14“The gallery is a black metal sculptural object that used to have a life as a bookshelf that I wheel around on a red dolly,” said Ethan Pierce. “And I’m interested in the way it functions socially as I’m wheeling it through the streets of Cambridge and Boston, as well as architecturally in these spaces. But more importantly it’s the platform that it creates for interactions.” 6“What VES means to me is the freedom to do what you want with faculty supporting you … Understanding that liberal arts means so much more than what people think of it as. It means pursuing something that you love and having a practical component to it,” said Hua. 13“My thesis project is a pop-up gallery called the BBP gallery, which stands for Baby Boy Pierce, which is my real name,” said Ethan Pierce ’14-’15. “It serves as a platform for an alternative artistic discourse.” 7Zena Mengesha ’14 works in mixed media to explore the theme of utopia, “the idea of it and how it applies to urban design, advertising, and TV.” 2“The best part is the 24-hour access,” said Brooke Griffin. “I know this sounds weird, but I like that there are no windows in my studio. I can come here at night and it’s the same as in the daytime. There is not this constant reminder that you’re staying up all night.” Utopian worlds, sign-language poetry, and DNA origami — the subjects are as fascinating and varied as the students who explore them.Along a small street in the heart of Harvard Square, Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) students are busy at work on their thesis projects in the Linden Street studios.Converted from squash courts in 1999, the centrally located spot offers students generously open and well-lit spaces, 24-hour access, and studios shared with fellow students to inspire, collaborate, and critique their creations.“It’s nice to have a space with the other thesis students as a community, a place to come together,” said Brooke Griffin ’14. To her, the studios show that Harvard recognizes the importance of VES and its thesis students.“I love VES. It’s almost like which part of that love to talk about,” said Zena Mengesha ’14. “It’s really incredible to be able to dive into visual studies in the way VES sets it out. Human beings are such visually dependent creatures. And the attention that we pay to studying the visual world is relatively small … I don’t know if everybody thinks of art as an academically rigorous program, but it can be.”VES concentrators in studio art, film, video, and animation propose their thesis projects in the spring of their junior year, enroll in the program in the fall of their senior year, and work throughout the year to complete their projects. Just more than 70 percent of VES concentrators do a senior thesis. Starting on May 2, an exhibit of their final work will be on display in the Carpenter Center.“It’s unique to get space, and such great space,” said Manager of Academic Programs for VES Paula Soares. “It’s a privilege, and it’s something that a lot of schools cannot give their undergraduates. But it’s not just the space, it’s the resources, the one-on-one attention. The experience is rich in a lot of ways.”“This is truly a phenomenal resource to have. I will never have a studio space this nice in my life,” said Ethan Pierce ’14-’15. “Having access to these resources and materials as well as to the thesis budget really allows for an opportunity of exploration sans stress that is truly unique.”The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts presents “From Here,” an exhibition of thesis projects by seven graduating seniors from VES, including Zena Mengesha and Tony Cho. The exhibit runs from May 3 to May 29. 1Brooke Griffin ’14 organized her thesis around sign-language poetry. She created a mixed-media animation using watercolor, pen and ink, and tea leaves to explore the theme. 10Tony Cho ’14 investigates synthetic biology for this thesis project, “mainly two fields within that, microfluidics and self-assembly.” He makes interdisciplinary work with laser-cut acrylic that combines his interests in biology and the arts. 3Brooke Griffin called the Linden Street studios “a nice location. It’s very central. It’s right in the square. It’s hidden. It’s one of those building you walk around, you pass, and you don’t even think about … It’s hidden in plain sight.” 16Matthew Plaks ’14 photographs communities around the country and tries to unravel what it means to be inside and outside a community. His images focus on “exclusion and solitude.” 4Frederic Hua ’14 worked on an old piece of equipment called an Oxberry. “There aren’t very many left in the world. And it’s a down-shooter, a very big one,” he said. The machine has many knobs with exacting counters available to change the camera orientation. 11Tony Cho takes principles from DNA origami and brings them to the macro scale. He creates a video animation with tiles that move over a mixer. They hit each other randomly, and if the sequences on the side are complementary, they stay together; if not, they fall apart. 12Since Tony Cho spends much of his time at Harvard Medical School, the studio becomes an important place. “For me, this space shows you that there are so many interesting projects taking place … You learn from each other and incorporate some elements into your own work.” 15“I built an artist-in-residency program with this gallery with these four artists-in-residence that are all fictional characters — the walker, the painter, the poet, and the drag queen. And each of these characters … is a real world person who helped influence the project. And it’s those interactions and those conversations, the dialogue that is created from them, that is the heart of the project,” said Ethan Pierce. 9“It’s such a great opportunity to work in this space. I love everything about it. It’s really incredible to share it with other thesis students who you can see working. You can peek over and be informed by it,” said Mengesha. 5For his thesis project, Frederic Hua created an experimental, abstract, stop-motion animation using sand and other gritty materials. He started at Harvard studying stem cell biology before shifting his concentration to VES after an inspiring animation class with Ruth Lingford. 8Zena Mengesha works with a lot of different materials. “I started with a lot of foam core, a lot of model-making supplies, and a lot of cardboard. And I moved on to carving books. And then I started playing around with the garbage from the things I ordered.” 17In less than three months, Matthew Plaks traveled across 21 states, through large cities and small towns as a wandering photographer, engaging with communities, and, at times, staying in the homes of strangers. 18Speaking of his studio, Matthew Plaks shared, “I think I’m going to miss it. I know I’m going to miss it. I don’t think I’ll live in a space this big, at least not for a very long time. It’s a great place to focus and have some quiet and think about the work, and get down to the details.”
