Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Weekend in the Windy City

If you know me at all, you know that my life currently consists of lifeguarding during the day and applying for grad schools by night.  I talked with other photographers that have attended grad school themselves, or are also doing research in interest of starting grad school, and lastly trying to research MFA programs online as best as I can.  So far I've narrowed my list down to 7 schools.. which I understand is not a short list... and will make my wallet empty with application fees.

This past weekend (dec 3-6) I went to Chicago to visit UIC, SAIC, and Columbia.  Luckily I have friends there, which not only meant a place to stay, but fun people to hang out with when I wasn't on tours!

I arrived in Chicago at the Midway airport Thursday around 7:45pm and headed towards baggage claim... I thought I would be traveling to Katie's apartment on the El alone, but my friend Drew surprised me at the airport with this fun arrangement that he picked for me and Katie! and he traveled with me to her place in Wicker Park.

merry christmas! now hanging on Katie's living room wall.

Friday morning I started my college visits with UIC ( ) and learned that the teachers seem to care deeply about their students, and you get your own graduate studio space, but there isn't a whole lot of equipment available for the students.  I know that it would be a great program to be a part of, but not my first choice.  I feel like it may be too similar to what I experienced with my undergrad and am hoping to broaden my horizons a bit.  After the UIC tour was complete, I had 3 hours to kill and decided to spend it at The Museum of Contemporary Art:

here are images I took of pieces in the museum:

I'm upset with myself that I didn't pay close attention to the artist's names of all the pieces I truly enjoyed.  Some are listed on the website and you can find them there.

I was intrigued by these sketches; they were quite eerie and definitely left an impression on me.

This piece was made completely out of stone and looked so life-like! There were 9 body bags laid in a row that were all unique.  Some laid on their sides, backs, curled up in the fetal position, etc. with detail in every curve.  It was quite amazing.


One of my favorite things about museums is watching other people look at the art.

After my museum experience I took a cab and made it to School of the Art Institute of Chicago ( ) with minutes to spare before my tour.  They took us around to every building on campus, while showing every single program they have to offer.... I was definitely exhausted when it was finished!  One thing that I did really like about the school is that your curriculum is pretty open and up to you.  Besides Photography, I really enjoyed taking Ceramics (throwing), and Printmaking, and I could either take classes, or pay a lab fee and have access to use the facilities whenever I wanted!  The program has 24hour access and grad studio spaces, which is definitely a plus in my eyes!  I'm not a morning person... so it would be nice to have whatever sleeping schedule and still be able to work when I was awake, no matter what the crazy hour might be.  I was able to see the photography lab and I liked seeing how many students were there.  I want to be in a school where other students also want to be there, so that we're able to collaborate and motivate each other.  One down point: the program only accepts 8 new students a year............ we'll see how that goes.

Friday night I went to the suburbs of Glen Ellyn and visited with my friends Drew and James.  Drew lives in downtown Glen Ellyn in a building over 100 years old and directly across the street from the train station.  There were constant flurries and christmas lights lining the streets in the trees and windows.  There was definitely a quaint cozy feel to the town.  Drew and I ate Thai food for dinner and I couldn't get over how precious our waitress was.  She would always call me 'Lady' and when we got our leftovers wrapped, my bag had "Lady" written on the top left corner.

After dinner we stopped by where he works at a restuarant called Honey.  I got to meet some of his coworkers/friends and got yummy peppermint tea for the short, but freezing, walk home.  After we got back to his apartment we (actually mostly drew.. I just watched, smelled, and tasted in approval) made from scratch oatmeal, brown sugar, chocolate chip cookies.  They were VERY tasty and made the apartment smell of happy memories.  The good excuse for me not helping was because James came over with his son, Parker and I spent my time playing with him.

Parker was so cute with his chubby cheeks and snuggly personality! Later in the night we snoozed on the couch together till James had to take him home.  James said I could be his Aunt, but only if I decided to move to Chicago.  I told him I was his Aunt no matter what and to deal with it.  He was a sweet boy.

