My name is Craig Olson and I am an alumnus of the UW-Eau Claire Art Department. I graduated in 1998 with a BFA degree in visual arts with an emphasis in painting and drawing. I received my MFA degree with an emphasis in painting and drawing from Rutgers University in 2006. I currently reside in New York City where I am an exhibiting artist and writer. I am represented by the Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, and the John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY.
I am writing in strong support for establishing a scholarship for the New York trip in the name of professor emeritus Stephen Katrosits. I participated in the New York trip, under the leadership of Mr. Katrosits, from 1996 until my graduation in 1998, and continued to participate after my graduation every subsequent year until I began graduate studies at Rutgers University in 2004, for a total of nine years. As this duration of time is a clear indication, these trips were, and remain to be, extremely important to me.
Please consider establishing a scholarship for these trips in his name. Every generation of students should have access to this unique experience.
I cannot express to you enough the lasting impact these trips have had on my life and career as an artist. As a student, I lived for these trips. To see first-hand the very works of art that I had just learned about the year prior, to explore and be immersed in the galleries and museums of New York City, and to meet real life artists was an incredibly inspirational and long lasting experience. In retrospect I now see how unique these trips were for my education. Many students never see a work of art outside their local museum or gallery, if they have any at all. To be thrust into the cultural nexus of New York City with the purpose of seeing any and every artistic event and exhibition I could, taught me to see art in a way I would never, could never, have seen siting in a classroom. Stephen Katrosits was our fearless leader on these expeditions, encouraging and challenging us to experience everything without initial judgment. Later, when gathered together as a group, both students and instructors would discuss and argue, often into the early hours of the morning, the impassioned opinions of what we experienced. The next day would find us doing it all over again. I learned valuable lessons in critical thinking and invaluable knowledge of the place and history of the contemporary art world. Most importantly, however, are the lasting relationships with my fellow students and instructors that were cemented in those early years of the New York Trip. I learned I was part of a larger lineage of Eau Claire alum that had also traveled with Mr. Katrosits to New York City, who had also sat up late into the night discussing with him what they had seen. Now, fifteen years after graduating from UWEC, I have turned those early experiences into a life lived in the arts, on the very streets I learned to navigate through the New York trips. I’m proud to call Stephen Katrosits my mentor and my friend.
– Craig Olson, ’98
I’m seated in a simple wooden chair inside of the Museum of Modern Art. Lights beam from all directions upon me. I am surrounded by people, all of them staring at me. A woman is seated across a table from me, examining me. Neither of us utters a word.
This is the setup I would expect from a dream. The woman is in fact Marina Abramovic, a world-renowned performance artist. But I am not dreaming. I am participating in her newest performance piece, and would sit across from her for over 40 minutes as we communicate without words. After I get up, she closes her eyes to prepare for another participant while I go stare at Monet’s Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond, so completely drained from the experience that I can only handle a pretty picture.
This is the New York trip in a nutshell. You don’t passively sit in your chair taking notes; you put your feet to the pavement, weaving from gallery to gallery, seeing work in its infancy, so new that there are no books to view it in. You eat food you never had the chance to try and digest so much art that you can’t help but be inspired.
And just when you think you couldn’t get any luckier, you walk into the personal studio of Eve Sussman and speak to her about what it really takes to be an artist in New York. You sit on her couch, speak about her conceptual development and thoughts behind a piece that isn’t even completed yet, and then help her carry out some garbage. Because, well, it was the least you could do.The benefits of the New York trip are as numerous as they are varied. The sheer quantity of art that you get to see, in-person (far more valuable than viewing digital slides), would be enough to warrant the trip. But it is much more than that; students’ cultural horizons are expanded to a massive degree. They gain practical advice and knowledge on how to actually BE an artist. They are immersed and become part of the contemporary art scene. And, most importantly, they are inspired.
And that is priceless.
2010 New York Trip Attendee – Colin Hall, ’10
It is necessary in almost every career path to remain updated on new developments and achievements within the chosen field. Scientists stay up to date on new research, investors watch the stock market and artists observe other artists. Across the globe there exist several hubs of artistic influence, one of which is New York City. Artists make the pilgrimage to New York City in the hope of becoming a part of something great. The opportunity to do so as a student is invaluable. It is one thing to sit in a dark lecture hall and be shown slide after slide of influential art pieces. It is something else entirely to visit a museum and be enveloped by a piece so entirely that you understand why it was so important. There is something powerful shared between an artwork and viewer. It is this moment that shapes an aspiring artist and begins to develop a sense of stylistic identity.
The New York trip is one of my favorite experiences as an undergraduate at UWEC. Before traveling to museums like the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my interest in Art History was meager at best. My time spent immersed in the New York art scene increased my drive to become a professional artist tenfold. I was enamored with all of the information I encountered. It was so enjoyable that I found myself on the same trip for two years in a row. I think that the practical experience I received in New York City is what truly cemented my resolve to establish myself as an artist. I wish I could bring the same experience to every art student. I want them to have the chance to see what could potentially be their future.
– Rebecca Farrow, ’13