Senior Artists Reflect


For this issue, we interviewed five Seniors who are involved in the Arts at the school. 

How has the school helped you grow as an artist?

Masamura: I went on the Florence trip with a group of Hotchkiss students in the summer of 2019; before that, I’ve never spent two whole weeks just doing art every single day. No matter what we did, it was related to art, whether it be exploring a museum or going to the street and drawing. Being immersed in that kind of environment and being with driven peers pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I used to be very scared to share my work, but peer critique is one of the things that we always do in the classroom. We give each other honest feedback, so knowing how to apply the feedback I received has really helped me get my work to the place I want it to be.

Li: The school has amazing facilities that I would not have had access to otherwise. The teachers and other like-minded peers made it much easier to start making art. 

Gill: The school really focuses on improvement versus just giving a model for what a good artist is, and they teach you to be a well-rounded student. Especially in Humanities, you practice different mediums as well as styles behind those mediums, so you get to explore and build up your skill set and find your artist voice. I got the opportunity to go to Florence during my Lower Mid summer for art as well, which also helped expand my artistry.

Preisig: Mr. Fabio Witkowski, head of the visual and performing arts department, always makes sure everyone, regardless of their level, sees improvement through not just private lessons but also performances. I’m a lot better at cello than when I arrived, and the many performance opportunities have also been a big factor. Before COVID-19, we had something called the Philharmonic Orchestra, a new orchestra made up of a combination of students chosen from the regular orchestra and professionals. It was a massive learning opportunity for me, because we were treated as if we were professional musicians. It’s helped me see what the future could be like in terms of music.

Weiss:  It’s the people, the teachers, and the students, who come from different backgrounds, that have allowed me to grow a lot. From the discussions I had with directors and actors, I was able to grow in the way I perceive theatre: as not merely entertainment. I grew to be able to dive deeper and see the objectives of characters and the humanity behind the arts. That shift could have only happened with the help of the others guiding me through the arts. 


How has your time at the school helped you develop as an artist?

Masamura: When first I came to Hotchkiss, I only focused on techniques, but that changed through the Humanities and arts classes I took, along with working on my continued investigation of the arts as an Upper Mid and Senior. During my sustained exploration, I thought more deeply about the concepts behind what I was doing instead of just focusing on the little details and skills of art. At first, my art was very meticulous and detailed to an extreme – almost obsessive – but I learned how to have fun with the process and I love it.

Li: Hotchkiss fleshed out my artistic skills in terms of both the techniques I use and my mindset towards being more free and relaxed when I create things.

Preisig: General support for the arts has increased over my years at Hotchkiss. There’s definitely more people who show up to concerts and recitals, which really motivates us to keep sharing our work with the greater school community.


What motivates you to continue your art?

Masamura: Art allows me to instantly connect with people wherever I am. It creates a space where everyone can have meaningful and exciting experiences. I’ve been able to do that with local communities and young students, so it’s a way for me to connect with and inspire people. 

Li: It’s fun, and I feel relaxed when I’m working on something. I enjoy looking over my end result, because I create things that please me; I don’t go out of my way to create things to please other people. I would say that my art just happens to please other people while pleasing my own sense of artistic style.

Gill: I am pushed to do ceramics because of its sculptural aspects, aiming to model and bring to life what I want to represent. For the last quarter, I’ve been working on tying my ceramics work to my visual arts work, and that unity has helped me with both art forms. Ms. Christine Owens, instructor in ceramics, also really motivates me to keep going and try new things.

Preisig: Hearing other people play, especially my friends, who are all really talented, and seeing what they can do with music motivates me. My private teacher plays a big part in keeping me motivated, as well. Also, Mr. Witkowski is always very excited to hear everyone play; he would see me in the halls and say things like, “Two weeks until the recital; so excited to hear you!” 


What is your favorite piece or performance from the past four years?

Masamura: My favorite piece is in the lower Rotunda right now – Goshawk and Bank Swallows, Fight or Flight. During the first semester of my Upper Mid year, my art class went to the Tremaine Gallery and studied the exhibition “Wild and Beautiful Creatures: The Life and Work of J.J. Audubon.” The Audubon Society brought prints and real models of stuffed birds, and we were asked to pick two pieces of art to draw inspiration from and make our own art piece. I put a lot of thought into my work, and I really gained confidence after getting positive feedback from my peers.

Li: I created a piece in my Lower Mid year. We were inspired by other famous photographers, but the look I chose to go for was something more cinematic. The piece was called Through the Window, and I spent a lot of time working on it, because I really had a streak of inspiration. 

Gill: This year, I’m focusing on eyes and anxiety, so the piece I’m working on right now is like the Fibonacci spiral, but with eyes. I’m also working with color, which makes it a little bit more surreal. There’s another piece in the Senior show, where one eye is right-side up and one is upside down. It’s just off enough that it gets people to take a second look and try to understand what was so off-putting about it. I really like being able to push the viewer to take a second look at my work.

Preisig: My favorite performance was the last one of 2019, because it was a non-COVID-19 year. Every Senior performed a piece backed by the Orchestra, and there were some really talented Seniors from 2019. That was a very well-attended concert, and it was the first time the school had to open up the top level and turn people away because Elfers Hall was so packed. That was a really awesome feeling with all the great energy in the room, because it was their last performance.

Weiss: Artistically, my favorite thing I have been a part of is either Gospel Choir or SMS, because they are groups where a bunch of artists come together to just create and have fun. There’s not a hierarchy of people or a specific grade, and it’s not even a co-curricular. You just show up and create something beautiful that you can share with other people. 


What is your favorite memory related to your artistic discipline?

Masamura: My favorite memory is doing arts and crafts in kindergarten, but it has nothing to do with painting and drawing. I remember how my parents were happy that I got into the kindergarten they wanted me to get into, and they asked me what I wanted to do. I wanted to do art and enjoyed creating new things, so just having fun with the process is the best memory. Before I came to Hotchkiss, I was pressured to do art, so I just try to have more fun with it now. The teachers are also so supportive and provide me with opportunities to do things that make me happy. For instance, I was looking for things to do during the summer of 2020, and Ms. Terri Morre, director of Tremaine Gallery and instructor in art, suggested reaching out to a local gallery in New Zealand. I ended up organizing a public event at the Auckland Art Gallery as an intern and visiting artist while working with the artists, curators, gallery public events team, and locals of different ages and backgrounds. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

Li: During my Upper Mid year, before the pandemic, my photography class regularly went on field trips. One field trip in particular was special, since we went to a sculpture garden called Opus 40 in New York. We learned about how it was created and the various photo and artistic processes that inspired that creation.

Gill: During my freshman year, I went away from art for a little bit, because I had a problem with a student in my class and lost interest in it. Then, my art teacher told me that I shouldn’t give up on art just because somebody affected me in class and made me lose my passion. I didn’t really listen to that at first, but then, when I started creating the work for myself instead of what I wanted to put on display for others, I stopped caring about what other people thought of my work. They just became my own pieces instead of trying to represent what I thought others wanted to see. 

Preisig: There are a lot of spontaneous instances. For example, my friend Campbell Herring ’21 and I were planning on rehearsing together for the Senior Recital. We ended up playing a concert for each other in the Elfers’ bathroom, because the acoustics are really good. Impulsive things like that are always super-fun. 

Weiss: The moments that really stick with me are the smaller, more intimate ones. For example, something we do before the start of every musical is called the shakedown. The Seniors gather everyone together, and we count down from ten, shaking our arms and legs, progressively getting faster, looking into each other’s eyes, and building up energy for the art we are about to create and share with others. It’s such an electric moment. 


Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.