Samantha Matthews ’15: Cross-Cultural Art

On the final day of classes for the fall ’14 semester, a steady stream of students signed up for review sessions with their professors and prepared for finals week. The next 48 hours were spent organizing months of notes, reserving private study rooms and scheduling face-to-face appointments with time management experts in the Academic Support Center—their one-stop hub for surviving finals week. As any college graduate can attest, that week can be an intense time—so, many concentrate on the light at the end of the tunnel: winter break.

The four weeks between the fall and spring semesters is a time to recharge, rest and celebrate the vocational work taking place at Gordon and in their lives. But for some students winter break is also a time of opportunities and knowing when to recognize one. One such student is Samantha Matthews, a senior from New Jersey, who has spent the last few years during Gordon’s academic breaks creating opportunities to connect her art with the lives of others.

Matthew’s artistic prowess took root at an early age and continued to develop through high school. It soon became clear to her family, teachers and community that a career path in the arts was inevitable, and that this vocation would have a significant influence on where she would eventually go to college. Matthews chose Gordon College for the school’s Christian heritage and for “having one of the best art departments” she could find. When comparing programs across the country, she discovered that Gordon is an environment where she could grow her talent and pursue deeper study of art and its ability to impact countless individuals. “There is a deeply relational and common bond of Christ-like faith in and out of classes,” says one of Matthews’ art professors, Jim Zingarelli.

Matthews’ courses at Gordon have included Principles of Design and Drawing 1, in which she learned foundational concepts from faculty who encouraged her and challenged her perspective. She has interned with a therapeutic art program for children, and spent a semester in Italy in the Gordon IN Orvieto program, a flagship international study opportunity created by Gordon faculty.

It all began a few years ago when Matthews went to teach in a school in Bastion, Ecuador. She visited this country three times, twice in high school and once since enrolling at Gordon. From these visits, her “eyes were opened to the idea of not just an art education but a creative education for kids and why that is important.” Matthews studied abroad in Orvieto, Italy last fall and interned with ArtFeeds over the summer in which she taught children therapeutic art techniques. With all this experience, Matthews was contacted by ROCK (Relief Opportunity and Care for Kids), a nonprofit organization founded by her friend Nate Bramsen in Niger, to help with the beginning stages of creating an art school in ROCK’s Youth Development Center. Matthews spent part of her winter break on this adventure, traveling from December 15 through 22 with the hopes of using her experiences to influence her senior project at Gordon.

Zingarelli, who helped Matthews prepare for her trip to Niger and is now helping her process the experience, says, “We don’t always acknowledge the inner need to create, especially for children who are so wonderfully honest.” Teacher and student have discussed and agreed upon the significance of teaching, and providing children a constructive outlet to let their imaginations create freely. Matthews traveled to Niger with the goal of being a facilitator of new ideas while also being “cross-culturally responsible,” by educating herself before her trip.

Matthews lives by her own words “If you’re going to be passionate about something, you need to follow through with that,” simply by continuously pursing her dreams and goals. Teachers, friends, faculty, classes and Gordon as a whole have played a huge role, in addition to other things, in keeping her focused and determined in her endeavors.

Zingarelli says, “Samantha isn’t waiting for the real world, she’s in the real world,” when it comes to living in the now. She isn’t waiting for the future to act, but embraces where she is, taking each day in full stride.

It is a common misconception that a career in the liberal arts is not as promising as other careers in the sciences or mathematics, but that is not the case, and senior undergrad Samantha Matthews is a testament to that.

By Alissa Frederico ’16, English Language and Literature