for "anything is possible!"

Use “me learning to ride a bike at the age of 22″ as a metaphor for “anything is possible!”

The art of the exhibit

To the unsuspecting museumgoer, an exhibition can seem like the result of a fairly simple process: choose a topic, assemble some objects, maybe even write a few texts, and then boom!—an exhibition is born. On the surface, this isn’t far from the truth. However, if my time as a Museums & Society minor at Hopkins has taught me anything, it’s that there is so much more to it. The organization of an exhibit is a thoughtful, time-consuming, and critical endeavor where each and every step or decision is the product of many contemplations and conversations.

~cur8ing ~ circa 2013

~cur8ing ~ circa 2013

If my minor has taught me anything else—which, trust me, it has—it’s that exhibitions can take any number of formats. From the museum gallery to the online setting (and nearly everywhere in between), the public humanities have delved into more and more spaces, oftentimes for the sake of better engaging with audiences. To demonstrate this, I’ve assembled a selection of recent, student-curated exhibitions made possible by the Museums & Society curriculum that also help to show you the unbelievably cool opportunities made available to us students. (If this is truly up your alley, you can see a list of all of the exhibits and projects here.)

 Print by Print: Series from Dürer to Lichtenstein

Print by Print was organized by a group of students the semester before I arrived at Hopkins, but opened in the fall of my freshman year—it goes without saying that it peaked my interest in the Museums & Society program tenfold. In this practicum course, students worked with the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Baltimore Museum of Art to help organize one of the museum’s most impressive exhibitions to date. The combined study of the history and practice of printmaking, research into specific works in the BMA’s collection, and the proposal of exhibition themes made for a class that I can only imagine as being thought-provoking and beyond informative.

In Focus: Ara Güler’s Anatolia

My first practicum course for the minor was dedicated to the creation of this very exhibition, which explored a series of photographs by Ara Güler in the collection of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries; check out a first-hand account of this unique opportunity here.

Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus

While I may tend to focus on exhibitions of artwork, there’s no shortage of projects that focus on the presentation of other fields of knowledge as well. Take Jews on the Move for example, an exhibition in conjunction with the Jewish Museum of Maryland that examined postwar Jewish life in our very own city. Through archival work, field trips, and plenty of insightful discussions, the class culminated in a traveling exhibition—a collection of standalone signs that later went on display in various locations across Baltimore.

The Material Culture of Academic Life

In my class this past semester, “Curating Material Culture in the Digital Age,” we looked at the growing practice of creating online exhibitions through the lens of the JHU Collections Web (check it out!). The website serves as an ever-expanding catalogue for objects and curiosities from across the University’s many collections. Each student selected three objects of material culture which we researched, catalogued, and presented through the meticulous drafting and editing of interpretive texts. I must say that my favorite aspect of this class was exploring the history of Hopkins itself; this school has hosted so many discoveries and ‘firsts,’ and it was surprisingly cool to discover the stories that stemmed from each object.

Senior Capstone (coming soon!)

Students in their final year of the minor have the unique opportunity to conceptualize and organize a public project of their choosing. This culmination of sorts epitomizes the Program’s emphasis on both theory and practice, and I’ve elected to embark on an exhibition of my own this upcoming semester. More to come on this soon—I’m beyond excited for my project, and will definitely blog about it after its official announcement in just a few weeks. Nevertheless, I hope that this post has given a clear picture of the incomparable opportunities available to Museums & Society students. The presentation of knowledge to an audience is a useful exploit in any field, and I’m grateful to my minor for making this way of thinking so exciting and accessible.

Five

It’s no surprise that, at times, the semester can feel inundated with stress. Assignments accumulate and papers pile up, but eventually a break comes along that allows you to reflect on the good times that have thankfully made up the last few months. Below are just five moments that I’m thankful have made their way into my Senior fall at Hopkins.

CO-HOSTS

This past year The Contemporary, a nomadic museum where I’ve been lucky enough to intern, has co-hosted a number of lectures with local galleries which bring a variety of artists to Baltimore for free, public talks. Working a number of these events has definitely been a highlight of the semester, and has also entailed some cool dinners with prominent artists and gallerists alike. It’s great to see the diverse audience that these lectures bring about, and I’d encourage anyone in Baltimore to take advantage the (free) greatness that is The Contemporary’s Speaker Series.

