Art Theory and Practice senior Isabel Ngan doesn’t want to be a career artist.
Armed with a B.A. in Art Theory and Practice and a Segal Design Certificate, Ngan hopes to go into marketing or advertising before getting her master’s degree in design. She already has practice; she recently designed an awareness campaign about contamination risk for Chicago’s water.
Those who are close to Ngan may know herartwork. . She has a large portfolio of installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings, many of which resemble the human body in gruesome, surreal representations. But many students are surprised to learn Northwestern has art majors at all. Visibility has been an issue for the Weinberg program, which usually has no more than 35 majors. This year, after a three year hiatus, they’re coming home to a newly renovated – and decked out – Kresge Hall. The department hopes that when they move in this fall with course changes, a new minor program, and new resources, they’ll be able to greatly expand the relatively small program.
According to Program Assistant Matthew Martin, their new space in Kresge contains a brand new laser cutting machine in the woodshop, a black box-style room with multiple projectors, and a large studio space for majors that includes movable walls for more flexibility. The studios will feature a Wildcard entry so that the students can access their spaces at any hour.
These renovations and countless more are a drastic upgrade to the old Kresge or 640 Lincoln Street, where the department resided during construction. Kresge’s central location also puts ATP students back on the campus map.
“I think being in Kresge allows us to integrate better into campus as well as [into] people’s minds,” Ngan says.
Ngan is one of 28 current undergraduate ATP majors. While some plan on careers in the art world, others have chosen her route – majoring in art for the fun and the abstract skills it builds. Every ATP major NBN interviewed had started in another program before taking a class and becoming a major.
Junior Siena Moreno is a double major in ATP and English. She loves creating art, an asset she says she will help her pursue her real passion: teaching particularly at non-traditional, student-focused Montessori high schools.
“I’m creating the things versus just interpreting them and understanding them,” Moreno says. “So I think it really helps me see the world differently.”
Moreno works primarily in paint and photography, focusing on concepts such as public space and the trajectory of women’s roles throughout the history of TV sitcoms. Limited course options have prevented her from taking the photo classes she wants, but that might change with Kresge’s expanded photography lab and computer lab, complete with a separate space for audio and video editing.
For some, small class sizes, though, are part of the program’s allure, allowing students to form close relationships with AT&P’s numerous elite faculty. Last year, five professors appeared on Newcity Art’s “Art 50” list of influential Chicago artists.
“Classes are small so they actually pay attention and care about you,” junior Aric Waldman says. “One of my professors even yelled at me to call him by his first name.
” Invariably, these students’ work will emerge in Norris’ Dittmar Gallery. Every senior participates in the collective “senior show” as part of their graduation requirement. Those who visit may find something revelatory – or transgressive. Last year, the show was an exploration of vulnerability entitled “Nudes?” Senior Michael Gross’ contribution was an animation that condensed 600 porn GIFs – a work that was immediately taken down out of concerns some of the actors were underage, which prompted Gross to compose a 60- page works cited (dubbed the world’s sexiest bibliography we hope).
Gross says the piece was a shining example the ATP department’s think-and-create, outside-the-box mentality.
“As Northwestern students, we really encourage ourselves to be good immediately, otherwise why are we doing this?” Gross says. “There’s this weird imposter syndrome. Breaking that illusion is a really vital step to feeling comfortable and being able to create.”