hello i am an arty
How hard are you willing to work? Art courses (actually, most courses at Bennington) tend to be as intense as you make them, especially with more labor-intensive stuff like ceramics or printmaking or animation. There probably isn’t much in terms of just one-off, no-work classes, but I guess you could slide through a drawing class, say, doing the bare minimum and maybe get a marginal pass, but what’s the point of that?
Some of the courses I’ve learned the most from have also been the most intense and, at times, frustrating, both in assignments and critiques. I’ve worked for hours on certain assignments just to get (helpfully) torn apart in class critiques. Usually, a few hours later (or a few weeks later if i got really mad!!) I’d realize just how much more helpful my getting torn apart was.
So yeah, as with any class here, if you’re willing to work and you’re open to critique, art classes can be immensely helpful. Or, if you’re just taking a course because you’re curious about, I dunno, how to silkscreen, you could have a good time and learn how to do the thing without it being the most intense course you’re taking that term.
Every time I meet with poetry faculty Michael Dumanis, I cry — no, I swear it’s a good thing — but honestly, I hold it together until roughly 30 seconds after the meeting ends, and then sniffles turn to full-on ugly sobs…generally due to some truth bomb that he has dropped into my lap (as all good educators tend to do). But there is one meeting that stands out in particular to me. It was right after my past FWT, which was an independent study where I was writing every day about anorexia and femaledom, etc…but the poems were not turning out the way I had wanted them to at all, and I was (to say the least) extremely frustrated. Michael was my advisor for the project, and when I showed him the final pages, he looked them over for a moment, considered the air, and then declared: “There’s a painting I need to show you.” The painting was Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I’ve linked to it below:
You may know the painting, but I didn’t…it took more than a moment for me to understand. At first, it appears to be a simple pastoral scene overlooking a beautiful ocean, with a peasant (honestly not sure if he’s a peasant…I don’t study art history I’m sorry I’m sorry) driving his horse…there are many very cute sheeps, it’s great, and then….do you see it? In the right hand bottom corner? Yeah. That’s right. There’s our little guy. Yknow. The mythic one. Michael pointed out the little pair of legs and said, “You know what Parke? Sometimes the only way to get to the point is to circle around it.”
That’s when I started choking up a lil’ bit.
The very fact that we do not notice Icarus for so long is what part of what makes the painting a work of art. It manages to simultaneously concern itself with the myth as well as depart from it. The eye is drawn all the more because Icarus is not the center of the frame; our attention requires intention. Oftentimes when we try to go directly for “the point” of what we are trying to communicate, it comes out flat, deflated, not how we intended it at all. But if we create a rich environment to surround it, and we come at it from an angle, or we approach it in a new and interesting way, we see it from a vantage point we never have before.
This is how I view the Bennington education. It can be frustrating at times to feel as if you are “circling around the point” — why study history if you ultimately want to do literature? Why take a dance class if you’re a math student? What is the point of all of this cross-disciplinary stuff other than it being very “hip”/”trendy?” I have heard adults speak about my choice to study liberal arts as if I’m some dilettante who has the privilege to dabble without committing to any one thing — that I am “preparing myself to be a “worldly person” who has no “real” concerns (such as finding a job/making money/getting housing/supporting myself in general, etc). That could not be further from the truth. If you want to study something specific, you can go at it head on. You can go straight for the point. But when you do this, it creates a narrow line of vision between yourself and that thing. You have little to no periphery to color your vision — if that is even what you are actually interested in (because of course, at the tender age of 18, you’re expected to know what you want to do with the rest of your life, right?) You may not know how to make the necessary connections you need without creating an environment for yourself — a creative environment comprised of various passions that help to build the landscape to uphold your “point,” if you will.
After that meeting with Michael, I stopped writing head-on about anorexia…and lo and behold, once I did, the poems ended up concerning themselves with the disease more than they ever had before; they required a more sophisticated level of interpretation in order to get at the root of their meaning. So. Don’t be afraid to circle around the point. Don’t be afraid to get a little off the path of expectation in order to have a bigger picture or a clearer vision. You will know for you where Icarus lies.
hi faeyerotiggular two quick answers
1. National Merit is pretty d*ng impressive and definitely would NOT hurt to mention on your application! We won’t even get that jealous
2. If you don’t feel confident about interviewing right now and are able to set an interview up later, go ahead and wait. The counselors here are pretty smart and it’s likely that they won’t forget who you are, and it’s even more likely they won’t forget who you are if you have a really awesome conversation with them during your interview. So if you’re ready, go for it! If not, wait!
everything is o-KAY
Thanks, anonymous poster. It’s good to know that others on this campus feel their issues are being supported. We want to keep that going! For those who wouldn’t necessarily turn to their friends: psychological services is a wonderful place to go if you’re feeling that your problems are becoming a life-taking-over-amoeba, or even if you just need some advice. In a college environment where self reflection is not only encouraged, but expected, it’s important to take care of yourself as things come up (which they undoubtedly will). I would hope that if an incoming student believed there wasn’t enough support/conversation around a particular topic or concern, they would feel empowered to create that space for themselves. Bennington requires its students to stand up for and go after what they need, and that need can be emotional, social, spiritual — not just academic. The hope is that we are staying present with ourselves and recognizing those needs instead of glossing over them or pretending they don’t exist.
— Parke ‘15
Hey there! Since the answer to this question will vary from student to student, I’ve asked my fellow Monday morning interns to give their input:
"I love the people. I am surrounded people who seem to be as curious about the world as I am. No other place I’ve been feels the same way. But I hate that I woke up shivering this morning!"
