What We Wish We Had Known

The Cornell semester abroad in New York City is often a college highlight for AAP students fortunate enough to attend. While it is traditionally unconventional to study ‘abroad’ as a sophomore (or even junior), the formal and informal lessons derived from such an experience is far beyond well worth it. After conducting a series of discussions with fellow B.F.A. students of AAP NYC Spring 2019 (otherwise known as Studio 6), here are a few things we wish we knew before making the big move to the big city.

  1. The Unpredictability Epidemic of New York City.

It’s true what they say – the only thing predictable about New York is its unpredictability. One of the preeminent things to quickly learn about living in the city is the importance of always being prepared: for your day, for the weather, and for all that is un-predicted. Adaptability and optimism are significant virtues to uphold while living here, but they can only take you so far in change of plans; physically being prepared for whatever the city might throw at you is the best way to tackle New York’s unpredictability epidemic. Lauren Park ‘21, emphasizes the importance of planning ahead. “Plan enough ahead of time when going absolutely anywhere in New York,” she says. “Trust me, having spent most of my time growing up in the city, there will always be traffic, or a subway incident, or a missed train, or just some random unexpected circumstance that can cause a delay from five minutes to an hour. I suggest planning by adding on double the time you’ll need to get somewhere.” This also means to plan ahead in terms of packing; it doesn’t hurt to carry around a phone charger, a portable charger, headphones, a reusable water bottle, and your MetroCard.

  1. To MetroCard and Beyond.

As a student in New York, your primary mode of transportation will be through the infamous five-borough MTA subway system. Running 24 hours a day, the trains are the most efficient way of maneuvering through the city. Before arriving to New York, Ji Weon Chung, class of 2021, had not expected public transportation to be his main source of movement. Taxis, Ubers, Lyfts, and other ride hail services are occasionally helpful, but can be expensive and slow. Combining your commute to classes, galleries, internships, and other miscellaneous trips, the most effective and efficient move is to purchase an unlimited monthly MetroCard. You will surpass a card paid for solely with individual rides if you ride the subway (or bus) more than 46 times per month. While it is financially wise, you also can relax not having to worry about refilling your card’s value and be able to take advantage of unpredictable adventures you may find yourself in while exploring the city during your free time.

  1. Internships Are A Lot of Work.

A huge drawing point to the semester in New York City is the real-life experience you can gain outside of your classes while working at an internship. The typical weekday schedule for a B.F.A. in New York looks like this: Monday, two classes; Tuesday, free; Wednesday, free; Thursday, two classes; Friday, one class. The two free days a week in the class schedule are designated for students to participate in an internship. The seemingly-daunting process of finding a suitable internship for your own personal strengths and interests begins in Ithaca the semester before arriving in New York, meeting with NYC Professional Practice professor/New York City art-world icon Linda Norden, who assists you in applications and finding a perfect placement. While internships are an incredible opportunity to have my first steps of my professional career be at some of the most significant museums/galleries/establishments, in one of the most connected cities in the world. New York is fantastic because of the diverse range of opportunities it offers and an internship can assist a B.F.A. student in broadening their network, getting “real-life” practice, utilizing access to professionals to observe/learn from, as well as both growing and developing a personal palette of skills and interests through experience. However, typical internships run the average 8-hour workday and can be a tiring addition to your workload. By enrolling in an internship, you must be confident in your ability to balance the requirements of your classes as well as this additional responsibility. A full week of work, classes, and homework can be tiring; however, the additional effort is well worth it for the experience, knowledge, connections, and memories made.

  1. Embrace the AAP NYC Lifestyle, but Don’t Let it Get to You.

For B.F.A.’s coming from Ithaca, having just completed all six 2000-level studios, it will be a fairly large adjustment to the lifestyle that AAP NYC exudes. The Fine Arts major in Ithaca is notably intense, particularly the first year and a half as B.F.A.s complete the compulsory Introductory courses, which tend to have more strict requirements and assignments. The AAP NYC Studio, led by Professor and distinguished artist Beverly Semmes, introduces student to a new approach related to personal process, project inspiration, and assignment grading, guided by the notion that each student has the experience and skills to liberally decide what they desire their final work to embody. Professor Semmes’ tremendously creative, wildly generous assignment prompts can be interpreted and finalized in a million different ways, all acceptable to be tailored to each student’s personal conceptual and material interests. While this freedom is a physical exhale from the more rigid assignment structures of Ithaca, don’t let it overwhelm you; Sarah Zhang, class of 2020, says “It’s nice to have so much freedom, but it can be intimidating coming from the 2000-level studios. Make sure you focus on what you truly want to explore while you’re in New York and you’ll be happier with the outcome of your work.”

