Beth’s Great New York Adventure

Also known as: My Official STEP Reflection

This trip to New York City was funded by the OSU STEP Program which provides a grant to second-year students to do a Signature Experience. My STEP project was a ten day trip to NYC where I interviewed artists about their work and its connection to emotion, and I traveled around the city experiencing different kinds of art.

The point of the trip was to be transformative. More than anything, I felt that I grew up a lot. This was the first trip I had ever taken alone. The organizational stuff was nothing new, but it was the first time I had to find my way through the airport, arrange transportation, travel alone, etc. For a young woman, there was definitely a lot of fear of the unknown. Eight million people within only a few miles radius is intimidating.

Aside from the maturation that came with the trip planning and execution, I felt really transformed in the way I viewed art. I did the typical things like go to the Met, see a ballet, attend a (bunch of) Broadway show(s). You know. The things people normally regard as art. But I also walked through the parks and admired the gardens. I walked through the buildings and admired the architecture. I did things I wouldn’t normally think of as “art”, even though they provide beauty, provoke thought, and take work to make.

It’s hard to pinpoint only a few things I did on the trip that led to my “transformation” because I did so many things.

So instead of a write a bunch of paragraphs describing how they all fit together, here’s a few key moments that really  taught me a lot about the way I view art:

  • I took a tour of NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and accidentally ended up seeing a live taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers. I had never been to a live taping of a TV show before and getting to see the background work that goes on and how many people are involved in every step of the process while taking the tour, and then getting to see it put into action at the live taping was incredible.
  • I walked through the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is HUGE. But what got me more than the beautiful canvases and sculptures was that there was a whole section of the museum where you got to see bedrooms and living rooms with original antique furniture and decor, which had never before been presented to me as art.
  • I walked a park called the Highline, which used to be an elevated rail track that never got used. But now it’s a gorgeous park which still featured some of the rail but now is a garden. It made me think of my mom because she likes trains and gardens.
  • I SAW HAMILTON

These are just a few of the amazing things I did while in New York and they don’t even begin to feature the people.

While in the city I talked to four artists who all live (or lived) in the city and do very different kinds of art. I asked them the same questions: in your words, what do you do for a living? How does art convey emotion? etc.

All their answers were different, which makes sense because they were all different people who have different arts that they approach in their own way. It was fascinating to hear about their work and how they process emotion through it and how the type of art they do affects their process.

The last question for the reflection is “how does this change affect my life?” That’s kind of hard to put into words, but I’ll try.

I work in the healthcare field and I study social work. I have an interest in politics. In short, everything I do has the potential for burnout. But I love it and I do it anyways because I love it and because I want to help people.

When May came around and the trip came nearer and nearer,  I was reaching my limit. Class had just ended, but I had started a new one during May term for a history credit. I had finished all my classwork and increased my work hours without really giving myself a break, because I knew I had one coming.

Everything was getting overwhelming and I was reaching a breaking point.

But then I went to New York. With the exception of my online Russian history class, I didn’t have any obligations. I could make my own schedule, eat whatever I wanted in one of the top culinary cities in the world, and best of all I got to go experience art. I got to see musicals and listen to music and do everything that I had not been doing in Columbus i.e. doing self-care.

Self-care is vital to people in the profession(s) I seek to enter, and pushing myself to the limit the way I had before the trip is the kind of thing that leads people to quit. Getting to take an amazing trip where I allowed myself to just be was a God send. It allowed me to return to Columbus (straight into a conference) and feel refreshed and energized so I could do my very best.

That was the most transformational part that directly impacts my life, because that’s the reminder I have to give mysef. Self-care is rarely an all-expense paid trip to New York City where I get to see the smash-hit musical Hamilton with 95% of the original Broadway cast. It’s the reminder that I can take an afternoon and walk through a museum, or go to the library and just sit and read.  The people who live in the city could take part in what I did any time they wanted to. So why can’t I take part in what my city has to offer?

Answer: I can.

And I will.

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side

The 2016 Best Musical Tony Award winner Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

My wristband from  Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC

Upright Citizens Brigade-Chelsea (where many Saturday Night Live members train)

Sara Sweeney STEP Project

During my STEP project, I edited and uploaded photographs that I had taken throughout the summer.  Some of these photos were taken spontaneously, and others were planned out shoots that I did specifically for my STEP project.  I then used a site called Flickr to edit and upload those photos.  Along with this project, I am also learning more about Photography in my introduction to Photography class that I am currently enrolled in.  I have always had a passion for photography that I wished I could incorporate into my life more seriously, and through this STEP project I was able to do so.

