Brooke Johnson felt as if the people of her hometown only understood three things: God, football and cattle. What they didn’t understand was her passion for art.
After discovering the Center Space Project her freshman year, Johnson, a studio art sophomore and CSP officer, felt like she was finally home. CSP is a student run organization whose primary function is curating the Visual Arts Center. In addition, CSP is also a social organization that connects students interested in art with the broader art world through trips to local museums, galleries and other famous art destinations across Texas.
“Coming from [Aledo, Texas] where I felt like no one really understood art making — that no one really understood my person as a whole as an artist — and then meeting people who were very similar and had similar aspirations, I’d finally found people that I belonged with,” Johnson said. “It felt like I’d arrived where I needed to be.”
Though CSP president and design senior Nora Greene grew up in liberal Austin, she said her parents often encouraged her to pursue a technical science degree. Greene said the sense of community the organization gave her as a freshman helped her make the decision to pursue art as a career path against her parents’ wishes.
“I remember applying to college and [my parents] were very skeptical and anxious,” Greene said. “It was not a good feeling. Moving away from my parents and into a more liberal-minded community helped me evaluate those things. But, I knew that if I wasn’t interested in something and pursued it, that it wouldn’t be fulfilling.”
Studio art freshman Logan Larsen said joining CSP helped him feel less lost as he transitioned from high school to college. He said he especially enjoyed the opportunity to meet the creators behind the art pieces on the wall.
“Meeting people and talking with artists and getting a one on one connection with what’s [behind] the art and who created it is so cool,” Larsen said. “I know a lot more people now than I would have then if I had just stuck with my freshman class.”
In addition to giving undergraduate students a space to meet, CSP regularly visits graduate students’ studios. Zachary Meisner, a studio art graduate student, said it’s important that young artists get advice from more experienced artists.
“[With CSP,] they hear things from people that are in grad school instead of advisors and professors because they’re always going to tell them what they think suits the agenda of the institution,” Meisner said. “[This is] personal.”
Members said their favorite part of being in CSP is the organization’s semesterly trip to Marfa, Texas, where they volunteer with the Chinati foundation, working as security guards during their annual Chinati Weekend.
Larsen said traveling to the little art town in the middle of nowhere and helping the foundation look after art legend Donald Judd’s sculptural work was surreal.
“It was so cool being able to hang out and explore a collection of work with people that are so interested in the same things I am,” Larsen said. “It was a cool experience because I wouldn’t have gotten to go without [CSP].”
Johnson said these trips give her opportunities to bond with other CSP members.
“I left with stronger friendships and bonds with the people I had felt were my friends. I’m really thankful for that,” Johnson said. “I get this feeling of connection to the people I’m with and at that moment, that’s where I need to be.”