So, let’s hear from Solana Rostick, an Art Historian in the making...
Hi, my name is Solana Rostick and I am originally from Tampa, Florida but I attend Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I am a sophomore majoring in Art History and concentrating in African-American Studies. My goal is to become a Modern and Contemporary Art curator in New York City. My hope is to give a voice to the black community through the collection and exhibition of art, so that BIPOC see themselves reflected in major arts institutions.—(Tellie cutting in here. When I read her answers, I can’t help but say, “Yass Queen!!.” The BIPOC voices and stories need you!) Ok back to the interview...
What inspired you to pursue Art History?
A multitude of different people and experiences in my life sparked and inspired me to pursue art history.
My father has inspired me to “find a way” and has shaped the pavement of a career in art. My dad is a professional photographer that focused on commercial photography, one of the few black professional photographers in Tampa. As a preschooler, I remember feeling close to my stay-at-home dad as he walked me to school everyday. I watched with curiosity and excitement as he used his photo skills to capture my school field trips and class photos. Being non-verbal at the time, drawing was my form of communicating how I felt and what I observed. My dad encouraged me to experiment with different media such as painting and pottery.
I explored other aspects of the arts but after rejecting dance lessons, singing lessons, and violin lessons, I knew that I would go towards a more visual arts path. I was highly encouraged by my high school art teacher to pursue art history after an eye-opening field trip back in 2017. During my sophomore year of high school, I visited the Ringling Art Museum in Sarasota, Florida. I viewed their “First Five Years of Art of Our Time”, which featured underrepresented artists. I saw Mickalene Thomas’s Ain't I a Woman (Sandra), I felt as if I could do anything as a woman, the attitude of power and confidence exuded from the piece, sparked this interest in art. I can be a black woman in a high position and just own it. After viewing I remember standing in this space with an open window looking up to the sky and the green vines leading up to the opening, I kept thinking about how I could be able to see such striking works every day and chose artists that would inspire the public that is what sparked my desire to work in a museum as a curator, helping artists that were not seen for their talent and allowing them to have this safe space to express themselves.
Can give you a little background information on your experience at Wofford College? How are the demographics in the Art History department?
I have had a wonderful experience at Wofford thus far. I enjoy the community aspect and the willingness that everyone has to help each other. I am a member of Wofford Women of Color, an ally of Wofford Asian and Pacific Islander Organization attend and am a part of the ministry team Reformed University Fellowship, and the co-marketing director for the Wofford Anti-Racism Coalition. I am also proud to be a Bonner Scholar, which is a full ride community service-based scholarship program. I volunteer at Hub City Farmers Market, which occurs every Saturday where I assist and greet customers and I occasionally help in the office with administrative tasks.
The art history department at Wofford, is small but intimate. There are only three professors and less than 50 majors/ minors within the department. I appreciate that all the professors are willing to help and provide resources for anything ranging from internships to graduate programs. I will say that not many BIPOC students major in art history. I believe I am the only sophomore who is also black that is majoring in art history which is a big deal for me. It sometimes feels like a lot of pressure, but it makes me more motivated to do my absolute best and I have an amazing support system of professors and fellow students.
Since it’s the beginning of a new year, do you have any projects you’re most excited for? Do you have a personal project you’re working on?
I am working on a mixture of big and small projects, I am applying for summer internships throughout New York, so I am able to have hands on-experience in a museum setting. I am also in the process of finding study abroad programs for Spring 2022. I am looking throughout Europe, specifically Rome and London.
In my African American Art class, we are doing in-depth research on objects from The Johnson Collection, one of the largest galleries with art from the American South. I will be researching firsthand Augusta Savage and her most prominent work, Gamin (1930).
Although I will be graduating in May 2023, I have already started the process of my senior capstone which, by my dual studies in Art History and African American Studies, will involve the creation of pop up art shows featuring BIPOC artists in predominantly black communities, which have a dearth of access to art museums. This exposure for young and young at heart or, more specifically, the power of people seeing themselves in the art would provide access, opportunity and interest for students deciding on a possible art career. Hosting these in the neighborhood will provide a creative and safe outlet for those who feel museums don’t welcome or understand their experience. If young BIPOC students see someone that looks like them working in a museum, it immediately sparks an interest. The arts and especially museums open a world of creativity that should be shared to all.
Do you have any advice for aspiring Art Majors? What’s the one thing you wish you knew before choosing your major?
Be open-minded and be curious! I say to explore and find your passion within the field in which you are studying. What I mean by this is if you are a studio art major and want to do painting then do that or if you want to focus on sculpture, go for it. Experiment with different styles and techniques. If you are an art history major and want to focus on ancient and classical art or modern art then explore it. There are endless possibilities.
This also applies to careers whether you want to teach, then shadow at a local school or be a curator like myself then do an internship at a gallery or museum. Be sure to always look at every option at your fingertips and most importantly ask your professors. I am sure they are willing to help and want to see you succeed.
One thing I wish I knew before choosing my major is the amount of bias towards the major and overall pursuing any arts, whether that would be studio art or in my case art history. I have had experiences where people have questioned me, “isn’t pursuing art a low paying career?” “What can you do with art history?” Here’s the thing I learned to ignore those doubts and questions. I am pursuing something that I love. I am creating my own path and “finding my way” with this complex yet rewarding major.
To learn more about Solana, connect with her on LinkedIn!