BERKLEY — For a long time, Barbara Nash tried to find a niche or hobby that would be useful for the future. From singing to sports, Nash, 17, tried it all, but to no avail.
Nash, now a Berkley High School senior, had one true passion: art. Despite being told art wasn’t a future, Nash knew she would have to work hard enough to make it possible.
“I have always been the weird artsy kid who could draw well, and I spent a very long time finding things I could dedicate myself to, because I was told art was not a good career to follow,” Nash said. “So I tried everything from choir to rugby to all the different clubs and theater, but I could not love it the same way I do art. I decided it was clear I could not find the same satisfaction from anything else, so I was going to put everything into art and art school and a career and try not to be broke.”
Through hours of hard work each day this year, Nash has been able to make her future in art a little more feasible.
Last month, Nash was awarded a $16,000 scholarship from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids — Nash’s school of choice — as part of the college’s annual art day competition. Nash was one of a handful of students to win a portion of the $200,000 available in scholarship awards.
Nash was also the recipient of two other scholarships to art schools — a $52,400 scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a $44,000 award to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Despite the other two scholarships being larger, Nash said both schools are more expensive annually and she felt Kendall provides what she is looking for.
“I only applied to three schools, and I think going to Kendall, even though it is the smallest scholarship I received, will help with getting the good education towards what I want to do,” she said. “I’ve talked to others who went to the other schools, and they say they got good connections, but for me, it’s not about the degree or credits, but finding a better approach to work and better technique. I want to find a more fluid way of saying the things I want to say through art, and I think Kendall offers that more than anywhere else.”
For the Kendall art day competition, 130 students submitted their three best pieces March 22, and the pieces were evaluated and judged for about three hours before the 20 scholarship winners were announced.
Kristopher Jones, director of talent acquisition at Kendall, said the competition was not only about finding potential future students, but also giving the students a chance to see what the art world is like outside the classroom.
“These students have to take a risk in showcasing this creativity that’s so essential to who they are, and they have to do it alongside other outstanding work,” Jones said. “The possibility of failure is important for them to face, because failure is crucial to creative growth. This is the world these students will inhabit, one in which creative individuals constantly challenge each other to dig deeper, get better and go further.”
At BHS, Nash takes Advanced Placement art, which allows her to work on her pieces for three hours during the school day. For the class, she had to create 12 pieces that were part of a thesis concentration and another 12 that showed she could use different mediums and approaches.
For the Kendall competition, Nash took three colored-pencil pieces that were part of her continual theme work at BHS. One of her pieces, for example, showed a woman surrounded by various aspects of nature, including flowers, butterflies and birds.
“It is kind of difficult to explain the work I do, but I guess I do more surreal portraits,” Nash said. “I’m extremely experimental with my work, and I have tried print making and painting, but I really love working with color, and while with painting there is only so much you can do, with colored pencil, you can build up layers slowly and mix colors and get different tones.”
Working on her pieces takes up much of Nash’s time, even if she has to work outside the classroom. Working through lunch allows Nash to work four hours each day at school, and, depending on if she has to work her part-time job or not, she can get anywhere from one to five hours of additional time in at home.
Ultimately, Nash said she hopes her dedication to art will pay off and she will be able to make a career out of her true passion.
“I was always pretty dead set on illustration, but the more I have looked into it, I have been looking more into a bachelor of fine arts,” she said. “Doing fine arts, you get a broad range and can use your entire set of skills, yet I don’t have to compromise myself. Long-term, I’d like to go back and get a master’s degree of fine arts and teach art at the college level.”