Saturday morning I headed back to downtown on the Metra and managed to find my way back on the El to Wicker Park and Katie's apartment.  I showered and had to immediately get back on the El and head to Columbia for their Preview Day.  The train was slow due to construction on the blue line and I started to get a little panicked that I would be late.... and up to this point I was doing so well!  Once a train finally showed up and started heading towards the loop, the passengers were informed that everyone had to get off at Clark and Lake because of the construction.... this is when the panic kicked in for real!  I got off at Clark/Lake and ran for the street; caught a cab within seconds!  The cabbie asked if I was going to class and I told him I was actually supposed to be there for a tour... he asked when it started.. I told him 1pm, he laughed...... obviously because it was 1:06 at this point.  Since there was some time we chatted it up and I found out that he was from India and had been living in Chicago for 11 years now.  He also said that he loves the summers in the city, but every winter he contemplates leaving because it's too cold, then the summers come and he decides to stay again.... this has been going on every year since he moved there.  He was a funny charachter; I enjoyed talking to him.  He honked and pushed his way through the streets and dropped me off right at the door where I told him thanks for saving my life, gave him a $3 tip for a $5 ride and sprinted up the stairs.
The actual Preview Day wasn't exactly what I was expecting but the whole thing turned out to be a great experience and turned in to being my favorite school of the three.  There was a grad student representative from each department they offered and they all took turns talking about their grad department and the next hour and half was a Q&A for the prospective students.  After the Q&A was over, I found the student that was from the photography department and ended up chatting with her for almost two hours and got a personal tour.  We seemed to have very similar ideas of what we wanted from getting our MFA and our likes and dislikes of the program.  For example, Columbia doesn't offer personal grad studio spaces for each student and no 24 hour access......YIKES!  She saw the look on my face when she told me this and said she had the same reaction when she first found out.  As she showed me around the facilities, I realized just how much room there was for everyone to work, I felt like I could start to breathe again.  I know... sounds pathetic, but having my own graduate space was something I was really looking forward to having.  There is however, a room that is for graduate students only, where we can either work, store our materials/prints, take a nap, goof off, get each other's opinion, etc.  Not to mention the view is AMAZING.  It looks out over Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan.  I'm sure I could open a window and watch Lollapalooza for free every summer.

After my tour was complete, Drew found me downtown and we headed back towards Wicker Park.  We met up with Katie, her roommate Linda, and her two friends from home that were visiting for the day at a cafe then all went to a DIY craft fair.

photo by katie's roommate: Linda Chov

photo by katie's roommate: Linda Chov

This is Katie and me reading/contemplating/truly laughing inside at a book I found, while trying to act serious for Linda to take our picture.  This guy takes old books of all kinds and turns them into journals, leaving a few pages throughout, from the original book.  I won't give away what I was actually reading, just trust that it was highly entertaining!
There was a free photo booth that we all took turns in...

After the Renegade Craft Fair, we were all hungry and decided to try out a restuarant called Mado.  They get their food products from local farmers every day and make up each day's menu on whatever they got that morning.

It was a cool concept, very yummy, but kind of expensive for the small portions.  Fun fact: it was a BYOB, so we stopped at the grocery on our way.. which made the meal even more enjoyable.


All in all, it was a wonderful trip that went by way too fast.  I decided to apply to all three schools along with the other four (SVA, VCU, UNM, and CalArts).  My goal is to apply to one grad school a day till each one is complete, tonight I applied to SVA.... I still have UIC, VCU, UNM, and CalArts left.  It's pretty exhausting.

Music I'm currently listening to: The Vespers


  1. love that you're blogging. I love reading about these kind of adventures. I have a traveling heart that rarely gets to travel (i'm always broke!) And Chicago is somewhere that has for some reason always fascinated me. I'd love to visit, and then someday live somewhere like that at least for a tiny while for the experience. Your motivation to make things happen after rmsp is encouraging for me. Thanks. Miss you. :)

  2. Melanie ... I read your blog word-for-word. I wish I had taught you in elementary school so that I could claim some of the credit for your writing ... you write with so much "voice," and it is so interesting and fun to read. AND I love to see the pictures you take and your ideas about them. Your enormous creativity never ceases to amaze me.
    Good luck with the grad school hunt .... love you.... miss barbara