ASMSA student spends summer as a ‘Rising Star’

4 months ago

Katelyn England loves to paint, so much so that having more opportunities to take art classes was one of the major reasons she chose to attend the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.

The senior was on a STEM track at her high school in Conway and doing very well, but she wanted to take art classes. When she shared her desire with others at the school, she received a response questioning why.

“I was in all the AP classes,” England said. “I was the highest in my class, but they were really weirded out when I asked to take art classes. They were like, ‘Why? You’re really good at STEM.’ Art is considered a hobby not a career.”

She first learned about ASMSA from a teacher in eighth grade. England said her mother was against the idea of her attending the school at that time. A visit during her sophomore year to a Focus Weekend that featured the art program helped England change her mother’s mind about the school.

During her junior year, England chose to participate in an art capstone project. Each ASMSA student is required to complete one capstone project during their two years at the school. England’s project focused on acrylic painting. She also took drawing and painting courses. By the end of the semester, she decided to build a larger portfolio and practice her skills by painting pet portraits.

This semester she is taking photography, a 3D art class and a ceramics class. She’s also completing a second capstone project. She has been given her own studio space in which to work.

“Art can be messy, so it’s great to have a place I can call mine and be messy. I am taking photography and have a camera to work with. I can’t afford a camera of my own, but I’m getting to use a camera,” England said.

During the spring semester, England learned about a summer program at SCAD The University of Creative Careers, formerly known as the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, Ga. She had not heard of the school before. “I thought they were saying scab,” she said with a mirthful laugh.

The institution offers a summer program called SCAD Rising Star. At the campus in Savannah, rising high school seniors may take two college-credit courses that allow them to begin building a professional portfolio. She said about 500 students nationwide are accepted each year for the Rising Star program, which is held on several campuses. England decided to apply for the program, and through a scholarship from SCAD and a grant from ASMSA, she was able to attend the camp.

She decided to take an Introduction to Advertising course and a Fashion Aesthetics and Style course. She attended courses each day on the SCAD campus, which stretches across several areas of Savannah. She took the fashion course because she really likes clothes. It ended up being nothing at all like she imagined.

“It turned out to be all digital art,” she said.

That was something she didn’t expect. How could something you do on the computer be considered art?

“I thought I was a painter and would never do digital art. I thought I would never do art on the computer. When the instructor said, “Please download the Adobe Suite (a group of graphic design programs), I thought this is not going to go well.”

England was pleasantly surprised, however, as she began working with the programs, especially a photo-editing software called Photoshop. She ended up spending several hours that day experimenting with the program, learning how it works. She did her fashion projects in Photoshop as well. It was revelation.

“I learned that digital art is something you can have a career in, whether it’s advertising or illustration. It can be so cool,” she said.

By the end of the five-week program, England had decided she wants to be an illustrator.  

Her experience at ASMSA helped her as well. While many of the other students were ready to explore the town or do other activities with perhaps their first opportunity of independent decision making, England knew she needed to focus on her work in order to succeed.

It wasn’t like she didn’t take advantage of some opportunities to explore. SCAD’s museum was next door to her first class. A 32-acre park was located across town next to her other class. She also took advantage of the special programs the school offered. Guest speakers on printmaking, graphic novels, sequential arts and other topics were held throughout the week. She tried to make it a point to attend each one.

“I was so amazed by how much you could take in and what the school provided,” she said.


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