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TC staff and Gallery Four with Sanford Biggers

The notorious Guerrilla Girls held a Q&A for students from local schools (Hopkins included!)

The notorious Guerrilla Girls held a Q&A for students from local schools (Hopkins included!)

Post-Guerrilla Girls madness

Post-Guerrilla Girls madness

FALL BREAK

For this year’s Fall Break, my friend Liana and I made the strenuous four-hour trip up to New York for a few, solid days of food, art, and trying not to look like tourists. Fall Break, short as it may be, is an awesome time to take a trip and check out what’s going on in another city. We indulged in some killer meatball sandwiches at The Meatball Shop, saw Jeff Koons’ much talked about retrospective at the Whitney on its final night, and had spiritual awakenings in the midst of $1 slices of pizza. A weekend well spent.

A Doughnut Plant newcomer

A Doughnut Plant newcomer

2:00am: stand next to sculpture of Play-Doh

2:00am: stand next to sculpture of Play-Doh

Hey, you

Hey, you

HALLOWEEN

Halloween in Baltimore is an unquestionably good time. In addition to the usual house parties and trip to Fell’s Point, this year I found myself at a haunted house organized by 901 Arts, a community-based youth arts center. My expectations of an endearing, DIY haunted house were quickly shattered as I entered a world of fear like none other. The kids in the program far exceeded my expectations—as demonstrated by my incessant screaming—and it’s a must-do during Halloween in Baltimore.

Fell's insanity

Fell’s insanity

~blessed + possessed~

~blessed + possessed~

Where dreams (and apparently, nightmares) come true

Where dreams (and apparently, nightmares) come true

ALLOVERSTREET

ALLOVERSTREET is a monthly art walk that centers around Oliver Street (see what they did there??) in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. A number of local galleries open their doors the first Friday of every month for a night of incredible art and memorable openings. As I’ve said countless times before, the Baltimore art scene is truly unique and at a really, really exciting time in its development, and seeing what’s out there is a great way to get a better sense of what makes this city tick—thankfully, ALLOVERSTREET makes this easy to do over the span of just one night.

La Bodega Gallery

La Bodega Gallery

and la reste of La Bodega

and la reste of La Bodega

THANKSGIVING

All of these good times bring me to my most recent cause for excitement: Thanksgiving Break. This year, Vio made the trip to St. Louis to and it’s been everything I’ve ever imagined and more. St. Louis (complete with our flawed prosecution system) may not have the appeal of the many other U.S. cities, but it has meant introducing her to the real Midwest, including:

Excessive amounts of laziness

Excessive amounts of laziness

Excessive amounts of snow

Excessive amounts of snow

Excessive amounts of cherry limeade

Excessive amounts of cherry limeade

Excessive amounts of snacking before an excessive Thanksgiving feast

Excessive amounts of snacking before an excessive Thanksgiving feast

An excessive amount of photos with an American public school

An excessive amount of photos with an American public school

And just the right amount of Hopkins reunions in STL

And just the right amount of Hopkins reunions in STL

Right on schedule

With the approach of course registration freshman year, the dorms were filled with rumors of no-morning-classes, aka the chance to sleep-in once, maybe twice a week. Sophomore and junior years, it was the elusive hope of having an entire day free of classes—should it bookend the weekend, all the better. Well this year, as a senior, I’ve struck gold with my fall schedule. You see, not only do I have three days of classes, leaving me with a four-day weekend (see Exhibit A):

Look at those glorious days sans class

Look at those glorious days sans class

but, more importantly, I have a really solid group of classes that inspire and challenge me in a number of different ways (see Exhibit B):

Hey guys

Hey guys

Here’s the lowdown on my senior fall semester as a soon-to-be-graduated art history major:

Honors Thesis

The dog's name is Human, btw.

The dog’s name is Human, btw.

