Incoming student Lauren Powell decided on Texas Tech after experiencing two years of art camp through the College of Visual & Performing Arts.
Lauren Powell measures success a bit differently than the average student.
Some want to move to a big city after graduation or land a job within a large company – the corporate ladder, a climb they're thrilled to make.
But Powell has other ideas.
“I want to open an art gallery that's not really an art gallery,” she said. “I want it to be cozy and comfortable, and I don't want people to feel poor the minute they walk in.”
For the incoming first-year college student, Powell has chosen Texas Tech University's School of Art to make her goal attainable. The young artist fell in love with the program through summers spent in the school's pre-college immersion program.
“I wasn't sure college was for me,” Powell said, “but when I met the art faculty at camp, they made the university environment feel comfortable.”
Outside the Mold
Powell has never been an average student.
After a few tumultuous years, Powell transferred from to New Hope Academy, an alternative school in Lubbock-Cooper, to complete her last two years of high school. The non-traditional environment gave Powell the flexibility to thrive.
“I struggle sitting still all day,” she said. “Sitting for hours never allowed me to do my best work or to concentrate on learning.”
Art has been Powell's safe haven.
Through drawing and sculpting, she worries less about fitting the mold and more about creating her own. Powell has worked with many mediums, but mostly enjoys drawing, clay sculpting and super-sculpt, along with linoleum printmaking.
Powell attributes the pre-college immersion program (or art camp) with gaining experience with so many mediums at a young age.
“Growing up in school, we just worked with paints and pencils,” she said. “Occasionally we'd get to try something different but that was an exception.”
More than mediums though, Powell found the curriculum and prompts at school to be constraining.
“We'd get prompts such as, ‘Draw a flower in the style of Vincent Van Gogh,'” she said.
But strict prompts can only take an artist so far.
When Powell attended summer camp at Texas Tech, she was thrilled with the level of artistic freedom the faculty gave students. This challenge empowered Powell to explore her limits, discovering what she could create.
“I made some really cool projects at camp,” she said. “I got to work with new digital drawing software, create jewelry and even learn to cast in bronze.'”
Powell loved the patience and support she found in the faculty members at the School of Art. Folks like Dane Webster and Cody Arnall gave Powell the space to be herself. If a piece didn't come together the way she envisioned, they taught her to see it as a lesson instead of a failure.
“I'm not a good painter,” she said, “but even on the days we did painting, the faculty found mediums that were more my style and taught me something new.”
Powell said she learned many tips and tricks and left each summer feeling more confident as an artist and as a human being.
“It's easy to look at people who are good at something you aren't and feel discouraged,” she said. “But the faculty are so intentional about everyone feeling supported and respected. It's an amazing experience.”
Her Corner of the World
Powell was born and raised in Lubbock. She said she wants to give back to the community that's given so much to her.
“There's just something about the people in Lubbock,” she said. “They're strange and kind and wholesome all at once. I want to create a space for people to enjoy art, a space that feels accessible to everyone.”
That's why Powell wants to open a different kind of art gallery.
She envisions a gallery that also feels like a small business; a mom-and-pop shop that offers creature comforts as well as original works on canvas.
“I'm very passionate about making gallery spaces feel welcoming to people from all walks of life,” she said. “Most galleries are filled with older people because that's how long it takes to be able to afford art.”
Powell explains that people will be less likely to invest in art later if they cannot appreciate it now.
“I hope to create a space where even young children can come and find a small, affordable piece they like, that their parents could easily afford,” she said.
Powell doesn't want to do away with the high-end, all-white-wall galleries, but she wants alternatives.
“There should also be galleries you can walk into that feel comfy, that smell like cinnamon and feel like your grandma's house,” she said. “Because that's an atmosphere many people can relax in.”
The young artist finds white-wall galleries to not only be intimidating, but sterile and void of feeling. She said art should be about feeling if nothing else. If you take a piece of work out of the environment it was created in, it loses a special something.
Powell hopes by creating a welcoming experience, she might help create a generation of devotees who will carry the art community of Lubbock into an even greater era.
“I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my world,” she said.
For Powell, her world is Lubbock. And who better to help her change it than other Lubbock artists?
“I'm excited to study with the faculty at the School of Art,” she said. “Even as a high schooler they made me feel like a friend, never an inferior. I hope I can carry that spirit into what I do, because it makes all the difference.”