For Artists

If you know my story, you know that I was accepted into the MFA program at New York Academy of Art just as COVID hit. The original plan was to pack up the whole family and head to New York City while I studied my dream program. My husband was already working remotely, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience time in the Big Apple as a family. But, as it did for so many other things, COVID put a quick halt to that. We were not going to take our kids (ages 11, 8, and 6 at the time) to the dead center of a shutdown to be locked up in a tiny apartment when we had a comfortable property with a back yard already. While so many in-person programs moved remotely, NYAA knew the importance of painting from life, and cut down the class sizes and remodeled their studios to accommodate individual spaces so they could continue the program in person. I knew this was the program I wanted to study, but still I debated. Was it worth it to go on my own? Should I defer and wait until the world seemed a little more stable? This is only a quick temporary shutdown, right? What does this look like for the rest of my family? Surely, I will be able to just travel back and forth, right? 

Because I really had a gut feeling I needed to go, I made a choice. I ended up moving to NYC on my own with plans to visit back home when possible. When I arrived, I had to quarantine in my room for 2 weeks before the program started. Here's a picture of me in a very empty Times Square just after getting out of quarantine.

Everyone there told me the city just wasn't the same as it used to be.

I talked to my family daily and bought a Nintendo Switch and learned how to play Fortnite with my boys. The restrictions were tight and monitored by travel forms you had to fill out before traveling and text messages you had to reply to to confirm you were quarantining. Utah was on "the hot list", and travel both ways required a 2 week quarantine before being in public. I couldn't afford to miss that much of school. So I went to school and painted, and drew, and painted, and stayed in my studio for most of the time while I ached to be home with my family. While I absolutely loved what I was studying, there was an absence in my heart. I remember on Halloween in 2020 and I saw kids dressed up in Central Park, I just cried and cried. The long-distance put a strain on my relationship with my husband, and I could tell that at times he was resentful for supporting my decision to go. He was Mr. Mom at home, taking care of laundry, errands, and everything else so I could spend over $80,000 to "paint". 

When Thanksgiving approached, I knew I had to go home. I hopped on a plane and met my family in Las Vegas. My travel time was less than 24 hrs. which eliminated my mandatory 2 week requirement. It was crazy, but it was worth it to see them! Oh how I missed them!

Restrictions gradually lessened, and I dreamed about them coming to NYC for the next year of study after I came home for the summer. But they were involved in programs and had a good system going at home so they didn't. But the second year was a lot better as far as being able to travel. My thesis came together and I had a good critique in the end (watch here). I even met Brooke Shields and she bought some of my work. My family came out to see me graduate.

Some of the other students in my class had the luxury of applying to residencies with no reservations. I didn't want to be away from my family for a second longer. When I arrived home I was under a lot of pressure to "get a job" to help support my family because I was now an MFA graduate, but also $80,000 in debt for it.