I’ve technically been working on this since junior year, but now it’s finally game time. I’m writing on a contemporary French artist named Pierre Huyghe whose retrospective I saw at the Centre Pompidou while I was still abroad (cue tears and flashback montage). More accurately, I saw his exhibition about six times; I would walk in and hours would pass in the galleries filled with immersive and downright incredible work. My thesis, because yes, you’re all wondering, looks at Huyghe’s video work and placement of masked actors and animals in the exhibition space in order to consider the effect of surrogacy on spectatorship. This semester, my advisor’s guided me through issues of virtuality, phenomenology, posthumanism, etc. and drafts of text have been turned on their heads. It’s been trying to say the least, but I still have this winter and the spring semester to get my thesis in a good place.

Thesis writing now fills most rooms of my house including, but not limited to:

The living room table

The living room table

This shelf

This shelf

My bedside table

My bedside table

And my desk. Luckily my Goodwill painting of a plant manages  to keep me optimistic.

And my desk. Luckily my Goodwill painting of a plant manages to keep me optimistic.

Problems in Theory and Method: Reception, Response, Reflexivity

Thomas Teurlai at the Palais de Tokyo

Thomas Teurlai at the Palais de Tokyo

Chances seemed slim to take an art theory course before graduation, something I really wanted to do, but stars aligned when I saw that one of my favorite professors, Professor Merback, was teaching the course with that crazy long title up above. The only problem was that it was restricted to graduate students. However, following surprisingly little persuasion on my behalf, I was let into the class and have really enjoyed it. The readings are dense and pedantic and troublesome and, some nights, never-ending, but it’s truly all worth it. Plus it’s cool to get lost in the graduate student’s ingenious ramblings and gives me something to aspire to. As a seminar course, the class will result in a seminar paper on an artwork/artist of our choice incorporating the themes of reflexivity and the “beholder’s share” that we’ve been looking at over the past few months. I’m writing my text on another contemporary French artist named Thomas Teurlai and it’s been a great experience thus far.

Curating Material Culture for the Digital Age

The basis for this Museums & Society course was fairly simple: you can learn a lot about a culture through its material culture, the ‘stuff’ they leave behind. What resulted has been an intense foray into Hopkins history as an academic institution through a look into our own collections. Our research contributes to an ongoing digital project called JHU Collections Web (still in beta) that creates connections between all of the disparate ‘stuff’ that Hopkins has accumulated since its founding. Our class has chosen to approach our group of objects in a way that highlights the primacy of discovery at this university and the continuous outward-looking efforts of such endeavors. The class has entailed a lot of research and the writing of interpretive texts, along with labs—yes, labs in the humanities—but I know that the end product will pay off.

The World Wide (JHU Collections) Web

The World Wide (JHU Collections) Web

Bilingualism

‘Bilingualism’ brings back everybody’s favorite game show: Joseph VS. Science! For my last and final distribution requirement (and good riddance), I’m taking a cognitive science course focused on the cognitive processes of bilingual speakers (did that sound smart?). I’ve come to view the class as follows: I really like the lectures. A lot. The concepts are so cool and interesting and, as a self-proclaimed bilingual (*brushes dirt off shoulderlets it rain, clears it out*), the lessons become more relatable and thus understandable. Also one time we had a lecture about the brain and there were pictures of the insides of brains and I didn’t throw up in class! So that’s all good. But then the tests come, and that’s another story. But overall, I’m really glad I enrolled in this course and encourage my fellow humanities majors to test out different courses for distribution requirements.

One time I switched into French to talk to my host mom while talking to friends from home. They had a mental breakdown.

One time I switched into French to talk to my host mom while in the middle of talking to friends from home. They had a mental breakdown.

So that’s the semester! Hard to believe that there’s only one more of these course wrap-ups to come before graduation—time flies when you’re getting an education. Maybe by then I’ll have learned how to make these posts more concise, but I’m not making any promises.

Speed Bumps

With only a bit more than a month of classes remaining this fall, I feel confident in asserting that this semester has been nothing short of mercurial. Highs have been high, and lows have been oh so low. Sometimes they choose to emerge simultaneously, making it challenging to hang onto one emotion for too long. Instead, days and weeks and clusters of moments collapse into a constant tangle of uncertainty. It’s a bizarre and oftentimes unwelcome amalgamation of the excitement of being back on campus this fall and the unpredictability of misfortune.

