Paint n’ Sip Event Provides First Years an Artistic Study Break
Issue   |   Tue, 04/10/2018 - 20:57
Photo courtesy of Kyle Nguyen '21
The First-Year Area Councils hosted a guided painting session to help unwind.

This past Sunday, amidst the stress of midterms, the East and West First-Year Area Councils organized their latest event to bring first year students together for a creative study break. Around noon, students lumbered through chilly weather from all corners of the first-year quad to gather in O’Connor Commons for a guided painting session, complete with delicious snacks and bubble tea.

At the front of the room, an experienced painter guided bustling students through the process of painting a luscious beach landscape. The combination of the light-hearted social atmosphere and the act of working creatively in a large group setting made for an uplifting experience — a positive end to a week full of stress-inducing essays, deadlines and exams. For Kyle Nguyen ’21, the president of the First-Year East Area Council, the social atmosphere, as well as the creative freedom allotted to participants, was the central appeal of this event. “The main attraction was the act of creating an art piece, be it this one or your own, along with your peers,” Nguyen said.

Throughout the two-hour long event, I saw the obvious and important truth in Nguyen’s words; there was something special about creatively expressing yourself and venting your frustrations that made for a delightfully communicative time. Diverse students from all different social standings, even students who were strangers to one another, reached out to compliment one another’s art. A group of girls around me boasted about speaking to each other for the first time since orientation; another pair of students off to my side later introduced themselves to each other, and subsequently began to share a plate of paints.

Nguyen thinks this is the beauty of collective creativity, which is key to this event’s ultimate success. “Based on a creative standpoint, what makes art amazing is the fact that everyone puts forth their own creation onto their canvas right alongside each other,” he said. “Strangers draw and converse together through creating art. Artists don’t need any prior relationships in order to enjoy each other’s company.”

The fact that this vibrant, creative event was limited to first years was what made it more unique than other art-based events on campus; first years can sometimes struggle at first to find like-minded creative communities. “This inclusivity [among first-years],” Nguyen said, “fosters further community-building that will hopefully persist above the college level.”

As the event crept to its end and students slowly began to trail out of the room in pairs and groups, newly-created pieces in-hand, this statement rang especially true to me. For a two-hour period, we were reduced to the vulnerable but more uninhibited states of our Orientation-era selves, when despite no one really knowing each other well, everyone was eager to put differences aside in order to get to know one another and make new lifelong friends. This effect that such a short but sweet program can induce, Nguyen thinks, is what makes him proud of being on the First-Year Area Council, which thrives on connecting students through creativity.

“As the school year closes,” he told me, “I would like to say that I am proud to be a part of the first-ever First-Year Area Council. It is truly amazing to see first years bond over the course of our events. I am excited to see how future generations make use of this programming, and I hope to see this in other grade levels at Amherst.”