  1. The Stereotypes are True but don’t be Intimidated – You Will Love It All.

It’s true what they say – New Yorkers can be unfriendly. Ariel Noh, class of 2021, was expecting a degree of the stereotypes to be true but was taken aback by the “realness” of it all. “I’m from California, a big city, where everybody is laid-back and friendly, so the group personality of New York – it’s unexpected.  The group collectively agreed that while the big move to New York City after living in Ithaca can be intimidating, it is easily one of the best decisions you can make as a B.F.A. in AAP. “You’ll grow to love the city, and its rich history,” says Lauren Park ’20. “You’ll think it is overwhelming but as you explore, it’s not as bad as you think.” The AAP NYC B.F.A.’s of Spring 2019, known as Studio 6, communally established that confidence is key. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” says Abhika Pawha ’21, “New York City is really a home for everybody.”

Quiz: Which BFA Professor from AAP NYC Are You?

There is no doubt that the professors that teach the courses at Cornell University’s AAP’s New York City program are what make the semester so fantastic. The way their distinct personalities perfectly reflect their class curriculum cultivates an ideal learning environment in the greatest art city in the world. To find out more about each professor, and to determine which BFA professor from AAP NYC you identify most with, take the quiz below!

Click here to take the quiz!

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A Thursday at AAP NYC: Inside Mid Term Crit & Mana Contemporary

Thursday before Spring Break is a critical day for the B.F.A.’s studying at AAP NYC. Thursdays in general are the most intensive day of the week, with our NYC Studio in the morning (9-1), followed by our NYC Professional Practice class in the afternoon (2-6). On this particular Thursday, our morning studio class, which is typically independent work time, was transformed into our significant mid-term critique, with guest critics Jane Benson and Linda Norden.

Ji Weon Chung ’21 inside the Mana Contemporary studio of the late Walter de Maria.
Lauren Park ’20 and Lauren Peters ’21 at Mana Contemporary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Critiques, or “crits,” are an essential and substantial part of AAP’s curriculum. They provide honest and valuable opinions on how an audience views and interprets an artist’s work. A mid-term crit like this one is structured quite simply; each artist receives an equal amount of critique time, and within that time, the first minutes the student presenting must be silent as the audience presents their first impression, unbiased to any information regarding the conceptual or material process. The artist is then brought into the dialogue, offering guiding statements to the group, and occasionally facilitating the conversation to points of particular interest. Valuable information is provided by both the visiting professors and the student’s peers, through effective questioning, evidence-based observations, and personal connotations. While crits can be daunting, they are very beneficial in search for new meaning, purpose, and future ideas; any lingering sense of contest is replaced by supportive mutual discovery.

Crit begins in the Art Studio.
Jane Benson, Linda Norden and Ji Weon Chung ’21 critique Lauren Peters ’21 mid-term assignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-crit, we headed to the Oculus to jump on the PATH train, on our way to Mana Contemporary, a cultural center in Jersey City, New Jersey. Mana houses various services, spaces, and programming for artists, collectors, performers, dancers, curators, designers, and more. Founded by the moving company mogul Moishe Mana, its 1920’s-era one-million square foot building structure is home to one of the largest all-inclusive contemporary creative communities in the world. Under the guidance of Visiting Critic Linda Norden, we were fortunate enough to receive a private tour of Mana Contemporary; with no other tourists or guests in the building, world-class exhibits were empty enough for us to explore independently at our own pace, and we were frequently welcomed into arbitrary studios we wandered by. We toured Dan Flavin: cornered fluorescent light; Fred Sandback: Sculpture; Arnulf Rainer: Crosses and Angels; and Andy Warhol: The Original Silkscreens. We peered inside many studios, most notably ThreeAsFour (who we had seen in New York Fashion Week at the Guggenheim) and the studio of the late Walter De Maria.

BFA’s walk beneath the Oculus
Ji Weon Chung ’21, Lauren Park ’20, and Ariel Noh ’21 in Jersey City, New Jersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BFA’s inside Dan Flavin: cornered fluorescent light
Lauren Park ’20 and Ji Weon Chung ’21 in Andy Warhol: The Original Silkscreens

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Cornell, and in AAP in particular, we tend to always be working; we see what some may consider their busiest weeks as our typical. The endless hours of internal conceptual problem solving, to physical time spent in studio working to prepare for crits add up. We in what is the busiest day of our week, it is often the most exciting, fulfilling, and fun.

The Town and the City

The past few weeks leading up to the midterm reviews and spring break have been a non-stop process of acculturation to the rhythms of the city. Frantic, reckless, without any room for idleness. In some sense it is similar to that of Ithaca with studios demanding a high level of production but whereas one might be expected to have a serendipitous trip to Franny’s, here your whole productive night might derail and become one of self-exploration in the city.

Professional Practice class touring SOM’s material library. Photo/ Linsen Chai.

