Where are they now? Vergennes Union High School – Genevieve Cohn, 2010
Vergennes Union High School – Genevieve Cohn, 2010
Hometown, current residence, age: I grew up in Ferrisburgh and attended Ferrisburgh Central School. I just finished my Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) program in Bloomington, Indiana, and will be moving to Chicago this next year. I am 24 years old.
Family: My mom and dad, Anne and Arthur Cohn, my brother, Nathan Cohn, and my boyfriend, Peter Slothower — I’m so lucky to have them!
What I am up to: I just finished my MFA painting graduate program at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington. I have been teaching drawing with Indiana University’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy, and will follow up this experience by teaching painting at The Putney School summer arts program for six weeks in Vermont. I received a Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship through IU for this coming year, so I will be a visiting professor in painting at Indiana University Northwest.
How I got to where I am now: I received my undergraduate degrees in Art and Culture & Communication from Ithaca College in 2014. I decided to attend Ithaca College because of their exploratory program, which allowed me to remain undecided for my first two years while I took a broad range of classes from different disciplines to figure out what I was genuinely interested in. This was an important decision for me, as I explored my way through classes and professors that I found inspiring and that built upon each other to create a strong foundation for my eventual areas of study. The summer after my sophomore year I studied Buddhist Art and Architecture in the Himalayas of Northern India and the spring semester of my junior year I studied abroad in Granada, Spain. The exposure to and immersion in another culture helped me to not only understand this other way of life, but helped me to develop a critical awareness of myself and own cultural biases as an American, a Vermonter…etc.
I took art classes throughout my college career but it wasn’t until my senior year while I was taking an independent study in painting with my professor and mentor, Dara Engler, that I realized that I should take myself, my work and my future in art more seriously. I began painting a body of work that I continued to follow after graduation. I applied to graduate school for painting the following fall. I knew that graduate school would be an incredible challenge but that if I wanted to paint and I wanted to teach at the university level (which I did), I would benefit the most from two years of intensive study. Having just finished my two years of graduate school I was fortunate to both develop my painting skills and to teach undergraduate art courses.
Adults to whom I can attribute my current success: Oh, so many! I owe so much of who I am and where I am now to intelligent and compassionate people who shared their knowledge, experience and friendship at different stages of my life.
I realized early on that I only know what I know (which isn’t whole lot, in the scheme of things), and so I sought out people who could help me to ask the right questions and lead me to stronger answers. These people helped, not only in regards to specific areas of study, but with a mindset for growth and navigating the world. Life is a challenge, at every stage, but connecting with people who can reflect upon how those stages fold into the continuum of our lives is so important, and humbling. I think when you realize no one really knows what they are doing and people rarely end up where they thought they would, and the moments when people struggled the most in their lives are often also the moments when they grew the most, you begin to trust in your ability to take risks, lean into the unknown, and know that at some point you’re going to figure something out.
How my Vermont roots have influenced who I am today: I feel so fortunate to have grown up where I did, and hopefully one of these days I’ll make it back. Vermont is such a strange and magical place, and after experiencing a lot of places, (no offense, Indiana), I’m fairly convinced Vermont is one of the most special places in the world.
I look for mountains and lakes wherever I go, and when I go to a city I smile too much at strangers. I believe that my Vermont roots have instilled in me a desire to engage deeply and honestly with my surroundings, and set a pace for life that is consistent with dirt roads, familiar faces at the grocery store and the slow change of the seasons.
My memories of high school: So many of both high and low points, and they are all interconnected! It’s crazy to reflect now and see how things fit together. Soccer was always a high for me, but I tore my ACL the homecoming game of my junior year. This was devastating because soccer was largely how I defined myself up until that point. Thus, a major low. However, because I couldn’t play soccer for six months, I started spending my new free time in the corner of the art room painting. So maybe that ACL tear was really the catalyst for my entire future.
Do you have any advice for this year’s crop of graduating seniors? Absolutely! Let’s see.
So many things change after high school. Take your time and lean into the discomfort, try things that scare you. Be open to new and unexpected opportunities.
Find mentors. If you are interested in something, even just a little bit, find people who can tell you more. Reach out to people who interest you or inspire you. Pursue whatever spark of a thing gets you excited.
If you are able, travel. Even if it’s just over to New Hampshire or to another town, get outside your comfort zone. Go on a road trip. Work someplace new. Volunteer for causes that feel important. Get to know people and places that are different than you and it will enrich your life. You never know where a new path might lead.
Be patient and kind — to yourself, and to those around you. Remind yourself that for the most part, everyone is just doing the best they can with what they know. Listen to “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace!
And most importantly, enjoy! Congratulations on graduating — the next few years will be a crazy whirlwind and I hope that in a few years you will be able to look at Facebook pictures of yourself from 10th grade and laugh at yourself as much as I have laughed at myself. I also hope you all pulled off bangs better than I did!
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