Thursday, July 25, 2013

McKenzie's Graduate School Road Trip!!

For those of you that didn't know, one of my reasons for coming back to the States this July (and without my loving husband) was to go and check out some Graduate schools in the States.  Since Annie was coming in town from London (not only to just visit, but to also look at schools), I thought the best way for her to see America was through a classic road trip.  Over in London, "THE AMERICAN ROADTRIP" is a thing, so it just seemed the right thing to do with Annie in town.  So, our trip planned out, we would be driving from Knoxville, TN ending up in Providence, RI and stopping on the way in between to see schools.  All of the programs I'm looking at are MFA's, but the degrees vary somewhat by school.  I'll list what program I'm interested in in that school's little "section" below.

My dream is to do Furniture Design, mixing both craft and art.  I would love to one day have my own wood studio and maybe even a little store-front where I could sell my own designs and also do custom/bespoke pieces for clients.  So we'll see!!!

Also, another key goal of this trip was for me to take as many "new moments for Annie" pictures like I'm a Mom.  So anything American she tried, my camera and I were there to record them for her!

Get comfortable family and friends, this will be long read with a ridiculous amount of photos!

The full run-down of the Trip:
  • The Adventurers:  McKenzie (a small-town gal from Knoxville, TN) & Annie (a big-city girl,          born and bred in London, England)
  • Drivers:  1                                                                                                                                 (Just ME! Annie's never driven, but she was the BEST navigator EVER! She never once fell asleep in the car and was a map genius in both the car and the cities)
  • Days on the Road:  8  
  • Graduate Schools Visited:  6                                                                                            (Carnegie-Mellon, Columbia University, Hunter College, Yale, Massachusetts College of Art & Design, & Rhode Island School of Design)
  • Cities Stayed In:  4                                                                                                           (Pittsburgh, NYC, Boston, & Providence)
  • Total Driving Time:  41 hours, 54 minutes
  • Total Miles:  2,087.9 
  • Total States Driven Through:  10

Before I begin, by little "sections", I just want to let everyone know that the weather and traffic was HORRIBLE for the majority of the trip.  Lots of rain, total downstorms, and then more traffic.  Every trip took so much longer that I had anticipated.  So things like:

Lots of Rain

When there's no rain, there's tons of traffic...3 miles in 1.5 hours.

Sunday - Knoxville, TN to Pittsburgh, PA
10 hrs. 33 min.
513 miles
The beginning of a long trip.  Miles: 000.0

1st stop...PITTSBURGH!!!  I've never visited Pittsburgh before so I was expecting the run-down "steel industrial" kinda look, but this is what you drive into:  
The tunnel before entering Pittsburgh...

And then, here it comes, BOOM:

Annie and I were both giddy with excitement upon seeing the city.

We got to Pittsburgh around 7:45pm, so we were starving.  We checked into our hotel, the great Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh University Place, which was right down the street within walking distance from Carnegie-Mellon, so we were excited.  The whole area was just a college area of the city with C-M and Pitt right there.   We went to an Italian restaurant called Lucca Ristorante and it was great!  Good first night so far.  The next morning we were to be meeting with a professor from the program we're interested in.

We made it!

Here's some photos of Carnegie-Mellon:

Here's the building we'd be working's really pretty inside and out
The view around the building

Here's a typical grad student studio...Awesome.

And another one.  Annie and I got pretty excited about how big they are!

And their great wood shop:

And here's some random architectural ornamentation photos I took Downtown:

Carnegie-Mellon is a 3-year MFA program, and I'm interested in the MFA in Art working with inter-disciplinary mediums (I particularly enjoy sculpture).  It's a really independent program, so that really entices someone like me!  The acceptance rate is 6 students per year from about 160 it's tough to get in for sure!

And here's an Annie Break from the Pittsburgh portion!  On this trip she got to try Taco Bell!

Tuesday - Pittsburgh, PA to New York City
7 hrs. 1 min.
384.7 miles

On to New York City now!

Annie and I were both really excited about the Big Apple!  I've only been once and, of course, Annie's never been.  Like getting to Pittsburgh, we hit major traffic and it took much longer to get there than it was supposed to.  Another first for Annie?  Pumping gas!

