French art program takes Baylor student

By Candy Rendon

Yale University’s study abroad summer session in Auvillar, France, is a prestigious studio arts program for skilled art students.

Open to Yale and non-Yale students alike, the summer program has many students apply for its June 3 to July 3 experience in Europe. Only 15 applicants of several hundred, however, were accepted for the 2012 session.

One of Baylor’s own art students made the cut.

Wylie senior Erica Wickett, a student in Baylor’s studio art department, will join 14 other students from across the United States for Yale’s summer arts program.

Wickett said the program is focused solely on drawing and painting. It will consist of rigorous course strategies and unique technique practices to help the students build their observational and analytical skills while allowing them to find motives for artistic discovery.

Amarillo senior Caitlin Fairly said Wickett’s acceptance into the program is a wonderful opportunity for her to grow.

“She is super excited,” Fairly said. “But she’s really funny in how she shows it. She was quiet about the whole thing, and she forgot to tell me that it only accepted only a handful of students.”

Fairly said she and Wickett shared an apartment last spring and that the two of them quickly bonded. Fairly said Wickett is an exceptionally talented painter and that the summer program has come at the best of times for her.

“I know how difficult it is to make it as an artist,” Fairly said. “But Erica has the resolution to survive the industry. I truly believe that she will be more successful now that she will attend the program.

Wickett said she did not expect to get into the Yale program. She said that her background as an artist has been less than inspirational.

Wickett said her first serious work in the art scene occurred in her senior year of high school where she entered a few paintings into a state art competition.

Much like the Yale program, she said, she had low expectations for advancing further with her art, but the pieces quickly rose to the top and went on to the national competition.

“I actually medaled in the competition,” Wickett said. “I wasn’t expecting to do well, let alone place. I don’t think it had occurred to me that I was actually good at art until then.”

Wickett said she especially does not understand her interest in art when she considers her parents and their respective career fields. Her father is an accountant and her mom is a computer programmer.

Wickett said they joke about how “left field” her artistic side must seem to people who like her paintings.

Yale University professor Robert James Reed Jr. will be conducting the summer with Wickett and her peers as soon as the spring semester ends.

Reed is the director and founder of the Institute for Studio Studies in Auvillar, France, and has been conducting the program for several years.

Reed recently said in a Yale newspaper article that programs such as his are created for students who have the talent to achieve great artistic feats and need an extra push to find their own individuality. He said that the program’s greatest strength lies in its taking the students away from their familiar college campuses and required courses and bringing them closer to the greats in art history.

“Art students feed off of all of the other things they learn [with undergraduate studies] — biology, literature, architecture — as undergraduates,” Reed said.

Reed studied at Morgan State College and his works have been included at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Biennial of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Walker Art Center. In 2009, he was elected to the National Academy Fellowship in New York.

Wickett said she is looking forward to the upcoming event in France, and she said that after the program she will take a year off to build up her art portfolio. Once she crafts her material, she will continue toward her graduate school projects.

“I can’t really express my feelings right now without sounding awkward, but I always seem to beat myself up about criticizing my own work,” Wickett said. “So I’ll use a quote that I know [from Charles Horton Cooley] to express myself: ‘One should never criticize his own work except in a fresh and hopeful mood. Self-criticism of the tired mind is suicide.’”