Senior spotlight: Abby Waller

In the coming weeks The Anchor will be highlighting different seniors in the various creative fields of study offered at Hope College to showcase the amazing work and passion within these majors. The first senior to be featured is Abby Waller, a studio art major from Holland, Michigan. I spoke with her as she worked as a teachers assistant in the sculpture studio on a Wednesday night. She carefully answered my questions while sorting drill bits and organizing tools and shared her experience at Hope as well as her future career ambitions. 

How did you decide to be an art major? Did you come in knowing or find out after a few classes?

I actually came in as an engineering major with an art minor. I took Drawing 1 with Bruce [McCombs] — but he retired. He kind of convinced me [to be an art major]. He said “Hey, you’re actually pretty good at this stuff.” I was like nah…what am I going to do with art? I want to be an architect, and I really enjoyed being able to use my creativity in his class. I just felt really overwhelmed and stressed with engineering, and at that time I was also playing softball, so that was a lot to handle. I was missing a lot of engineering classes and wasn’t doing so hot, and grades are something that have been really pushed in my life. But I really enjoyed myself and I liked to be able to release that creativity because I never did any art stuff in high school, [which] is really strange for me to think about, seeing as I’m an art major. I declared my major at the end of my freshman year. 

What kind of art do you make? 

I mostly do sculptural work. I really enjoy photography, but I don’t have much to say with it — I just like to take pictures of cool things. My mind is so three-dimensionally oriented, and that’s kind of why I choose to do sculptural things. I don’t really enjoy drawing too much, I like to be really hands on, and to be able to see things from different angles. Two-dimensional drawings don’t vibe with me. First thing is sculpture.   

“This is a piece I did at the beginning of the year that’s gotten into 2 art shows,” says Waller

Where do you see your art being? 

I don’t know, because I don’t necessarily want to be an artist. I guess I could claim whatever I design is my art, and wherever that gets asked to be is where my art is going to be. If I were ever to do something more studio related, I really enjoy the idea of more interactive pieces and bigger scale things. [Those are] kind of hard to do in the art program because of literal space and money. It costs a lot of money to make things super big, and I don’t have the funds to do that. I really enjoy sculpture gardens so maybe something like that.

What are your highlights of your four years here at Hope?

I don’t know… this is going to be super cliché, but the people. I don’t really remember going to classes, it’s always like hanging out with art friends. Those are the things I will remember for a long time. Even the softball friends I still have; being able to see them is a lot of fun. I’m from Holland, so I don’t have memories of the place necessarily — I already have those — I would definitely say that being able to meet people with different backgrounds and stories is really cool. 

What is the best part about being an art major at Hope? 

The people again, especially with my senior art class. Once you have that, you kind of become this core group of friends, and we are all pretty close. Even with profs, you get so close with them and are able to joke around with them. You are all people, not a prof and student. It’s just so… across the board, everyone understands that we’re the same. 

What are some of your favorite classes you’ve taken and why?

Sculpture. I love Lisa [Walcott] so much; she is a mentor and friend. I really enjoyed Greg [Lookerse]’s 3-D Design class. It was so much fun, and just Greg is super fun. I didn’t like painting — and drawing was alright because it was with Bruce. But definitely sculpture. 

Who is most inspiring to you and why? 

That’s a good question. I’m inspired by my parents; they are both biochemistry professors, and they are really freaking smart. They have bestowed upon me a crazy work ethic, and I really live up to that. Artistically, if we are going in the program, Lisa and Greg for sure. Outside… I don’t know. I tend to look up to people I’m close with. Like, obviously I have people who inspire me who are famous, but I don’t know them. And being able to know that story — that makes it so much more real, and I’m more willing to look up to them.

What advice do you have for underclassmen art majors?

Work your tail off — it’s worth it. And keep plugging along. Once you get into the heat of the program it is a wild ride, and don’t take any of it for granted. Especially with the COVID stuff that’s been happening. I was offered as a junior to take the senior class, and I saw that get cut short for them, and saw them not be able to have a show after working for four years. It’s super cliché, but don’t take anything for granted. This is such a life-changing time in your life, and even being in the art program, or even in general. The art program changes you in so many cool ways. With other majors — I’m not comparing a specific one — literal creative freedom is cut away from you. Don’t take the time for granted, don’t take the people for granted and don’t take the materials for granted. All of these tools and everything? This stuff is expensive. Just don’t take everything for granted as cliché as that sounds. 

What are your long term career plans or your dream job? Where do you see yourself?

I would love to be an architect who creates sustainable architecture, and I’m really big on the environment and things like that. I would love to make sustainably sourced houses in really bizarre locations, like on the side of a mountain or in the desert. Finding ways to make them creative and also completely usable. Just something that’s out of the box a little bit more. Buildings are cool, but there are so many more creative outlets that you have when designing someone’s house. They’re looking to you for advice for how it could be more cool and sustainable. You can tell them, and they can come back with ideas. There is more of that idea, back and forth spitballing that I find really interesting because that’s what we all do here at the Art Department: we just throw ideas out there and see what catches. But if you’re designing a building you have all these checks you have to mark off, which I get — that has to happen obviously — but the more creative aspect of it is more available to residential stuff. 

What are your plans right after graduation? 

Definitely grad school, but I don’t know where I’m going yet. I applied to ten programs and got into eight which is pretty crazy to think about. I honestly have no idea where I’ll end up — hopefully somewhere cool. My top three are University of Michigan, University of Oregon and Penn State University. Penn State actually offered me a full ride with a job, and that is a big deal —but Oregon is Oregon! And it’s number one in sustainability. I have amazing places to choose from — I honestly didn’t expect to get into half the places I did. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the rest of Hope?

I have some more advice. I know I said don’t take anything for granted, but also make sure you build a relationship with whatever professor you can. I am really close with Lisa, and I’ve hung out with her family. If you feel yourself getting along with them make sure to go out of your way to make that relationship nice. Some of the art professors are the easiest people to get along with — you can call them by their first name. It’s so cool. How many other places can you do that? Again that’s coming back to everyone being equal ground. Yes, they have their masters and they’re obviously more educated than us, but we’re all art students. The profs are art students. We are all here to learn from each other. If you have the opportunity to get close with a professor, definitely do it.

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