The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday October 28th

UNC MFA graduate crowdfunds to spend month in Iceland

Sydney Steen was inspired by country’s ‘different world.’

<p>Courtesy of Sydney Steen</p>
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Courtesy of Sydney Steen

Sydney Steen, a 2015 graduate of UNC’s studio art master’s program, turned to crowdfunding to pay for her artist residency program in Iceland, which she completed in June.

For every donation — and so far she’s raised nearly $2,300 — she’s sending a one-of-a-kind drawing to her donors.

Steen said she felt inspired and connected to her environment in Iceland.

“I’m interested in seeing how the landscape reflects a lot of our internal thoughts and experiences,” she said.

She and three other artists hiked to a mountain peak in Gullkistan, Iceland, for the summer solstice, an Icelandic tradition.

“The top was a field of ice and freezing. It was a completely different world,” Steen said.

A testament to her growth as an artist, she created drawings of fictional landscapes inspired by Iceland rather than painting exactly what she saw.

“As the glacier is receding, the lagoon gets bigger, and iceberg chunks come off,” said Steen. “It was really beautiful, but then you realize it’s so beautiful because the glaciers are receding, which is really bittersweet.”

The director of graduate studies of studio practice, elin o’Hara slavick (who prefers her name spelled lowercase), got to know Steen well through the master’s program.

“She’s a thoughtful, ethical and a generous, good person,” slavick said. “She was interested in other people’s work as with her own.”

Slavick said that in her 21 years of teaching, Steen was one of her most hardworking students, referencing Steen’s drive to push herself and create something new by experimenting with different media and materials.

“We were really fortunate to be in this program that had a lot of really amazing artists and people,” said Allison Tierney, another 2015 program graduate.

“Everyone was there to support one another.”

Eleven people were in Steen and Tierney’s graduating class; both said it was a tight-knit, supportive community of artists.

Steen hadn’t always planned on pursuing art as a career.

But that changed in her early college years with encouragement from professors and peers, and her style evolved from pure paintings to sculptures.

Inspired by her experiences in the master’s program at UNC and abroad, Steen is searching for a job to teach art, a field she grew to love.

“Art is the one subject that can incorporate any topic in the world,” she said.

“Art includes all of these other ways of thinking and making.”


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