Saint Mary’s junior Amanda Fischer wouldn’t be where she was today without pageants.Fischer was crowned Miss Great Lakes at the beginning of September, and is now working towards winning the title of Miss Indiana. She first began competing in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant program when she was 13. Fischer said these pageants have provided her with countless opportunities, including discovering Saint Mary’s. “I was downstate [in Michigan] doing some community service work at an apple blossom festival in Niles, Michigan, that happens at the end of September,” Fischer said. “I was helping out with the fair and the parade and all that fun stuff. That weekend, I told [my pageant director] that I needed to go to Mass somewhere, and she said, ‘Oh, I’ll just take you to Notre Dame.’ … I knew nothing. … Long story short, I fell in love with the campuses, so here I am. It was all meant to be.” Photo courtesy of Amanda Fischer Amanda Fischer, second from the right, was crowned Miss Great Lakes in September. As representative of the Miss America Organization, Fischer’s responsibilities include advocating for the Children’s Miracle Network and attending community events.After a semester abroad, Fischer said she was unsure about competing in the Miss Great Lakes competition, but due to a large amount of free time in the summer, she decided to go for it. Despite her busy schedule, Fischer said she is eager to complete her duties as an advocate.“The national platform for the Miss America Organization is the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals,” she said. “I’m an advocate and spokesperson for Children’s Miracle Network. For the remainder of my year, and on campus, I’m still waiting to hear back to see if I’m on the morale committee for Dance Marathon because Dance Marathon is affiliated with the Children’s Miracle Network. It’s all connected. That’s one of the things I’m doing, just raising money in general for that at a variety of locations, like free ice cream cone day and all that jazz.”The Miss America Organization recently underwent a change in leadership that has led to a change in the competition that some see as controversial, Fischer said. The Organization has replaced the swimsuit competition with time for contestants to give a social impact initiative statement.Fischer said her social impact initiative is Eye to Eye, a mentorship and arts based curriculum for students with attention and learning deficits.“I’m currently in the process of starting my own chapter here at Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame,” she said. “We’re going to try and partner with both of the campuses, so we can have more mentorship and co-ed mentorship to really cater to more students because that’s really what it’s about.”Fischer said the new initiative provides contestants with an avenue to make a change and is combating the pageant girl stereotype.“The new leadership of the Miss America Organization are trying to show the public that we’re way more than just a pretty face with a crown and sash on,” Fischer said. “We are actively involved in our communities, really striving to socially impact everyone around us. It’s extremely empowering, much like Saint Mary’s, actually. It empowers every contestant to find their voice. I’ve come full circle, and I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at.”Another of Fischer’s responsibilities as Miss Great Lakes is to make appearances at community events like Girls on the Run activities and the South Bend Christmas tree lighting. She said meeting people is one of the best parts of the job.“I always love when little girls come up to me and ask me to take a picture with them,” Fischer said. “I talk to them about following their dreams and be that bright light. What I really strive to be is the Miss America in this community.”Tags: beauty pageants, Miss America, Miss America Organization, Miss Great Lakes
DES MOINES — The USDA recently approved the state’s plan for hemp production sand producers can now start applying for a hemp license. Robin Pruisner is overseeing the plan for the state ag department and says the USDA approved the plan pretty much as presented. “There were some minor changes — I would call it wording changes — and they wanted us to carry over a few sentences that were actually in the statute and they also wanted them in the rules,” Pruisner says. “So those were our biggest changes. I think for someone looking at hemp, they are not going to see any major here that impacts them as they move forward with their plans.” She says all the information to apply for a hemp license is online. “There will be an application form that can be downloaded from our website and they’ll need to fill that out. And then the key personnel and anybody with five percent or more legal or equitable interest will need to submit their official fingerprints to us — so that we can do the FBI background check that is required,” Pruisner explains. Governor Kim Reynolds signed the hemp bill into law around one year ago — and it has been touted as an alternative crop for Iowa farmers. Pruisner says a lot has changed in the time the rules have been developed since the bill was signed into law. “Nothing is ever simple I think this world, and there’s a lot of I don’t know if you call them urban myths or rural myths out there about the enormous amount of money that can be made growing hemp,” according to Pruisner. “And maybe that might have had a little tinge of truth to it a couple of years ago when not many people were growing it.” But she says you really need to review the market before moving forward. “I think anybody who is considering getting into this business needs to take a hard look at some of the price reports and stock reports that are available out there. My number one piece of advice is that no one should plant hemp unless you already have a contract to sell it — because of the oversupply that has reared up here in the last year,” Pruisner says. She says she had a lot of calls when the bill was first signed into law, and still gets calls from people interested in growing hemp. But, she isn’t sure how many people will be willing to jump into the hemp market. “It’s too early to tell. And for several months I’ve answered that question the exact same way. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be more than three licenses — but less than three thousand,” Pruisner says. Detailed instructions on how to apply for a hemp license are available at iowaagriculture.gov/hemp. This commercial hemp production program does not legalize the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for human consumption, extraction or processing in Iowa.