Learning from New York and those who shape the city allowed us to reflect on our own roles as designers with our respective projects. We have had several occasions to interact with professionals based here either through our Professional Practice course which took us to firms such as Handel Architects or SOM, as well as having our projects reviewed by those in the industry. Our field trips have constituted an insightful glimpse in owning a firm in the city from topics such as working in a foreign context, to starting one’s practice. The architects and partners welcomed us and shared not only their stories of success but also those moments of constructive reassessment. These formative encounters extended to design reviews providing the much needed feedback in order to concretize this semester’s integrative studio; one which necessitate a higher level of technical resolution.

Views from the ferry heading to Staten Island. Photo/ Linsen Chai.

In addition, the lectures and events at the various cultural institutions kept us intellectually stimulated whether it be the A/D/O’s lectures series on waterways or that of the Emerging Talents at the Center for Architecture. Will all of this happening, we took some time to take a break from it through a lovely ferry trip to Staten Island where students decompressed and enjoyed the views to the city.

Now with more than half of the semester behind us, one might say that we have found a sense of the Town within the City; a new routine of balancing life in and out of studio venturing out for inspiration, fascination, in addition to the occasional late-night treat.

Making the House our Home: Life at Cornell Tech

One of the most challenging aspects of moving to a grand metropolis like New York is finding good, safe, and affordable housing. The city’s egalitarian attitude (meaning nobody cares about who you were before you got to New York, it’s all about what you do while you’re here) can make this task, on top of all the other properties of moving, practically impossible. Lucky for the BFA’s taking on this move, we had the luck of having Cornell tackle this problem for us, solving it by moving us right into our new home: The House at Cornell Tech.

Roosevelt Island, Cornell Tech (front), The House (back), Queensboro bridge and Long Island City.
Lobby of The House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cornell Tech campus is the newest addition to Cornell University, Roosevelt Island, and the greater graduate-and-beyond STEM community. It’s a joint partnership between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. It was born out of the successful win of a competition launched in 2010 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to develop an elite graduate school of engineering and applied sciences in New York City.

“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, “in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” Cornell Tech is located beneath the Queensboro bridge on the southern part of the narrow Roosevelt Island, a 2-mile long hidden treasure lying parallel between the Upper East Side in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens. If New York City is The Office, Manhattan is Michael Scott (excitable, self-centered, attention seeking, fantasy thinking…) and Roosevelt Island is Jim Halpert (fun, loyal, low-drama, peaceful). The attitude of Roosevelt Island is insanely optimistic, something you can feel after exiting the single subway station and out onto the island. Not only does it have fantastic landscape views of Manhattan, Queens, and beyond, it is easily accessed by the F train from Manhattan; the F goes straight through Midtown with many ideal stopping stations (Bryant Park, Herald Square…) and as a transfer to the 4, 5, and 6 local and express trains, which take you downtown (and more importantly, to class). Overall, it’s around a 6-minute walk from the House to the train station, and the walk along the East River facing Manhattan and beneath the Queensboro bridge makes it an extremely pleasant commute.

Beneath the Queensboro Bridge.
Exiting the Roosevelt Island subway station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House at Cornell Tech is new both in age and in technology; as the world’s tallest certified passive house building (eco-conscious living), it’s truly a wonderful place to live. Living there provides residents with access to not only the lounge area in the main lobby, but a fully equipped gym, laundry services, and communal areas on the 23rd penthouse floor (which include studying spots, a television, pool tables), as well as a practically panoramic balcony view of Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, equipped with seating and barbecues for the summertime. In addition, there is free WiFi, mail package rooms, vending machines, and rent paid through your bursar bill, making the entire experience hassle-free. The new facilities make everything aesthetically pleasant and calming to relax in, making kids coming from Ithaca’s Collegetown rentals feel like we’re living at the Plaza Hotel.

Balcony view from the 23rd floor.
Community penthouse spaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For BFA’s, we are provided housing together; this year, the five of us who are living at the House are situated on the 16th floor, a few doors down from each other. Each apartment has two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a communal hallway closet and living space, which includes a fully equipped kitchen, living room, and dining space. The apartments come with more than enough amenities; we were shocked to arrive and see our drawers and cabinets were fully stocked with anything we would need, from pots, pans, plates, cutlery, to detergent, dish soap, sponges and more. An iron and ironing board are also included. In the bedrooms, besides a beautiful bed frame and mattress, you’re provided a lamp that lights up the entire room, a dresser, closet, and bedside table. The apartment is designed in the best way; while it resembles the familiar look of a white cube gallery space, this blank canvas of an apartment provides tons of flexibility in terms of personal decoration.

Living at Cornell Tech: The House has been one of the most exciting parts of the AAP NYC program. Its fantastic to have a safe, comfortable place to head back to every night. The House has everything, and we’re fortunate to be able to call it our home!

Living room space.
Example bedroom.