It kept clicking off and she couldn't figure it out.  That face!
This was the city we decided to "splurge" for the hotel...and it was worth it!  We stayed at the Conrad Hilton New York (having a family that works in hotels is a huge plus sometimes!).  For 2 artists, this is an amazing hotel!  The whole hotel, including guest rooms, is filled with original artworks by contemporary artists.  Here's some pics of the hotel and our room:

The bedroom
The view to our sitting area if you're standing in the bedroom.
You can't quite tell the enormity of our shower but it had one of those rain showers in it.

Yeah, and all the light switches were touchscreen.
View from the hotel's walkway to our room.  Yep, that's the river!
We had to get a pic from the different from London's clean Tube stations.

That night, we went to Tribeca Grill, which is a restaurant in Greenwich owned by Robert DeNiro.  The food was amazing!! The best shrimp and grits I've ever eaten!  After dinner, it was off to bed for a busy day touring the city and school visits.

Now, back to the school visits.  The first school we went to visit was Columbia University.

The Subway stop for Columbia!

The art building, Dodge Hall

At Columbia, I was interested in the MFA Visual Arts program, which is a 2-year program.  After the visit though, I've been able to cut it off my list.  So I won't write anymore about that!

Next school on the list:  Hunter College.

I'm interested in Hunter's 3-year MFA in either Sculpture or Combined Media.  They just moved their graduate studios to a new building and we got to tour it before they've even fully set it up yet.  So, they'll be getting their first students into the building this Fall semester.  There are about 30 students accepted each year for the Sculpture program out of around 800 applications.  Like all the schools I'm looking at the stakes are super high.

Their new address

Annie sitting in their new kitchen area

It's so weird to be touring a "clean" art building.

One of their studios!
Every graduate student gets their own room as a studio, which is totally different than what I'm working with now.  It's amazing!  Hunter's studios were really big....and clean.  Like I said, it's so strange to be walking through a clean art paint spills yet.  They also had a HUGE gallery space just for the grad students to use...pretty exciting stuff.  Needless to say, I really liked Hunter.  Also, did I mention that Jay-Z and Beyonce live across the street from the studios?  You could write a note on your studio window and they'd see it.

After our day of school visits in NYC we decided to tour the city a little bit by visiting Central Park and MoMA.

This was Annie our entire trip...the Map Queen. 

Annie in front of Central Park...again, I'm the Mom taking photos of her everywhere.

Central Park

Just a cool building I liked.

Our last night in the City, we met up with my friend Nye who lives there.  You may recognize him from our blog since he's visited us in London twice now!

We had some great Pho at a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown.

Oh yeah, and have I mentioned that David and I FaceTime everyday? Here's some nice pics I snapped of him during one of our conversations.  Just so you know the story behind the pics, I had just mentioned to David that he should stop waving the huge kitchen knife around since he's cut himself numerous times using that same knife (usually while washing it).  He decided to demonstrate his knife-wielding capabilities to me by doing a knife dance/karate demonstration.  The results:

He's so proud of himself right now.  Like a kid without his Mom there to tell him "No".

That's the end of New York!  Now off to New Haven, CT!

Thursday - New York City to New Haven, CT
2 hrs. 23 min
82.6 miles

We left NYC later in the afternoon to drive to New Haven to visit with the Dean of the Art Department of Yale University.  We were running late due to some mess at the hotel, but the Dean was nice enough to meet us across the street at a hotel bar/restaurant to talk to us about the program.  We didn't get to visit the school facilities though unfortunately, so no pics on that front.

The program at Yale sounds AWESOME though!  The MFA Sculpture degree is a 2-year program, and like the other schools I've mentioned so far really experimental and free-range.  Yale accepts about 10-12 students a year out of 100s of applications.

As far as the city goes, New Haven just seemed like a small college town.  We were only there for a few hours though so I didn't get a thorough feel of it.  After our visit with the wonderful Dean, we were off to Boston.

Thursday - New Haven, CT to Boston, MA
3 hrs
137.7 miles

We arrived in Boston around 10pm and we were to stay with me and David's friends, Josh and Courtney.  I've never been to Boston so I was looking forward to it.

My first glimpse of Boston nightlife on our drive in.

Josh and Courtney lived in Raleigh when we did and Josh and David are old camp friends.  They were so nice our whole stay!  Even though we didn't get there till late, they still took us out to dinner and showed us around town until after midnight that night.

