Grad school life is busy, no doubt about that. Grad school in Chicago has its very own flavor, one I’ve grown to appreciate more and more, especially as I’ve developed routines and affinities in the last two-and-a-half years. And it doesn’t hurt that Columbia’s South Loop location makes getting around and getting what I need super easy.
Home: Cheap and Cozy
My day starts out at home, of course. I remember an undergrad professor telling me that in grad school I would spend most of my time in my studio and that my apartment would not be all that important. That turned out to be… not true at all. I spend a fair amount of time in my little place in the Edgewater neighborhood, a 35-minute train ride (on Chicago’s infamous “L”) north of our South Loop campus. Part of that is because a lot of my artwork and other work is done (or at least planned) on the computer, so when I don’t have other commitments, I hang out working at home with my adorable cat purring next to me and a pizza cooking in the oven.
Home Depot: Convenient and Necessary
Another important location in my life is Home Depot. I make sculptural installations, so I often need to get materials like wood or plastic, or tools, or adhesives, or whatever. Fortunately there is a Home Depot close to campus that I utilize often. It’s also right next to a fabric store—useful for improvising unusual projection screens!
Fabrication Facility: Awesome and Awesome
My department now has access to Columbia’s Fabrication Facility, a marvelous place when you can use any number of tools and machines like band and scroll saws, 3D printers, laser cutters, vacuum formers, kilns, sandblasters… and over the break, I am going to learn how to use a CNC mill! I couldn’t be more excited. I love being in the Fabrication Facility. It’s ridiculously well-run and well-stocked—in fact, I’ve been getting my wood and plastic there, which they sell for pretty cheap, along with some metals and foams.
Studio: Workplace and Relaxation Hole
I keep most of my artwork and materials in my studio on campus. It’s essential to have a place on campus to work and relax, and of course meet with advisors. We also have a well-used lounge area that only current students can access. There are many times when I’ve sat on the couches eating, drinking, working, complaining, and otherwise indulging in a little camaraderie and stress release with my fellow students. Crucial. Definitely crucial.
Galleries: Inspiring and Stimulating
Columbia has a ton of galleries. I LOVE this. It’s so nice to be able to walk around and see art just as a regular part of my day, and to be able to go back easily to look more closely at the exhibitions.
A few weeks ago I went to an opening reception for the Bring Your Own Body: transgender between archives and aesthetics exhibition at the Glass Curtain Gallery, which is right upstairs from my studio. That same night, Marlo Koch, an undergrad in my department, had her first solo exhibition, Both Sides of the Mirror, opening at the C33 Gallery. Then I hopped over to the Arcade Gallery to see an opening for an interior design students’ group exhibition, SENSORIUM.
I mean, Chicago has a ton of museums and galleries—which I also love!!!—but having multiple galleries right on campus is a luxury I never stop appreciating.
Divvy Bikes: Exercise and Utility
Chicago has an amazing bike-share program, Divvy. There are stations of bikes every few blocks in much of the city, including downtown and near my apartment. It makes doing errands a breeze, and I must say, bike riding does wonders for any kind of stress or ailment, at least for me. I’ve only been using them the last year or so and I could kick myself for not signing up earlier. (It’s really cheap.) The first time I rode in Edgewater in the summer under a canopy of trees and along the Lakefront Trail I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I even rode around a bit this winter and it’s fabulous.
Trader Joe’s: Quick and Easy
I’ll just say this: There is a TJs across the street and down the block from our studios. I take the train home with a bag of groceries a couple of times a week, and have heated up plenty of TJs meals in the microwave in the student lounge. Soooooo useful.
My grooves are pretty worn in at this point. Chicago is a huge place, and being in school doesn’t leave me a ton of time to explore the city. When friends come to visit they often want to go to restaurants I haven’t heard of or visit places I just haven’t been able to get to yet. I’ve slowly built up a working knowledge of my environment, but it’s nice to living in a place that has so much to uncover. The places I do know, however, have made it possible for me to survive and thrive while getting this MFA.