10 Questions for our alumni
Megan Stone, BFA, Painting and Art History minor, 2014
1 - Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?
I chose Grand Valley because it was on the opposite side of the state from where I grew up in metro Detroit and I was looking for a change. I immediately fell in love with the campus, city of GR and proximity to the lake. I also chose the school because my cousin was attending and he loved it as well.
2 - How or why did you choose your major or main emphasis area?
I originally was going to Grand Valley to be an English major because I liked to write and didn’t know what else to do. I was hoping that I’d figure out my passion when I got there, but during my senior year of high school I fell in love with painting and I worked really hard to create a portfolio that I could submit to the art and design department, now known as the visual and media arts department. My high school art teacher was incredible and truly believed in me so once I got accepted into the department there was no question that I would emphasize my studies in painting after completing the foundation classes. I had a “studio” at home in my parents basement and made many many paintings as a self taught artist before I went to GV. I even attended the portfolio day review event at Kendall college and met with professor Jill Eggers who reviewed my portfolio and as I clearly remember she said I had an eye for color so that was really encouraging.
3 - What advice do you have for future students thinking about colleges?
I think when you’re 17 or 18 and thinking about college it can be overwhelming to decide. Try not to think of it as the end of all decisions but rather the first of many many many decisions you will make in your adult life. Find a school that will challenge you and cater to your interests rather than one all your friends are attending. I went in blind and wouldn’t have done it any other way. I also lived across the state from everyone I knew which allowed me to become independent from my family and overcome any fears I had maneuvering in a new place.
4 - What advice do you have for current students thinking about careers?
The days of getting a job that you will be at for decades and decades with a secure pension and retirement plan are over so don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to find the perfect job right away. You will probably work many different jobs over your lifetime and have to be very creative to apply your skill set to the real world. It is going to be hard, but if it’s your passion you will find ways to persist and make it work.
5 - What did you do after graduating?
After graduating I made sure I had a studio space to work in wherever i was living because i was very adamant about not stopping. Whether that was a garage, basement, or just a table. I continued applying to exhibitions which came with many rejections. I continued learning, teaching myself bookbinding and sewing. I worked many different jobs which helped me acquire a larger skill set than what i had when I left grand valley. I worked in visual merchandising doing window displays and then I worked as a custom framer, gaining a lot of experience as an intern and then working for a retail store where I was framing artwork all day long. I taught art classes and workshops at local art centers, creating classes for kids of all ages and adults, painting drawing and bookbinding. Living back in the metro Detroit area, I spent a lot of my time downtown volunteering at the DIA as a gallery service attendant, which was amazing to be surrounded by all the great art while just making sure no one was disobeying the museum rules. Then I spent some time managing an art gallery and gift shop at a local art center where I acted as curator, preparator, and had my own office all while teaching classes and continuing my studio practice, exhibiting my work.
I’m not going to lie, it was difficult graduating and leaving the supportive environment that GV provided. The most crucial part of my life after graduating was staying in touch with three of my fellow alumni who I knew would continue their studio practices and be supportive artists. We still continue to work together, support one another, collaborate, even all while living in different states. We have a rare friendship, but if you are lucky enough to find that in your undergrad time hold onto it and find others that motivate and inspire you. It’s amazing to see how different our life paths have taken us yet we all still relate and continue to make our work. That network is very very important.
6 - What are you doing now?
After living for a year up north and flipping our first house now I live with my husband and our two dogs in the house my dad and his nine siblings were raised in. My grandmothers house is situated in a downtown city 10 miles south of Detroit and just a couple blocks from the Detroit river. I have a great studio space with awesome natural light, but this large home is filled with many home renovation projects that keep us busy. Over the past few years family has become so important to me so establishing roots in my hometown was the best thing I’ve done. I work in my studio full time, currently preparing for my first major exhibition at a gallery that will take place during Detroit Art Week in summer 2019. I’m also thinking about teaching again soon, but my big goal for the future would be to build my own residency program, renovating a building and creating opportunities for artists where I live.
7 - How have you used the skills you developed in your field of study in your life and/or career after GVSU?
Well I would have to say the senior seminar class was probably the most beneficial class where I learned the most skills to apply to my art career other than making the work. Getting involved with Avenue for the Arts during that class taught me how to curate, exhibit, communicate and be professional. Making my website that I still have from that class was also crucial for putting myself out there. I use creative problem solving skills almost daily in many situations but especially when renovating a house. Being an artist and having the skills I learned at GV help make me more efficient, creative and independent when it comes to those house projects or any project. I really apply the skills to my everyday life in and out of the studio, which makes my life more fulfilling and rich , and helps save money which allows for more time to make art.
8 - What is the best advice you got from an instructor at Grand Valley?
A lot of my professors were very influential to me and I was very lucky to meet with some great visiting artists so it’s hard to narrow down the advice. Probably the best was to just keep applying yourself, regardless of how many rejections you get, you should keep applying. The more you apply the more chances you have and it’s all subjective so don’t take it personal. Also, if you’re not passionate and completely driven to do this (painting) then go find something else to do because it will be hard and difficult, a life with many ups and downs and rejections but also great wonderful things can happen.
9 - What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?
My favorite memory is having my senior thesis exhibit that was a solo show downtown GR. I worked so hard for five years to accomplish that moment and it was something I’ll never forget. The amount of love and support and encouragement stays with me even today.
10 - Anything else you would like to share with our Visual and Media Arts Community?
I am so proud to have 15 original works in the Grand Valley permanent art collection and my work can be found all over the campus, which is such an honor.
Image credits: Megan Stone. You can see Megan's portfolio at meganstonestudio.com and on Instagram @meganstonestudio. For the latter, Megan likes to take breaks using that app, especially when I need to focus on making new work for an exhibition.