Dinner in Boston with Josh and Courtney!
Another great thing about Josh and Courtney, their pets!

Axle getting comfy on our air mattress for the night.

Matilda, again on our air mattress.


Axle and Mya's favorite spot in the house.

The next morning (after going to sleep around 2am, mind you), we were awoken by someone banging on the windows of Josh and Courtney's house.  It was 7am.  I told Josh who was just starting his coffee and working on the computer, and he went to the front door to find a VERY angry policeman.  Turns out, I had parked in front of someone's driveway the night before!  None of us had noticed either since we got there so late.  I rushed to find my keys so I could move my car, and of course I couldn't find them.  Panic ensued.  The cop's still yelling at Josh outside.  More panic.  Finally, I found my keys IN my purse just in a different pocket (totally like me), and I moved my car while the angry cop just stared at me.  After THAT incident, we decided to go ahead and see and the city and the school.

We went to visit Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt).  The program I'm looking at is their 2-year MFA in 3D Art.  I can also get a certificate in Furniture Design in addition to the MFA so that interested me.

A piece from the Graduate Show they had going on.

One of their grad studios.

Another studio.
We got a full tour of MassArt and I have to say that their facilities were the best so far, including the wood and metal shops (my priorities).  Their MFA program is structured more like an undergrad program though, without a lot of the freedom I'm looking for (and unlike all the other schools I've visited). I'm still interested in their program though since their facilities were so amazing, and I'm going to Skype with some of the professors soon in order to get a better idea of how the program works.  The 3D MFA accepts around 5-9 people per year out of around 70 applications.

Boston as a city was AMAZING, definitely my favourite city we visited!!!!  It also happens to be home to David's favourite T-shirt designer's flagship store, Johnny Cupcakes.  So, I had to go to the store and bring home a treat for David!

They display all of their T-shirts in these bakery style display cases.

Boston also had awesome architecture.  Here's what a typical building cool.

Later that day, we were off to our final school visit city, Providence.

Friday - Boston, MA to Providence, RI
2 hrs. 18 min.
49.2 miles

On our way to Providence, I decided to introduce Annie to some more delicacies of American cuisine:

We arrived in Providence in the evening and since my contacts at the school were on holiday, we just got to walk around the campus of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).  The program I like there is their MFA in Furniture Design, which is a 2-year program.

RISD's Museum

Part of the RISD campus.  Super pretty buildings.

Their campus was really nice.   We got to peek into their woodshops too, which are HUGE.  Pretty excited about Skyping with my contacts over there soon.  Their new Grad Admissions guy is from London too, so he's who I'll be getting to talk to.  Fingers crossed!

Providence was pretty dead when we visited and so I asked our waitress at dinner why.  She told me everyone goes to the beaches this time of year.  It seemed like a great little college town though with lots of friendly folks.

Another new experience in dining for Annie:  Fried Pickles.

We spent the night in downtown Providence and then we were ready to start heading home the next morning.

Saturday - Providence, RI to Knoxville, TN 
16 hrs 39 min
920.7 miles
And glad to be back home!!!!!

The original plan had been drive and stopover for the night in Harrisonburg, VA.  We got there at about 10pm and I thought to myself:  "I can make it home tonight!"  So, that's just what we did.  It was the longest drive I've ever done in one sitting.  A true test of endurance and willpower.  Annie was an amazing passenger though and stayed awake the whole time.  We even played a car game for over 3 hours (thanks for the suggestion, David!).  That was from 10:30pm till about 2am.  It was the game where you pick a topic like, "your 3 favourite books you'd take to a deserted island".  You can imagine that our topics got pretty crazy after awhile.  We even each outlined what we'd do if the zombie apocolypse happened while we lived in was an enjoyable experience.

Finally, we arrived back home in Knoxville at 4:17am.  This drive of the trip was a total of 16 hours and 39 min, with a grand total of 2,087.9 miles for the whole roadtrip.

Overall, the trip was AWESOME!!!  Annie and I had such a great time together.  We're both the kind of people that need their own space every once in awhile, so we really worked great together on a road trip.  We didn't even annoy each other once...I don't think...hehehe.  Team-building exercise for sure though.

CONGRATULATIONS if you've made it this far for this super long blog.