The Life of a NESAD Student
Down the Hill, across the Garden and up Arlington Street, there is a piece of Suffolk University not many students know about. The New England School of Art and Design (NESAD) is unlike any other building on campus with students just as unique. However, their seclusion at one end of the campus makes the inner workings of NESAD a mystery to the rest of the university. The only way to unravel this unknown world is to investigate the life of a NESAD student.
The building itself is camouflaged within Boston. No purple and yellow flags distinguish it as a part of Suffolk, nor is there a plaque near the door naming it as an extension of the school. NESAD freshmen are often struck with confusion upon arriving at the address for the first time. Students have to enter the building and notice the single sign with the university name in order to uncover the wings of the building dedicated to Suffolk.
The second floor opens to an exhibit by student Jonathan Hills, setting the scene for the museum-like hallways. Both sculptures and 2-D works bring color and inspiration to the white walls. Traditional classrooms are nonexistent, as these ones often display paint-splattered floors and worn project tables. The most surprising aspect of the building is the basement area where a lounge and library, geared specifically toward the arts, can be found.
The students who call this hidden institution home have a distinct experience at Suffolk. NESAD sophomore James Helenski feels that “with art you can’t be taught in a giant lecture hall. If you are then you can’t possibly get the attention to help develop your skills which is critical for a young artist.” The program agrees, as it is based around hands-on work.
Classes in NESAD can run from two hours and forty minutes to eight hours with studio time. Freshman Nika Patterson finds the scheduling troublesome as it does not sync up to courses outside of NESAD nor does it allow for activities period. As if losing a free hour in the middle of the day was not enough, the amount of stress involved in taking both art and core classes can be tremendous. “I’m not at peace all the time; I always have to be thinking about something” Patterson laments.
There are also days not devoted to class time, such as exhibit and critique days. During these times, students display their projects and receive praise and constructive criticism. First-year Meg Graves feels the feedback “can be harsh, but it’s always true.” She and Patterson agree that critique days make art students the best at accepting criticism and allow them to become stronger artists.
Eventually the courses become more major-oriented. Helenski is currently enrolled in classes such as Imaging and Printmaking. From sketching in-class subjects to assignments involving still-life practice, the professors “really want to see us grow and push the field of art and as I like to say, make it a real threat again” says Helenski, who feels his time in NESAD is making his work up to speed in the competitive market.
Through NESAD, Helenski was able to market his work all the way out to California. Patterson elaborates on the other opportunities provided by NESAD as she states that the amount of professionals who come to class helps gain real-world knowledge of life after a degree. Graves was able to land her first job as a graphic designer with the help of NESAD administrators. “I’m using what I want to do with my life in the future right now,” she brags.
Whether a student is just starting out or into graduate work, they all agree that the preconceptions about NESAD can be infuriating. First is the issue of money spent in preparation for courses. Other students claim they paid more because of the amount spent on textbooks. However, members of the art community at Suffolk spend a great deal more on art supplies and are constantly replenishing their stock. “There’s a reason they call it ‘starving artists’; it’s because we spent all our money on art supplies” Patterson remarks.
The other tender spot students hit is the old “I wish my homework was just drawing pictures.” While a sketch pad and pencil can be utilized during the process, often times a single NESAD assignment can take anywhere from two to five hours. Professors look at subject-matter, medium and even the level of precision given to the canvas. These classes are certainly not an “easy A.”
There is a hidden gallery here on campus that students are missing out on. Next time you have a free hour, check out the impressive pieces and exhibits created by Suffolk’s own. You can come visit at 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA, 02116 or call at 617-573-8785.