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Sophie Willard Van Sistine ’22J

Sophie Willard Van Sistine

What other activities are you normally involved in?
Working at the Wurtele Center for Leadership, yoga in downtown Northampton

If you had to pick an art genre to represent yourself and fellow Smithies, what would it be and why?
Art Nouveau paintings because they have a gentle and classic aesthetic, yet are also colorful and eccentric. I think that matches the popular fashion trend at Smith and is a visual representation of Smithies’ personalities: busy, inventive and celebratory.

“Art Nouveau is a visual representation of Smithies’ personalities: busy, inventive and celebratory.”

What’s something new you’ve started since the pandemic?
I make jewelry! It's always been a fun side hobby for me but now because of the quarantine, I have more time to devote to it. My mom used to sell funky rosaries at art fairs in LA, so I have all of her boxes and boxes of unused beads to work with. Just looking at all the different beads inspires me.

Tell me a bit about your graphic recordings.
I started learning how to do graphic recordings in fall 2019 for my internship at the Smith Wurtele Center for Leadership. It's challenging work, I have to synthesize what I hear into visuals and words off the top of my head. They usually take about an hour to complete. For example, I will graphically record while I listen to a 60-minute podcast and my recording lasts the duration of the podcast. The process was a bit different for some of the Hamilton songs I graphically recorded; I paused the song every few lines to draw what I had heard in a way that I knew would match up with the music when I sped the video up. Right now I've just been selecting things that I find interesting, or that are related to COVID-19 that I think might be beneficial for other people to see. When I’m back at Smith the goal is to be able to do this for more workshops and possibly speaker events.

What happens to the graphics after you’re done putting them together?
I usually take a photograph and share it on social media, or share a sped-up video if I have one. The actual paper ends up getting recycled unless someone wants to keep it. 

What’s your favorite place on campus? Or one place you particularly miss?
I miss the Clark Hall third floor lounge and Sessions House!

How have you seen the Smith community coming together in ways that surprised you? 
I've really enjoy the Friday teas my house (Sessions) has continued to do over Zoom every Friday. 

Have you received any surprising messages during the pandemic?
The other day I was driving past Laguna Beach and I saw a blimp flying over the water with a sign and it read "We are all..." and I couldn't make out the last word until it came closer. Turns out it said “We are all doomed,” but I THOUGHT it was going to say “We are all together.” And because I’m an optimist I am choosing to believe the second. We are going to get through this together. Not physically together—social distance, people!—but together in spirit. 

What’s one message you’d say to incoming art students?
Take risks and don't be afraid to fail! Mistakes are valuable learning experiences. Never take for granted or underestimate the power of your community. It’s easy to get bogged down by work and study, but never let those things isolate you from your friends whether that be house community, classmates, friend group, workmates, etc. 

Is there any other message you’d like to include to the wider Smith community?
Remember kindness, inclusion, and empathy. Reach out to a friend you haven’t connected with in a while, let them know you are thinking of them.

Sophie Willard Van Sistine drawing on the wall Smithie Snapshot - footer banner

Smithie Snapshots is a new profile series highlighting members of the Smith community, located all over the world.

About Sophie

Sessions House

Studio Art