I learned a lot about myself throughout this project.  Before I started, I had the idea in my head that art was easy and that people who studied art or created art as a profession had it easy.  I am a creative person and have always been interested in art, but especially photography.  I always said that if I could pick anything to do for the rest of my life and did not have to worry about income or job security, I would be a professional photographer.  I am not trying to say that money is the most important thing nor am I trying to say that photographers and other artists do not make a lot of money.  I just mean that it can be a risky field to get in to because the competitive industry can be difficult to navigate.  Because of these misconceptions I had, I did not take a career in art as seriously as I would have taken a career in the medical field, for example.  I thought that this project would be a fun way for me to be creative without having to stress much about my results.  However, I quickly learned that this was not the case.

My project was much more challenging than I thought that it would be.  My project only lasted a few months, and even then I felt like I had run out of ideas of things to shoot.  I cannot imagine how hard it must be for professional artists to have to come up with new and exciting ideas of things to create even when they feel uninspired.  Initially, I did not plan out much when it came to my photo shoots.  I would just leave the house with my camera and take photos of whatever I thought looked cool.  As the summer went on, it got more and more difficult to find things to take photos of.  It was only when I started making plans to go to new places before hand that I was able to get better results with my photographs.

Besides struggling with the subject of my photos, I also struggled with technical aspects of photography. Throughout my experience this summer, I learned that I had to take time of day, weather and lighting into consideration when planning out my photo shoots.  I also had to deal with adjusting white balance, aperture, and shutter speed while taking the photos.  I had to think about depth of field, frame, focus, and many other things when shooting.  It is helpful now to be taking a photography class that teaches about these concepts.  During this summer I had to figure out the settings of my camera on my own, but now I have an experienced photography professor to teach me more about the technical aspects of photography.

I underestimated all of the work that would be involved in completing this project.  I learned a lot about myself creatively during this experience.  The misconceptions that I had going in to this project about art professions have been shattered.  I gained so much respect not only for photographers, but for all other artists as well throughout this process.  Nowadays, it seems that anyone with a smartphone can be a photographer, but there is much more to it than snapping photos mindlessly.

The lessons that I learned this summer are ones that I would never have fully grasped had I not completed this STEP project.  Being a business student that has a challenging course load, it is easy to write off other majors and industries.  During a late night study session, I will sometimes think about how much easier it would be to be working on a creative project to turn in rather than studying for an extensive written exam.  However, in doing this project, I was quickly brought down off of my high horse and reminded that art majors do not have it as easy as I think.  The grass always seems greener on the other side, as I am sure some art majors wish they were studying for an exam rather than spending hours working on a studio project.

Another important thing that I took from this project involves my interest in photography as a hobby.  I have always hoped to incorporate photography into my adult life because not only am I good at it but I also genuinely enjoy doing it.  I even dreamed of taking on small photography jobs along with a full-time business career.  However, after realizing how much work it takes to actually be a photographer, I have had somewhat of a change of heart. The time, energy, and equipment that it would take to be successful in a part-time photography career is not something that would be realistic for myself to pursue along with working 40 hours a week somewhere else.  Producing professional quality photos is something that requires a more serious commitment than a part-time side job.  However, I do not feel upset about this rationalization but rather grateful that I have accepted that it is not a reasonable task to take on.  Had I not done this project, I might have tried and failed to pursue a part-time career in photography.  Doing so would have been a waste of not only my time, money, and resources, but of other people’s time, money and resources as well.

Click here to view the images from my STEP Project: https://www.flickr.com/photos/142091344@N03/sets/72157672661869450

STEP Reflection: 40 Day Dream

For my STEP project I chose to create my own artistic transformational endeavor. I traveled all across America by car with one of my good friends. We mainly camped in National Parks and stayed in a few AirBNB’s in cities. The highlights were Denver, Arches National Park, The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Yosemite National Park, Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, Seattle, Vancouver (BC), Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Tetons National Park. Throughout the trip I worked on enhancing videography and photography skills, along with reading works by famous authors such as Kerouac, Thoreau, Tolkien, and John Muir.

When I first envisioned this trip I knew it would be life changing: you cannot tour the United States by car for 36 days and not have a transformational experience. Yet this trip ended up meaning more to me than I could ever explain. I participated in STEP during the 2014/15 academic year. This past semester of spring 2016 my father unexpectedly had a heart attack and died. I do not have the words to describe how this affected me, but my father was the most selfless and caring person I have ever met and my heart completely shattered after losing him. Throughout the rest of my semester I avoided all thoughts of my father and focused all of my energy on my schoolwork. I considered dropping out of school and became severely depressed, and the main thing keeping me focused was the prospect of my STEP trip.

 

The first day of my trip I was relieved to have completed the most difficult semester of my life, and was able to focus on myself and begin to process the events that happened to me. I spent most of my time thinking about my father and how much my life would change, but I also spent time in some of the most beautiful places in America. I am not a religious person, but I seek solitude and sanctuary in nature, and being surrounded by so much beauty was a transcendental experience for me. There is something about standing next to the Grand Canyon, about viewing Yosemite Valley for the first time, about standing on top of a mountain looking over Oregon and Washington, which makes you forget your own problems and significance and allows you to be absolutely present in the moment. I was able to immerse myself in all of the natural wonders of America, while reading adventure novels of those whole traveled before me.

