Integrating Mind, Body, and Spirit: Semester in Cuba Inspires Creative Expression
When Alexandra Amoscato '09 returned to Sarah Lawrence from her semester abroad, she was experiencing a classic “Havana hangover.” Her time in Cuba had been nothing short of magical, and when Allie came back to campus, she couldn't stop thinking about the pulse of life under the Caribbean sun. The vivid colors of the streets. The stirring rhythms of the music. The compelling vibrancy of the people. The depth of cultural immersion she enjoyed, both in and out of the classroom.
As someone who has taken full advantage of interdisciplinary exploration at the College, Allie kept an open mind, even as she struggled with the transition. Enrolled in an advanced printmaking class with Kris Philipps, she explained her dilemma at one of their weekly conferences. In short, her heart and mind were still in Cuba, her body in New York. Philipps' advice? Turn distraction into focus, and work with the material you have.
Allie took this guidance to heart, deciding to "close the page" on her Sarah Lawrence in Cuba experience. She began devoting all her studio time to creating a series of mixed media prints that capture her time in Havana. The resulting pieces are based on photographs from her semester abroad—her most memorable impressions of the country.
"The images represent a hodgepodge of important monuments and people that, together, represent, the whole of the experience," says Allie. "I wanted to show the intense colors and the dreamlike state of Cuba."
Prior to studying at Sarah Lawrence, Allie had actually never taken a single art class. While she had pursued the performance arts, studying dance and theater since the age of two, she had never learned to draw or paint. Eager to take advantage of Sarah Lawrence's unique approach to learning—which nurtures self-directed education and deep engagement with the subject—Allie took an introductory sculpture course in her second semester, discovering new avenues for her creativity in the visual arts.
Being a "typical" Sarah Lawrence student, Allie has followed an atypical path. Although she had attended traditional Catholic schools most of her life, she realized early in her first year at the College that to thrive, she had to be self-motivated, to pursue her interests with both persistence and passion. This outlook led to her art classes—and to her semester in Cuba, which she calls "the opportunity of a lifetime."
Of the Sarah Lawrence approach, Allie says, "I'm able choose the areas of study I truly have an interest in, which has enabled me to focus in ways that I wouldn't have been able to at other schools—and the faculty are always there when you need them."
A native of the San Fernando Valley area, Allie plans to return to the West Coast after college. Her professional aspiration is to work in the fashion industry—an outgrowth of her visual and performing arts experiences. "I believe that if what you are studying feeds you, it will benefit you later in life,” Allie says, emphasizing how much she values full immersion in the educational process. Looking back, she adds, "Art-making is just something I could not have left school without doing.“