1604817_10152788356029275_3711882376215924793_nAs far as adjusting to life back at Hopkins after last year in Paris, it’s been significantly more smooth than I had anticipated. Senior fall’s been fun—it really has been. There’s been no shortage of weekend adventures and city exploring. Being 21+ in Baltimore is whatever (understatement) and has led me to a plethora of new spots throughout the city. My classes have been a reliable mix of independent work (hello, thesis) and the now-familiar seminar setting. My internship with the Contemporary has led to feasting on Ethiopian food with Sanford Biggers, meeting the notorious Guerilla Girls and binging on chicken wings with one of my favorite Baltimore gallerists. There have been memorable meals, memorable day and weekend trips, and memorable antics that I know will leave me with positive reflections on the semester.

2014-10-24 17.35.19Nonetheless, it’s easy to get caught up in the para-reality of college and so, when setbacks arise, it can be challenging to reconcile the two. Alongside the number of favorable memories that have made up this semester, I know I’ll look back and be forced to admit that this fall’s been taxing in more ways than one. Luckily, there are two pieces of good news. First of all, there’s been no shortage of support. My friends here are incredible, but when they drop everything to be by my side, they become nothing short of ineffable. It’s hard to express how much their words or simply presence have helped me get through this semester’s tough times. Second of all, a speed bump is just that: a bump in the road. It’s not the end, nor is it unendurable. Is it inevitable? Sure. Could we do without them? Probably. But there’s no reason to give up—instead, I recommend eating spoonfuls of Nutella and then getting on with it, although any alternative will do.

These past few weeks, I’ve been reminded that “there are many ways to look at things,” a mantra that’s helped me to reflect and move forward. With only a handful of weeks left this fall and then the conclusion of my time at Hopkins with the long-anticipated spring semester, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to tackle the challenging and embrace the positive. Besides, there’s nothing like a little struggle to make you appreciate the good that’s out there as well.

JB and JS_Spencertown

C.R.E.A.M.

The “cash rules everything around me” doctrine rings especially true at the university level. Whether tracking down the elusive paid internship, securing funding for a research project, or hunting down spare change for late night chicken nuggets from UniMini, the cash-fueled trials of college life are aplenty. Fortunately, Hopkins is chock-full of potential funding opportunities, making it possible for students to (feasibly) tackle their wildest dreams.

Thanks, Raekwon

Probably the most well-known source of funding is the Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Freshmen and sophomores can apply to this program and, if successful, receive $10,000 (not joking) to spend on research over their four years at Hopkins. Our very own SAAB alumni JHU_Tess was a Wilson Fellow and completed her study of the London Olympics just last year—read more about her project here.

The Dean’s and Provost’s Undergraduate Research Awards (DURA and PURA, respectively) are even more popular means of bringing in the cash flow (in the name of research). All undergraduates are eligible to apply and projects have ranged from the organization of an exhibition on the aesthetics of touch to a documentary about street art in Baltimore, along with more science-y projects that I won’t attempt to explain.

For me, I’ve been fortunate to receive three grants during my time at Hopkins, each of which has given me the opportunity to do things that would have otherwise been impossible.

The intern crew

The intern crew

For the summer after my sophomore year, I applied for the Robert and Nancy Hall Grant for Museum Internships. Administered by the Program in Museums & Society, the grant is just one of the many funded internship opportunities offered by the program; students can likewise apply for paid internships at the Walters Art Museum, the Evergreen Museum and Library, the JHU Homewood Museum, and more. Upon learning that I had received the Hall Grant, I was able to put funds toward any museum-related internship of my liking. I ended up spending the summer in Washington D.C. at the Phillips Collection where I spent twelve weeks organizing an exhibition and researching programs for the Center for the Study of Modern Art. Also, a lot of Shake Shack was involved.

