Brevard College Junior Shawnaizja Simmons, of Ridgeville, South Carolina, is an art major with a concentration in sculpture.
As a prospective student visiting campus, Shawnaizja met one of the art faculties who showed her around the Sims Art Building.
His reaction was immediate, according to a press release.
Recalling how she felt when she visited the campus, Shawnaizja said, “Yes! I feel at home here. I don’t need to see anything else.
Shawnaizja is also earning her teaching certificate with the goal of becoming a high school art teacher.
She is passionate about motivating young people through art, so a recent assignment in a public sculpture class resonated with her goals.
“I’ve always been creative, ever since I was little,” she says. “I drew and painted and sculpted before I really knew what sculpture was. At one point I wanted to be a special effects makeup artist, so I would sculpt little creatures, but I didn’t understand what that was until I got to Brevard College. Last year I took a steelmaking course, and we were taking oil-based clay and sculpting little molds – and I realized I had done similar things when I I was younger, but hadn’t connected the dots to sculpture and art!
His favorite classes at Brevard College were taught by Professor Kyle Lusk – steelmaking and public sculpture.
She studied public sculpture last semester and acknowledged that the experiential program was designed to build on what she had learned in steelmaking.
Because of her hands-on experiences with steel, she was ready to do something on a larger scale.
Describing his experience in the public sculpting class, Shawnaizja said, “We learned how to do commissioned work in the real world, so Kyle did an assignment where we applied for a commission, did the powerpoint and made a model – going through the stages of real life.
Inspired by her creative process of considering form first, Shawnaizja knew she wanted her sculpture to be linear.
She then thought about color, and since she knew the experiential assignment was for an elementary school, primary colors came to mind, associating these with younger children.
She included black with white dashes, representing students moving forward on their life path and two shapes that come together to represent the people they meet on their life journey.
Shawnaizja worked on the life-size sculpture for over a month and, reflecting on how she felt on installation day, Shawnaizja said, “It meant a lot to me. I felt very accomplished and it was motivating for me to continue with my art. There was a moment when I realized ‘wow, I did that and I could do bigger and better things if I wanted to!’
She added: “Being a woman and not just making this sculpture, but making it in steel – it was empowering. I am strong!”
As an art major, Shawnaizja feels a strong sense of community in Sims Art Building, knowing that throughout her creative process she can always talk to her peers and get positive, constructive feedback.
She describes her student experience in the art program as “a family that continues to push each other to improve.” She mentioned how Lusk shaped her journey.
“Kyle is a great teacher,” she said. “During my freshman-to-freshman experience, he pushed me to do work that not only appeals to people, but also speaks to me.”
Shawnaizja shared that in these moments she feels like she is creating her best work.
Shawnaizja shared that being a student at Brevard College has helped her to be socially diverse, especially through the campus culture.
“Last semester we were able to attend more events and the energy on campus is amazing,” she said. You don’t even have to know anyone at rallies or cheering games. If you felt lonely before, you don’t have to. The energy is so intimate and vibrant.
After graduating, Shawnaizja hopes to get her master’s degree.
She is passionate about teaching at the high school level, possibly even the high school she attended, because she wants to give students the experience of having an art teacher who cares.