Brevard College Art Major Installs Sculpture at Pisgah Forest Elementary

Shawnaizja Simmons

Brevard College Junior Shawnaizja Simmons, from Ridgeville, South Carolina, is an Art major with a concentration in Sculpture. As a prospective student visiting campus, Shawnaizja met one of the Art faculty who showed her all around Sims Art Building. Her reaction was immediate. Remembering how she felt when she toured campus, Shawnaizja said, “Yes! I feel at home here. I don’t need to see anything else.”

Shawnaizja is also earning her teaching certification with the goal of becoming a high school art teacher. She is passionate about motivating young people through art, so a recent assignment in a Public Sculpture class resonated with her goals. She said, “I’ve always been creative, ever since I was little, I’ve drawn and painted and I was sculpting before I really knew what sculpting was. At one point, I wanted to be a special effects makeup artist so I would sculpt little creatures, but I didn’t understand what that was until I came to Brevard College. Just last year, I took a Steel Fabrication class and we were taking oil based clay and sculpting little molds – and I realized I’d done similar things when I was younger, but hadn’t connected the dots to sculpting and art!”

Her favorite classes at Brevard College have been taught by Professor Kyle Lusk – Steel Fabrication and Public Sculpture. She took Public Sculpture last semester and recognized how the experiential curriculum was designed to build on what she learned in Steel Fabrication. Because of her hands-on experiences with steel, she was ready to make something on a larger scale. Describing her experience in the Public Sculpture class, Shawnaizja said, “We learned how to go about commissioned work in the real world, so Kyle made an assignment where we applied for a commission, made the powerpoint, and made a model – going through the real life steps.”

Inspired by her creative process of considering form first, Shawnaizja knew she wanted her sculpture to be linear. She thought through color next, and as she knew the experiential assignment was for an elementary school, primary colors came to mind, associating those with younger children. She included black with white dashes, representing the students moving along their life path and two forms coming together to represent the people they meet as they journey through life. 

Shawnaizja worked on the full size sculpture for over a month, and reflecting on how she felt the day of the installation, Shawnaizja said, “It meant a lot to me. I felt very accomplished and it was motivating for me to keep going with my art. There was a moment where I realized ‘wow, I did this and I could do bigger and better things if I want to!’” She added, “To be a woman and not only make this sculpture, but to make it out of steel – it felt empowering. I’m strong!”

As an art major, Shawnaizja feels a strong sense of community in Sims Art Building, knowing that throughout her creative process she can always talk to her peers and get positive and constructive feedback. She describes her student experience in the art program as “a family that continues to push each other to be better.” She mentioned how Professor Lusk has shaped her journey, “Kyle is a great professor. During my experience from first year to Junior year, he has pushed me to make work that not only is appealing to people, but that also speaks to me.” Shawnaizja shared that in those moments, she feels as though she’s creating her best work.

Shawnaizja shared that being a student at Brevard College has helped her branch out socially, particularly through the campus culture. She said, “Last semester, we got to go to more events and the energy on campus is amazing. You don’t even have to know anyone at pep rallys or games. If you felt alone before, you don’t have to. The energy is so home-y and vibrant.” After she graduates, Shawnaizja hopes to get her master’s degree. She is passionate about teaching at the high school level, maybe even at the high school, she attended, because she wants to give students the experience of having an art teacher who cares.