To the windows, to the wall

To the windows, to the wall

This last summer, I knew that I once again wanted to pursue a curatorial internship, but was in needs of funding to make such a plan viable. Following a brief search, I applied for the Second Decade Society Internship Grant run through the Second Decade Society (SDS), a group of Hopkins alumni, and the Career Center. After submitting a lengthy proposal about my summer goals and interviewing with SDS, I was awarded funds to put toward any unpaid and/or non-profit-related internship—as you may have guessed, museums fit into both of these boats. I spent my summer months at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis where I received not only incredible mentorship, but the opportunity to work on exhibitions for artists including Joe Goode, Laurie Simmons, and Hurvin Anderson. In the past, other SDS interns have worked everywhere from the World Health Organization in Geneva to the American Broadcasting Company in New York to FIFA in South Africa.

Wistful for curating

Wistful for curating

The final grant that I received and that I’m particularly excited about is a Mellon Arts Innovation Grant. Open to undergraduates and faculty members, the AIG intends to fund projects and initiatives that support artistic collaborations either between JHU departments or between Hopkins and the Baltimore community. I applied last spring and, along with several undergraduates and faculty members, was awarded the grant! The funds will allow me to curate an exhibition as a complement to my thesis research that will open at a local gallery. I’m still in the initial phases of organizing the show, but I have an idea of what’s to come thanks to my last curatorial endeavor in Baltimore. I can’t wait to determine what shape the exhibition will take and I’m looking forward to seeing what the other recipients do with their funding.

As (I hope) my blog demonstrates, there a number of grants available to Hopkins students that can lead to some pretty awesome experiences. My internships and subsequent curatorial endeavor are defining aspects of my time at Hopkins and have allowed me to find relatively more practical uses for a very theory-based field of study. Plus, at the country’s first research university, one should come to expect nothing less than support to make your research (or internships or projects) a reality.

Senior Orientation

Stepping onto campus was weird—there, I said it. It had been more than a year since the last time I crossed North Charles and saw the words “THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY” carved into marble and stretching across the Beach. Hopkins was a place that had been on my mental back burner while I galavanted around France for nine months, and now here I was. At first, it was weird. Little had changed but at the same time, so much had. However, slowly but surely and following a quick campus refresher tour, I began to feel at home once again. I began to remember why I chose Hopkins in the first place. And while at times my qualms with the school pervaded my thoughts, this time things were different. This time, I was, and continue to be, genuinely happy to be here.

Post-study abroad can be difficult, but this year has given me so much to look forward to that there’s little time to dwell on the negative. Senior year feels different in the best way possible. Sure, it’s the beginning of the end of my time at Hopkins, but if I learned anything from Paris, it’s that a lot can be done in just one year.

Porch life

Porch life

The first thing that’s made the year so great is off-campus living. My friends and I have a rowhouse in Waverly and, in short, it rocks. There have been plenty of untimely misadventures that I’m sure we could have done without, but it’s still a place that I look forward to returning to everyday. It comes complete with a backyard, porch and is situated just a block from the weekly farmer’s market. It’s definitely become my happy place and has made all the difference in my enthusiasm about the year.

Nothing will ever live up to this meal

Nothing will ever live up to this meal

Then, there’s my schedule. In the past I tried to take on as much as I could, but this semester I chose to focus on quality rather than quantity. I’m taking 13 credits and have no classes on Mondays or Fridays, so my schedule is much more balanced than it has been in previous years—I’m looking at you, sophomore spring. I’m most excited about my Honors Thesis in the History of Art department which explores the art of Pierre Huyghe through his engagement of the spectator at his 2013 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. As a class with no set class time, writing a thesis requires no shortage of self-control, but with the mentorship of my advisor, I’m looking forward to seeing where this endeavor goes. I’m also taking a graduate-level course called Problems in Theory and Method: Reception, Response, Reflexivity, a Museums & Society course exploring the history of Hopkins called Twenty-First Century Approaches to Material Culture and a cognitive science course for distribution requirements called Bilingualism. Although I was apprehensive about my one non-humanities course and felt nauseous when we talked about the physical makeup of a brain yesterday, it’s turned out to be one of my most intriguing courses and rounds out a really rad schedule for the semester.

