This commencement address by sci-fi writer Neil Gaiman captures so much of our philosophy here at BLUR.
Here’s a taste:
The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.
The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.
The things I’ve done that worked the best were the things I was the least certain about, the stories where I was sure they would either work, or more likely be the kinds of embarrassing failures people would gather together and talk about until the end of time. They always had that in common: looking back at them, people explain why they were inevitable successes. While I was doing them, I had no idea.
I still don’t. And where would be the fun in making something you knew was going to work?
Thank you SO much for your vote of confidence! We’re very excited about this summer.
We’ve always thought BLUR was a good idea: bring together talented young artists from the across the country for three weeks in an extremely beautiful setting, and have them work under the guidance of fantastic professional artists. Add in iPads, field trips, and amazing outdoor performances by a professional theatre company. What’s not to love?
Well, there’s now even more reasons to love BLUR.
The business world speaks and says they need people with good communications skills, creativity, writing ability, can work well with others, and know their way around a computer.
Well, good thing there’s BLUR. At BLUR, collaboration, curiosity, and creativity are at the heart of everything we do. Throw in the fact that we focus students on the ways in which digital technology is changing the way we create, and it starts to sound like business leaders dreamed up our little program.
Read this impassioned plea to invest in the arts, not cut them:
excerpt from an artist’s statement by Claes Oldenburg, who turns 84 today. Happy birthday Claes!
Claes Oldenburg artist’s statement for the Environments, situations, spaces catalog, 1961 May. Ellen Hulda Johnson papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
In addition to working with Endstation Theatre Company’s actors and seeing them perform, BLUR students will have the opportunity to visit the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, one of the world’s premiere artist colonies, located less than a mile from Sweet Briar College’s campus. There, students will meet with professional artists in their studios and talk with them about their work. This photo is one of my favorites from last summer’s visit to the VCCA: VCCA Fellow Christine Hiebert demonstrates drawing with painter’s tape to BLUR students.
At BLUR students benefit from Sweet Briar College’s dedication to creating technologically savvy learning spaces. Here the creative writing students discuss Pieter Bruegel’s painting “Hunters in the Snow” (1565) displayed on a large flat panel monitor.
Brandon Som, the Chair of Creative Writing, often uses paintings to help students think about the importance of vivid imagery, and the way images can create story, even though they are not moving.
Yes, that will be fine.
at Sweet Briar
This is what Sweet Briar looks like today—cold and overcast. But when you’re here for BLUR it will be green and lush and warm. Mother nature is the greatest of artists.
Thanks again to Sweet Briar’s Director of Creative Writing, John Gregory Brown, for the pic! His Instagram feed is amazing.
We do not use GPA as an indication of whether a student is right for BLUR. We use your application essay, work sample, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher.
Looking forward to reading your application!
Anon, that’s great to hear. I’m sorry that I used your question to further a larger point that sometimes comes up. We will be very happy to receive your application.
Hmmm…that’s a good question. I don’t have those numbers in front of me, but I also would prefer not to publish them on-line. Here’s why:
The lives of young people have become so much more stressful, so much more premised on test scores, GPA, AP credits, how many extra-curricular activities you participate in, and all in the service of making your resume stand out when applying to colleges. That wasn’t the environment I came of age in as a student and an artist, and I am appreciative of my teachers, and parents, and friends who constantly reminded me that I should pursue what I love with passion and forget about everything else.
What I’m saying is that you should apply to BLUR because you love what you do (acting, drawing, singing, writing, etc.) with a white-hot intensity, or because you have never been given the chance to REALLY immerse yourself in that thing you love, and want to see what happens when you do.
Acceptance rates are good measures of the prestige of a institution—I get that—but at BLUR we’re not about prestige. We’re about creating an inspiring communal environment for young artists where they can feel safe and supported to explore new ways of making and thinking about art and the role the arts have in the world.
You should not apply to BLUR because you just think it will look good on a resume—it will look good there, no doubt, because it will make you appear to be serious about making art. In other words, BLUR, or any summer arts program, is not a magical car-wash where you enter in one side all dusty, rusty, and dull and exit the other sparkling. BLUR will really only be useful to you if you stop worrying about appearances and dedicate yourself to using three weeks to grow as an artist.
Sorry to be all preachy, but this is something I feel quite passionate about it. What I can tell you is that BLUR brings together a very diverse group of students from all over the country—California, Utah, Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and many more (even Puetro Rico!)—to spend three weeks on one of the most beautiful college campuses in America, working with dedicated teachers who also happen to be amazing artists. What I can tell you is that there is a saying around BLUR that goes something like this:
You will make more art in three weeks than you will the entire rest of the year.
Again, sorry for the lecture, but we’re trying to create a place that is a respite from the dog-eat-dog, high-stakes testing world of education, a sanctuary from those pressures. That said, I sincerely hope you apply to the program. Use the short essay section on the application to wow us, move us, persuade us, and make sure to upload images, words, sounds that represent your best work as an artist. That’s all you can do, but it’s a lot.
In the next week, we will be featuring testimonials from former students about their experiences. Stay tuned for those, because I think they will help you to get a sense of what BLUR is about.
No, if accepted, you are not bound in any way to attend. Please note the link on our Website for information about applying for a scholarship. My advice is to apply early and fill out the paperwork.
The issue is that the program begins on June 16th, and the policy is that students who are accepted to BLUR must attend all three weeks of the program. I hope it goes without saying that we make exceptions for students who become ill while at the program, or encounter a family emergency. Our program is carefully designed to be communal and immersive, and so we want to enroll students willing to commit to that level of engagement. Joining the program late or leaving it early compromises the environment we are dedicated to creating for young artists.
Please know that we are committed to making BLUR as accessible to as many students from as many states as possible, but this year there is no way to change the dates of the program to accomodate the scheduling conflict that it sounds like many New York students have.
High-tech meets Low-tech on Flickr.
This is another of my favorite photos from BLUR. High-tech meets low-tech in our first collaborative art session.
Collaborative art sessions are one of the unique things about BLUR. Artists from different mediums are grouped together and given artistic challenges. This group used their iPads and a whole bunch of crumpled up paper to create an interactive sculpture. For more photos, check out our flickr stream.