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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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Fine Arts Organization unleashes creativity and empowers expression

A student working on their painting inside of Staller Center for the Arts’ painting studio. Stony Brook Univeristy’s Fine Arts Organization started their club in fall 2023. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

Every Friday, Stony Brook University students gather in room 4218 of the Staller Center for the Arts with their easels and artistic visions, eager to create in this calm space and express themselves through their art. Stony Brook’s Fine Arts Organization (FAO) officially kicked off their club in fall 2023.

Upon speaking with FAO founder and President John Ericksen, it was clear that art struck a deeper chord within him. 

“What originally got me into art [was when] I had brain surgery [my] sophomore year of high school, and I was out of school for two years because of it,” Ericksen said. A lack of therapeutic help afterward left him feeling overwhelmed emotionally; he had nowhere to put his feelings — nowhere to express what his words could not. That was, until he found art. 

There are a few other art related clubs on campus such as Artists in Medicine and the Origami Club, as well as course offerings in the studio art major and minor, where students can dabble with the creative process in a social setting. However, FAO is unique in providing access to an open art studio, with no specific guidelines as to what you must do or create in the space. Although some art classes provide studio usage, it is difficult to experiment with new styles and mediums when you have a professor monitoring your moves in a structured classroom setting. 

“The club is really good about letting you have your own time in order to work on your own projects,” Yan Lin, a freshman majoring in media/arts/culture, said. “I made a friend so now we go together and just draw, listen to music and talk. It is a really fun time.”

Since Ericksen arrived at the University and learned that the studio is limited to students enrolled in specific art classes, the problem has weighed on him.

“I wanted the studio. The studio was a big thing for me,” Ericksen said. “In order to switch my mindset to do a certain thing, it really helps when I’m in an environment dedicated to that [same] thing. So, if I want to be creative, it’s really nice to be here in the studio.” 

After experiencing the club’s lively and collaborative atmosphere, it is difficult to imagine the University’s campus without it. Where would one seek advice on a piece or find a space to simply pour out their creativity? What about those who could not afford art supplies on their own? These were the questions that Ericksen had before creating the very club that now weekly nurtures artistic growth on our campus.

Students in the club have voiced their appreciation for the club’s studio usage as well. 

“I really like the atmosphere … lots of light comes in,” Henna So, an undecided freshman, said. “I usually spend around three hours sketching, coloring [and] listening to music. It’s nice.”

Since FAO is relatively new to the University, the club has not obtained funding from the Undergraduate Student Government. The Probationary Budget Committee requires clubs to operate for at least two consecutive semesters before they can receive funding. In these early stages of FAO, Ericksen contributes his own money to support the club; he spends roughly $60-70 each semester to provide enough supplies until funding comes through in the fall 2024 semester. His worthwhile investments serve the greater good of students on campus who use art as a therapeutic and creative outlet. 

Stepping into FAO’s studio evokes a passion for creativity; it makes you want to create. Bristles on brushes splash into their water cups, washing out the colors before mixing new ones, ready to paint dynamic designs onto the blank canvases. 

A wall filled with canvases of students’ artwork inside the Staller Center for the Arts’ painting studio. FAO fosters a creative and welcoming atmosphere for anyone to join no matter their skill level. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

In addition to expanding access to the art studio, FAO also stands out among other campus clubs for the formation of the organization’s members. Ericksen’s philosophy of recruiting club members sets the club apart from conventional University clubs’ tactics, like incentivizing people with free food or giving away prizes to the first 20 attendees. Instead, he fosters a creative and welcoming atmosphere; those who join do so because they love the club and what it represents. 

“You can come in whenever you want; you can leave whenever you want. I provide materials, you don’t have to pay for anything and … if you want to bring something that I don’t have, that’s totally welcome,” he said, reaffirming not only the fluidity of the students’ art but also the lack of required attendance and commitment. It is a relieving sentiment to hear as a college student already engulfed by the stress that comes with coursework. 

For many, art acts as an escape from the troubles of everyday life.

“Every single major work of art I have made has been about my time during surgery [and] the way it has changed me,” Ericksen said.

Rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of life, Ericksen has transformed his hardships not only into a positive space for himself, but for other students to escape through art with him.

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