Minnie Xie comes from School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and now she is studying at Central Saint Martins as a Fine Art student. We chatted with Minnie about her experience at UAL and London.
I grew up in an environment where fine art was more so a means of celebrating culture and showcasing technical skill. While these goals are merited in their own way, studying at UAL offers a space to practice more creativity through contemporary means.
Why did you choose to study with UAL?
There is nothing more valuable to an artist than experiencing and understanding the perspectives of others. For my artistic practice, I hope to create closer connections between the viewer and the work I create and make a shared space. I wanted to study abroad to further my studies and simultaneously foster a deeper understanding of how individuals from other backgrounds live the one life we have each been given.
CSM’s fine arts pathway allows me to freely experiment and explore with experienced staff here to guide me when needed. I grew up in an environment where fine art was more so a means of celebrating culture and showcasing technical skills. While these goals are merited in their own way, studying at UAL offers a space to practice more creativity through contemporary means. Here, I’m able to extend the interdisciplinary work I got to make at the SMFA, but with more personal freedom!
What are your first impressions of London and UAL / specific colleges?
I remember the drive from the airport to my accommodation like it was yesterday. I was so jetlagged, but I remember being in awe of the architecture. I had never been to Europe before, and seeing the winding streets felt so uncanny to me. It felt like I was back in Boston, but the details of the iron fencing and abundance of flowers reminded me that I was in London. I also immediately became very conscious of my ethnicity, but I had expected some level of that.
With UAL, my first impressions were honestly a mix of excitement and intimidation. My college at home has everything you would ever need to make art, but the sheer scale of UAL took me aback. Fine arts always felt niche to me, but seeing so many talented artists condensed across all of London has definitely been inspiring. CSM students also have quite the fashion sense!
What did you enjoy most about your course?
Since I don’t have organized classes besides the weekly tutorial and the like, my favorite aspect of my course has been the self-direction, which I didn’t expect I would enjoy as much as I do now. Pushing myself has been a bit difficult, but it’s been easier than ever to learn a new skill without committing to the technique as you would need to do with a class-oriented schedule. I learned how to shoot and process 35mm film last week, which has always been on my bucket list. Small things like learning how to stretch a canvas, or new methods of printmaking have been so convenient to pick up and learn with all the flexibility I have with my course.
Tell us about your work here? How is it different to back home?
As far as content goes, there hasn’t been much of a change between what I’ve been making here compared to what I would usually make at home. My work has gotten more personal, but I think that’s just from the development of my art than a change in scenery. The main issue is that I’ve been struggling to complete more work here because there’s so much I want to make! I have three pieces in progress with so many more lined up in my sketchbook, I’m worried I won’t get to them all. It’s been so inspiring being back in person and seeing the work of other students in real life.
What is the best thing about studying online?
Besides being able to curl up in my blankets during lectures, there isn’t much I particularly enjoy about online art school. They’ve continued to be an unfortunate but understandably needed part of the university. I guess the best part of studying online is knowing that I’m not putting others at risk of getting Covid.
How is the situation with Covid? How was your travel from your country to here and how is life in London?
Travel between my home and here went smoothly, and it definitely put me at ease that my flight happened to be pretty empty. When I first got here, I was shocked by how few people wore masks out in public, and this seems like a shared sentiment between me and my peers from Tufts. I’ve gotten used to it now, but I definitely was surprised considering that cases have gone up quite high here and continue to stay higher than they were at the start of the pandemic. The general consensus I’ve gotten from Londoners is that they seem to be more focused on whether masks are mandated. At home, I feel like more people wore masks out of courtesy and based on the number of cases since masks were never federally mandated until recently for government buildings. Of course, with a slightly larger percentage of vaccinated individuals here, it makes sense as to why more people feel at ease.
How do you think studying with us will help you in the future?
Since my program is so self-directed, I’ve been able to work on more pieces I’d be happy to include in my portfolio. Moreover, since UAL is so much larger, there have been many more professional opportunities for jobs and workshops. I’m still unsure as to whether pursuing fine art is something I want to do with my career but having these options available to me has made that choice feel much more attainable and realistic.
What are your plans when you’ve finished your course?
My other major is Computer Science, and I’ve always seen that as my main focus at home. I planned on building more experience for that major and career path this coming summer, but after having been here for almost two months practicing art full time, it feels much more logical to try for an arts-based role for summer and beyond. As much as I enjoy the CS process, I hope to pursue more opportunities in the art world, or potentially both! Studying at UAL has definitely made entering the industry feel like a viable option for me.