Interns past and present breaking the ice

Interns past and present breaking the ice

This past week I started a yearlong internship at The Contemporary. Founded in 1989, The Contemporary redefines the museum as a non-collecting and nomadic entity. Whereas a conventional museum is bound by the presentation of a permanent collection in a fixed space, we at The Contemporary are unlimited when it comes to which artists to work with and where to show their work. The organization aims to bridge the gap between art, artists and audiences and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team. A major part of the internship will be producing the second edition of Scroll, a publication conceived of and created by the intern staff—you can read about issues of tastemaking and access in Baltimore in the inaugural issue here.

Danny Deacon show at The Crown

Danny Deacon show at The Crown

In addition to the aforementioned slew of activities that fill up my calendar, I’ve simply been enjoying living in Baltimore. It felt great to reunite with the things I love—friends, pot pie at the Bun Shop, the sounds of the city at night—and to discover new things as well—bulgogi nachos at The Crown, ALLOVERSTREET in Station North, the sanctity of Gilman on a Sunday night. I truly feel refreshed and ready for whatever the year will inevitably throw my way.

This morning, I met with my academic advisor and applied for graduation. College was never a given for me, so the fact that I’m preparing to graduate from this university is mind-blowing. However, until the emotion-filled day of May 21, 2015 arrives, I plan on taking full advantage of life here at Hopkins and in Baltimore as much as I can.

Fireworks over Balti

Required Watching

A city. It’s a funny thing when you think about it. A drop of a pin on a map, a pixel on a computer screen. A place where we initially end up by mere chance. A place that holds so much and means so much more.

Tomorrow I’ll once again leave my hometown of St. Louis to start my final year of college in Baltimore, yet this time the feeling as I near my departure is different. Tomorrow, hundreds of miles will separate me and a city that’s gone through so much over the past dozen days. On August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, a 15-minute drive north of my home, a police officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager. Yesterday, I went to pay my respects to the victim—Mike Brown—at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the road. His death, regardless of what any court trial may show, represents so much of the racial inequalities that pervade our city and our country. The questions raised are dire, and my city’s response—demanding answers, demanding equality, demanding justice—has confirmed what I know to be true of St. Louis: we fight for what our guts tell us is right.

2014-08-19 13.08.06

I bring up this admittedly doleful aside not only because I think it’s critical that we reflect on this event and its social undercurrents, but because I believe that it underlines the inherent power of a city and its identity. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, even when certain actions challenge that very conviction. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, because when we band together as a city, we can ignite change.

In no time at all, the class of 2018 will be heading to Baltimore—for some, their beloved hometown and for many others, a new place to call home. If I could urge the incoming freshman class to do one thing, that would be to get to know and love this city. Baltimore has easily become one of my favorite cities in the world; the people are incredible and the energy is ineffable. Like any place, Baltimore deals with its own set of issues, but the pros outweigh any measly con time and time again. I hope that upon settling into your dorm and the Homewood campus, you get out and explore the city. Get acquainted with its unique identity and find a way to make an impact.

Before you all get bogged down by syllabus week and lists of textbooks and required reading, I wanted to offer up a head start with a list of required watching—of course, this will not be graded, but I definitely recommend taking a look at one (or all) of the videos below to get an initial idea of what Baltimore is about. The videos aren’t exhaustive and the city is so much better in person, but it’s a good way to get a sense of what makes Baltimore tick. Welcome home, class of 2018—to Hopkins and to Baltimore.

For starters, let’s get our bearings. This is Baltimore:

Balti’s music scene is one-of-a-kind. Seriously, it’s rad:

Our art scene is just as renowned. One time, I helped an artist collective marry people outside of an old police box adjacent to Penn Station:

If you’re a fan of theatre, you’ll find tons of great performances. Single Carrot Theatre (below) is great, but look up some Wham City Comedy (a personal favorite) for some more, occasionally less appropriate humor:

People aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Baltimoreans care about land use and agriculture, one example being the Baltimore Free Farm—fun fact: some of my friends made this documentary through a class at Hopkins:

Street art has transformed the city. Keep an eye for the incredible murals and graffiti courtesy of Open Walls Baltimore. Also, I’m obsessed with this video (that’s to say, watch this one ! ! !):

See you tomorrow, Baltimore.