Sydney Dyson ’14 considered a math major until a drawing class during freshman year led her in a different direction. Now a studio art major and religious studies minor, Dyson helps run the College’s student art gallery in the Smith Campus Center and works in the theatre costume shop. Last summer she was awarded a Summer Experience in the Arts grant as part of the Mellon Foundation Elemental Arts Initiative.
FROM HOBBY TO COLLEGE MAJOR
“Both my mom and grandmother are artistic and had a big influence on me when I was growing up. In Chicago, I did some drawing and painting as a hobby, but I wasn’t that serious about it and didn’t consider art as a career until I
started taking drawing classes from Mercedes Teixedo in my freshman year. She’s great. I’m also interested in sewing and, at the end of last semester, Mercedes took me to the fashion district, which was really amazing.”
INSPIRATION ACROSS DISCIPLINES
“One class that really influenced my thinking about art was History of Africa. Sidney Lemelle gave a lecture about how for a long time, there weren’t words or concepts of art in many African languages, and it’s still the case today for some. Europeans would take sculptures and relics that had been used in ceremonies in Africa—and had no real purpose after that—and display them in museums as art objects. When I go to study abroad next semester in Cape Town, I want to learn more about how that idea has affected African schooling of fine art, which is essentially a Western construct.”
“My Summer Experience in the Arts project was called ‘Thrifty Transformations.’ I looked into the clothing industry and how clothing moves from point of manufacture to resale to being discarded, as well as issues of labor and sweatshops and the environment. I also inter- viewed owners of small thrift shops and consignment stores to get their perspective from the business and creative side. Finally I took items from four people’s wardrobes and repurposed them into something new and functional.”
IDEAS MADE REAL
“I was able to bring certain ideas to life this summer that have always and have only been ideas, and it felt amazing to see them materialize. Details and patterns are what draw me to art most, and I like to carry that into whatever medium I am using whether it is sewing, drawing, or experimenting with photography, which is where my interest in abstraction comes into play.”
NOT YOUR STEREOTYPICAL “STARVING ARTIST”
“My dad told me ‘you’re going to have to deal with the choices you make, and if you want to be in the arts, just do it.’ I don’t want to be the stereotype of a starving artist, so I’ve worked out a plan for the future. I want to combine my interests in art and business and someday have my own clothing line, café/store, and a gallery that provides space for other artists and musicians. I’d also like to open a youth center to give more young people a chance to experience the arts. I don’t know how all my plans will work out, but I do know that being at a liberal arts college has helped me think about ways to weave all my interests together.”
SUPPORTED BY THE ELEMENTAL ARTS INITIATIVE
This four-year initiative, funded by a $600,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a multi-pronged effort to enliven Pomona’s arts programming and foster collaboration across disciplines. The initiative focuses on a different element each year; the first year’s theme was water, this year’s is earth. Programming last year included an environmental analysis symposium on local water issues, original music and theatre productions, and the Summer Arts Experience, which supported six student art projects.