"I love Rollerama so much!! (when Greenwall becomes a giant roller rink with a disco ball once every term.) It’s by far my favorite event on campus, and there are a lot of them to choose from."
"I love the view. Nothing beats it. Also the classes and the people and Rollerama. There isn’t a whole lot to dislike about the school but you might want to ask me again in a couple months when I start googling the freezing point of blood to assure myself it can’t happen."
"I’m happy I chose to go to Bennington. I love the student input––we shape the school. When I wasn’t happy with the tables in the dining hall I was able to talk to people and figure out a solution." (Glennis makes tables and chairs!)
As for myself, my favorite part about Bennington is the collaboration and sense of community within the student body. Students often work together to put on performances, create projects, or organize events; In my experience, the students are very much interested in each other’s work and are more than willing to offer their time and skills to create something really great. The downside is that––because everything is so interesting––I have to come to terms with the reality that I can’t take every class and participate in every student group.
But of course, the best way to get a real sense of life at Bennington is to visit!
Happy fun times!
Bennington both allows and encourages class visits for prospective students! I sat in on an acting class on my first visit to Bennington and it was a great experience.
This link will help you schedule a visit:
Or give us a call: 800-833-6845
And we’ll set you up!
- Matt ‘17
This is a pretty essential question on the Bennington model of education. Persistence is the key to the experience here, and the Plan Process is the structure by which students acquire that ability towards inquiry and action. Yet, the key word there is “process.” The Plan is an ongoing thing at Bennington, and it’s not about throwing students on their own to figure everything out. The goal of The Plan Process is to engender self-reliance and independence of thought and action, but you work with your faculty adviser, your plan committee, your teachers, and even your peers to figure out what it is you want your education to be. So, the school does not lack for support, and the support is not given begrudgingly. It’s a tough thing to do, and everyone knows it. Motivation is a hard-fought battle for students here. I’ll quote one of my professors here, and this has sort of been a mantra of my education at Bennington. When it comes to the work, she always just says, “Do the do.” For me, this is what I come back to when I’m writing an essay, when I’m struggling to finish a poem, when I’m not understanding a character I’m playing: “Do the do.” It wasn’t something I came to on my own, but rather one small piece of a 4-year long process to understand what propels me to work and what work I want to do. And what’s more, that piece was a gift, one that spoke volumes.
The “self-motivation” is not necessarily unique to the Bennington experience (to me, it is more so a prerequisite of a normal college experience), but it does require persistence, curiosity, and creativity. And again, it’s all a process.
Hope that helps!
The honest answer to this question is both. Existing on top of a hill above a little town can cause a feeling of claustrophobia. With this, it’s the same thing that makes our school unique, and I find that the lack of opportunity outside the campus contributes to the opportunities inside the campus. For example, because most people live on campus, we are able to have strong house communities - where freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors all live together and there’s no segregation between classes. The seclusion inspires all kinds of on-campus events and social gatherings, in which people really have the ability to bring their ideas to the Bennington community and can to make them happen. Also, for those that want to experience other communities from time to time, there are many towns to visit nearby - Williamstown, Manchester, Albany - and it’s about a 3 hour trip to NYC. Basically, your experience here is what you make it!
P.S. the seclusion is what gives us this crazy beautiful view!!
All of ‘em.
The ones where they keep the lights on are VAPA, CAPA, a set of study rooms in the library, and Jennings. You can wander through most of the other buildings but you’ll need the above pictured sweet twisty keys if you want to go in the rooms. Also, Campus Safety does not recognize the use of sweet twisty keys. Your mileage and disciplinary sentencing may vary. Alan, additionally, wishes me to remind you that in the Bennington educational philosophy, “freedom” is defined as “not the absence of restraint.”*
* “…but rather the fullest possible substitution for restraint imposed by others for restraint imposed by the self.” This applies equally to the Plan process and the availability of banned housebreaking instruments via the internet.
Well, if you check out the Williams College Debating Union FAQ you will see they say “Everyone!” can join - but according to Ashley, our Williams alum turned Bennington admissions counselor, their club is not one of the biggest and is likely just formed by a small group of Williams students.
But hey, don’t give up on Bennington yet! We don’t have a formal debate organization on campus yet but new clubs are always forming and often get rolling with surprising momentum. Our fencing and ultimate frisbee clubs are only recently formed groups but have gained enough traction to travel and compete. So, persevere and maybe even face our friendly purple cow neighbors at the podium one day.
- Sam ‘16
Oh….purrrrrrrfect you say?????????????
Well…what does it take to be an engaged and fulfilled writer?
1. Willingness to be wrong
2. Acceptance of failure
3. Not just theorizing about the craft, but DOING IT as much as possible
4. Learning from your elders and peers (and strangers)
5. Reading all the time/soaking up information/just plain lovin it
6. Practice! Trying out mimetics/mimicking styles
7. Taking care of yourself so you aren’t dead (hard to write if you are dead)
8. Pushing the limits of what has been done before you (this means learning and knowing what has come before you)
9. Engaging in a literary culture (going to events, hearing authors speak, etc.)
10. Also not writing! You are so much more than one thing!
If you are committed to living this list, then you probably have what it takes to get into Bennington. I’d be happy to talk to you more about it, since it’s what I’m striving towards as well….lemme tell you…it aint no walk in the park(e).
— Parke ‘15