News

Smallen Grants help students pursue artistic visions

By Shannon O'Brien '15

January 23, 2014

Ten students have been awarded Smallen Creativity Grants to help them pursue their complex, imaginative and sophisticated artistic visions. The grant was started by Vice President for Libraries and Information Technology David Smallen and his wife, Ann, in memory of their son, Steven, who studied at Hamilton for a year while being treated for leukemia.

Michael Burchesky ’17 brainstormed his creative project before even arriving at Hamilton. As a prospective student, he was impressed by the beauty of the stained-glass doors of the Christian-Johnson building, but underwhelmed by the fairly plain building atrium. After receiving an email about the Smallen Grant, he “knew it was the perfect opportunity to make something happen.” His idea to create a harmonograph machine out of three pendulums came together during Thanksgiving break, when he and his cousin spent seven hours building the complex drawing machine. The harmonograph is “a unique machine that combines art and science,” making it an ideal project for the Smallen Grant. He hopes that his project will encourage Hamilton students to experiment with different mediums of art.

Sam Wagner ’14 plans to use his grant to present craft beer in a way that fuses creative writing with art. “Much of my life has been spent in pursuit of new beers,” Wagner explained. “I am infatuated with the craft and impressed by the range of beer styles that brewers are creating.” Drawing from his view that the “variety of names, labels, styles and flavors [of] craft beer brewing has become a true art form,” Wagner plans to create a chapbook of poetry that exposes the artistic complexities of beer-making. With the help of the Smallen grant, he will be able to further his knowledge of craft beer by touring breweries and sampling extraordinary beers. Once his collection of beer-themed poetry is published, he hopes to introduce it at a reception and reading in a pub.

Students like Deanna Perez ’14 are using the grant to fulfill senior thesis projects. The grant allows students to pursue extensive projects in their academic fields. Perez says, “The Smallen Grant is really a wonderful thing for creative, passionate minds.”

The grant is certainly the creative jump-start that many students have been looking for. Zoe Bodzas ’16 will use the grant to publish a zine, which she describes as an examination of the “mannerisms, ways of speaking [and] conscious performances” of other people. She explains that she has “been captivated by the idea of zines, or small DIY independent/personal publications for a long time.” Through the grant, Bodzas will be able to meet other artists, look at more zines and finally create one of her own.

Sam Finkelstein ’14 will also create a zine, but he envisions a virtual publication that will “take advantage of the unique concentration of creative minds that occupy our liberal arts campus” by providing a forum for people to present their art and respond to others’ submissions. As Finkelstein explains, “An online platform would allow for a guitarist to create an auditory response to a poem, or for a philosophy student to write an essay in response to a recorded dance performance.” The Smallen Grant allows Finkelstein to commission a website designer to help him reify his virtual vision. Moreover, the grant gives him the opportunity to experiment in new mediums and flex his creative potential. “As the publication is the first of its kind,” he says, “I am excited to see where an online collaborative arts platform can take us.”

Articulating the importance of the arts to o Hamilton and himself, Finkelstein says, “The grant is allowing me to put a dream to reality.” Congratulations to the following Smallen Creativity grant winners: Zoe Bodzas ’16, Michael Burchesky ’17, Samuel Finkelstein ’14, Nicholas Geisler ’14, Deanna Perez ’14, Alison Ritacco’14, William Sinton ’15, Sean Henry-Smith ’15, Mackenzie Theobald ’14 and Sam Wagner ’14.

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