Yale or Bust: Fundraiser set for July 28
Posted on Thursday July 26th 2012
Wendell residents know Genevieve Gaignard as the woman who takes their orders at the country store and takes their photographs in the woods. To people at Greenfield Community College, she’s a bakerturned- artist who has enrolled in photography classes at the school during two separate stints in the last 11 years.
And now, Gaignard, a 30-year-old Orange native and current Wendell resident, is about to begin a new quest: a two-year graduate photography program at the Yale School of Art.
But she needs a little help to get there.
With tuition costs of $32,500 a year and outstanding loans from past education endeavors, Gaignard said she needs to raise $16,500 in order to attend in the fall.
In an effort to raise money, Gaignard will host a benefit event — called “Yale School of Art or Bust” — tonight at the Wendell Town Hall. The event will feature separate performances by Gaignard and Wendell-based band, Rhythm Incorporated. A silent auction will also take place, with work by local artists and some of Gaignard’s colleagues.
When Gaignard graduated from Mahar Regional School 13 years ago, becoming a professional artist was not on her horizon.
She earned her associate’s degree in baking and pastry art from Johnson & Wales University, and although she enjoyed the decorating aspect, she wasn’t the biggest fan of the overall process.
Without a clear direction on where to go next, she enrolled in courses at GCC, including a blackand- white photography course. Her teachers recognized in her both a talent and a passion for learning more.
“The teachers here at GCC … clued me in and opened my eyes that I could actually do this thing,” said Gaignard.
Tom Young, who teaches photography at GCC, worked with Gaignard extensively.
“I’ve seen an amazing growth. I think it’s a strength of the whole art department (at GCC),” said Young. “She was a strong student always, and whatever was really going on in her life would come out in her photographs, which was really exciting.”
From GCC, Gaignard transferred to Massachusetts College of Art and obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine art photography.
But even with a degree in something she was interested in, she again felt unsure of where to go next.
“A lot of artists probably feel like, ‘You know what you want to do but there isn’t a set job for that,’” she said. She was a substitute teacher at her old high school, sometimes in art classes, but didn’t feel that was right for her.
Gaignard then turned to the same place she had turned to in 2001.
“I actually signed up for a class at GCC,” she said. “I need(ed) the environment with the artists, I need(ed) the facilities, and I just wanted to be able to reconnect and reboot and GCC allowed me to do that.”
In 2007 and 2008, she continued to take photography classes — focusing on the digital medium that was continuing to rise in popularity. Today, she primarily shoots with black-and-white large-format film, scans her negatives and prints digitally.
Applying to Yale
Gaignard began to hear more each year about Yale’s graduate photography program. She knew instructors who had graduated from the program.
Soon, two of her friends — Katie Kote and Kate Merrill — were in the program as well.
“I was like, ‘This is freaking me out,’” she said. “‘Two of my friends have gotten in. I totally need to not psych myself out and just apply. The worst they could say is ‘no.’” Gaignard first applied for the Yale program a year ago. She was called in for an interview in New Haven, Conn. — where she had to present her work to professors and the program’s first-year students.
Each year, Yale invites 30 people for interviews and accepts 10 into the program, she said.
“I survived my first attempt at applying there, but I didn’t get in,” said Gaignard, who was waitlisted to the program.
Gaignard was discouraged, but found renewed inspiration months later through a new series of video projects.
In the videos, Gaignard lipsynchs popular songs with makeup and costumes, with the effect of “mimicking pop culture from a YouTuber’s perspective.”
In one of her sequences, she splashed 16 lip-synch videos onto the screen at the same time. A viewer can differentiate between the individual songs at first, but soon is bombarded with both visuals and noise — something Gaignard believes is indicative of what pop culture does to people today.
“That got me motivated again once I realized what I was doing with those,” she said. “I was really excited about them, but once you kind of figure out what you’re trying to say with them, then you’re just like, ‘OK, I’m making art again.’” Gaignard presented the videos during a second interview this March in Yale. This time, she was accepted.
Support from Wendell
Gaignard was at the Wendell Country Store when she read the acceptance email from Yale. It was near April 1, and it took her a minute to confirm that this was reality, and not a prank.
“It was cool to find out there,” she said. “I feel like that community has been with me through the creative process.”
She has worked at the store for four years and lived in town the last 2½. It’s a place where Gaignard has found photo subjects, fellow artists and a supportive audience of her work.
In her photos, which she calls “environmental portraits,” she tries to capture Wendell residents in their homes and places where they find inner comfort.
And as interest in her videos grew, they have begun to incorporate more of the local crowd, she said.
“Wendell has such a wide range of people there,” she said. “Even if you wouldn’t think they’d be willing to do some of the stuff I get them to do, they’re totally into it.”
At the “Yale School of Art or Bust” event tonight, she’ll be performing as her alter ego, “Creative Curvy Ginger.” She will combine her lip-synch videos with a live performance — something she has a hard time classifying or describing, but one that she said has had a good reception in the past.
The event, sponsored by the Wendell Cultural Council of Massachusetts, starts at 7 and there is a suggested donation of $10, said Gaignard.
For more information:
http://sites.google.com/site/yaleschool ofartorbust/ Chris Shores is a staff writer for The Recorder and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264