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

During the whole STEP process I found a strength in myself that I have never used before. I planned a 36 day cross country/international road trip all by myself. The trip was the first time I relied solely on myself in my entire life. I overcame obstacle such as unexpected road closures, being lost in Death Valley on a 97 degree day, hiking a dangerous back country trail, hiking a dangerous mountain ridge trail, navigating through unfamiliar cities, and hiking/camping during a brief spell with a stomach parasite. I learned that I can make it through obstacles by myself, and that the world (or America) is not such a strange place. People in Oregon and Washington are just like people in the Midwest, and you can always find a place to fit in wherever you travel. For over a month I was able to rely on myself, my wits, and my own inner strength.

My father is the reason I enjoy adventures and nature so much. I grew up going camping multiple times a year, hiking almost every weekend, and began backpacking at the age of fifteen. My father would was the most adventurous person I knew, and he went on multiple road trips out west throughout his life. Following in his footsteps and going on my first road trip in itself was a transformational experience. After he passed, many people have asked me “do you feel him with you at all?” and I always thought they were delusional (I’m not a religious person and do not believe in an afterlife.) But there was one moment on my trip where I envisioned my father hiking alongside me. Not the father I knew, but the 20 year old version of my father. My friend and I were finishing a 9 mile hike in Zion National Park to see the Subway, a trip we needed specific permits for. I was struggling on the last mountain of the hike, and I just envisioned how much my dad would have loved the scenery, and I envisioned him walking a long side me. It was an odd moment, because I never imagined a moment like that could happen to me.

Hiking "The Subway" in Zion National Park

Hiking “The Subway” in Zion National Park

The first challenging event was driving from Zion National Park to Yosemite National Park, a supposedly 9 hour car drive. We decided to drive through Death Valley National Park on the way since it is located between Zion and Yosemite, my biggest regret of the trip. First we almost ran out of gas while in Death Valley, on a 97 degree day with no cell service. After we filled up on gas our GPS stopped working and there was no visitor center with maps, and we got lost. I pulled out my road atlas and we finally navigated outside of the park. We drove about 4 hours parallel with the Sierra Mountains, then found out there was a road closure in the mountain pass to Yosemite, and we had to turn around and drive around the opposite side of the mountains. We arrived at Yosemite at 3am and someone was in a reserved campsite, and it took me an hour to properly store our food from bears. All in all we drove 17 hours that day, and it was the most stressful day/night of the trip. Thankfully that day was early on in the trip, and I felt like we got the worst over with. That day tested my patience and problem solving abilities, and although I was stressed I was extremely proud of myself after setting up my tent and finally going to sleep in Yosemite.

Driving through Death Valley National Park

Driving through Death Valley National Park

Another eventful moment was towards the end of the trip, when we were hiking to Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park. The hike to the lake was probably the most beautiful hike I have ever taken in my life, and we met some interesting people along the way. When we finally reached the lake after 3.5 miles, we stopped in the shade to eat lunch. Someone we met on the trail caught up to us then and told us that there was a baby moose lounging in snow just a few feet away, and that was the first time I have ever seen a moose so close. I know it sounds corny, but it was extremely majestic to be in the middle of the wilderness with a wild animal sitting peacefully right next to you. The hike back to my car was another story. Early that week my stomach started to feel odd, and during the hike back I knew something was wrong. I had to hike 3.5 miles feeling like I my stomach was about to explode, and I almost went to the hospital straight away. It turns out I had a mild stomach parasite that went away after two weeks, and dealing with that while camping and driving from Montana to Ohio was quite the challenge, and truly tested my inner strength.

Hike to Grinnell Lake

Hike to Grinnell Lake

My relationship with my friend changed as well. I traveled with my best friend from high school, Moira. She’s been my absolute best friend for years now, and we’ve gone through some serious and rough times together. She was the first, and to this day the only, person I have been able to comfortably talk about my dad with. We grew to rely on each other, and we both went through this amazing experience together. Part of the reason we both decided to go on this trip is because we both wanted to move out west after graduation. Before the trip Moira and I have only ever been to Seattle, so we were not sure how well we would actually like the Pacific Northwest. We scouted cities and areas we liked, and we both decided that we would still like to move out there.

The transformation I went through on this trip will affect my personal life for years to come. I love to travel, and adventuring national parks for over a month was the most freeing experience I have ever had. After all of the turmoil I went through this past spring semester, words cannot describe how much this trip meant to me. I was able to relieve myself from the stress of coursework and finally was able to begin to process the loss of one of the most important people in my life. I was able to feel connected to my father in the only spiritual way I know how. I was able to find strength in myself and in the words of famous authors, and it was the most therapeutic experience of my life.

Accompanying blog: http://36daydream.tumblr.com/

By Michelle Roman