Exploration in the Arts: An Entire College Experience Aptly Named by a Freshman Year Seminar
A Hunter Grad Spotlight by Muse Scholar and Arts Ambassador Teresa Sadowska
I came to Hunter College from a performing arts high school and let me tell you, when my Class of 2016 was graduating, it felt as if every one of my fellow graduates was headed off to conservatory and I was the only one who was not. My friends chattered excitedly of auditions and portfolios and call backs. Vocal music had been a constant throughout my life, but I knew I had other interests I wanted to explore. Even knowing my reasons, the vast unknown of the academic world loomed and upon entering Hunter, I embodied the stereotype of the curious but utterly lost college student: What would be my major? What would be the field I would be getting a degree in? What did I want to do with my entire life? The extremity of the concept rattled around in my brain. I had just left the commitment of a vocal major back in high school; did I have to commit to a path again so soon? Because of the Muse Scholar Program, I took a required year long course: HUM201 Exploration in the Arts. This course allowed for study of the creative arts and for creative expression within multiple art fields. Desperate to give all my other interests a chance, I took the values of the HUM201 course and applied it to my CUNYFirst course registrations and did what I’d recommend every student passionate about the multiple arts fields do. Which is take every introductory arts course that the Hunter requirements would let me squeeze in. And it worked! I was “introduced” to film, art history, media studies, theatre, literary studies. I sampled. I tasted. I tried. I figured out what I liked – what worked for me, what didn’t. And the process of this choice was one that I found echoed throughout my four years at Hunter. If you come to college with an honest desire to learn, both about your interests and about yourself, the technicalities of declaring a major, minor, certificate etc. will come. For now, you’re allowed to try different things. You’re here to explore.
When I did finally declare a Media Studies major, I relished the freedom it offered, allowing me to not only take classes about television and media analysis, but film classes, women & gender studies classes, and even classes offered within the department on marketing and communications. I could try my hand at different courses of study and fields even from within my degree plan! The department encouraged taking internships for credit – and so I did. I interned at Film Forum and got to learn firsthand how a film theatre office works behind-the-screens (got to watch a lot of movies too). I started working part-time at The Paley Center for Media that year as well, a non-profit media center formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio. These opportunities were my off campus introductory courses in how different workplaces could function. After the semester long internship with Film Forum was over, everyone told me to keep interning, to keep finding what I did and didn’t like out of a workplace. Instead, I listened to myself and chose to turn inward, back to my college community, back to Hunter. The next semester, I got involved with The Office of the Arts as an Arts Ambassador, drawn to having further access to exploring the different fields that make up the large looming overarching term of “the arts.” Previous anxieties about not being allowed to fit any more art history or theatre courses in my schedule were calmed: I could learn from my peers. Arts Ambassadors get to propose and lead “Go with OOA” events to arts and cultural institutions across the five boroughs. We get to attend shows, openings, events and cover them for the blog to report back to the Hunter community on how it went. There is no restriction of art form or medium: we’re allowed not only to explore, but to share the process of exploration and discovery with our college community.
Through Arts Ambassadors and The Office of the Arts, I was alerted of the Arts Management and Leadership Certificate. Taking courses on the administrative side of the art world felt like a great fit to prepare me for a professional future. And through a rising interest in the film industry and contacts from the previous internship (and diligently checking the OOA and NYFA job boards, let’s be real), I landed another internship focused on film. At Icarus Films, a film distribution company based in Downtown Brooklyn, not only did I get another chance to learn about workplace dynamics, but I was introduced to the process of how a film gets to an audience. From working on publicity emails to press research to compiling metadata to social media posting – some tasks creative and fascinating, others meticulous and tedious, but all in effort to get important, impactful, and artful films viewership. The most memorable project I worked on was press outreach for the American theatrical release of the restored print of Jacqueline Audry’s Olivia (1950). What made the process so exciting was that I was trusted to do the actual research and reaching out to press and we received many an enthusiastic response from film writers and reviewers. Having a direct hand, albeit a small one, in the promoting of a film, and especially one that has a spot in queer cinema history, sparked a dedicated interest. Aha! A discovery was made. Reflecting on the experience, I found myself finally figuring out where my exploration in the arts was taking me.
From a casual lover of movies to a student in the Introduction to Film course to an intern at Film Forum and Icarus Films, I was aware of the impact cinema could have and its powers to induce emotion, prompt discussion, and then to create lasting change, of all sorts, through these actions. I knew I wanted to be a part of this. The dedicated interest in film distribution continued to develop as I designed and completed an independent study specifically to study the process. I grew as a writer and thinker under the care and critiques of my independent study professor as I wrote papers on film festivals, streaming services, and the rapidly changing film industry. Thinking back to freshman year me, whose legs would shake and head would spin at the thought of committing to only one of my many interests, I feel grateful that I let myself be lost. I am glad that I had time to explore. All those introductory courses, all the projects and events as an Arts Ambassador, all the tasks, however small or big, at my internships and part-time work, allowed me to confidently find a path, now graduating Class of 2020. And even with this discovery of a path I am interested in venturing down, the exploration in the arts doesn’t end! I’m constantly learning along the way.