MATH + SCIENCE = ART: Amy Wu, a senior dual-degree student in Wharton and the School of Engineering & Applied Science, knows that her course of study might make her sound like the polar opposite of someone who is passionate about art. But Wu has loved making art since she was young. In fact, she remembers precisely what set her on an artistic path as a child: learning how to draw from her grandfather. “He taught me how to draw fish, and then from fish, I learned how to draw birds. My favorite things were peacocks,” says Wu. “I started taking watercolor classes when I was around 10 or 11 and then picked up oil painting when I was 16.”
REACHING OUT: Wu is currently co-director of the Penn Art Club, which has a listserv about 800 members strong. The Club has five core activities: community outreach, public arts, events, speakers, and a studio space, open to all members. In Wu’s freshman year, the Club’s community service activities included an afterschool art program for Lea Elementary students. This resonated with Wu, who had participated in similar activities in high school. “It was combining two things that I really liked to do in high school as a way to give back to the community. I saw that as a really rewarding program.”
PUBLIC ARTS: Part of the Club’s mission is to increase the presence of visual arts on campus. To that end, the Club recently completed two mural-painting projects—one in Harrison College House, and another in a rehearsal room at Platt Student Performing Arts House. At that event, the Club invited Philadelphia school students from the Afterschool Activities Partnerships program to lend a hand with the day of painting.
COME, SIT, STAY, AND MAKE ART: The Club also hosts a series of themed Art-Ins in Harrison, where students can drop by and make art. Wu says the Club provides all of the supplies—from canvases and paint, to felt and stickers—and members either lead participants in an activity with a predetermined project, or give students free rein to make whatever they want.
ART CONNECTS: Wu acknowledges that the process of making art can be a solitary activity, and the Club has helped her stay connected to her creative side during a busy undergraduate career at Penn. “It’s given me a community to work with on something that I’m very passionate about,” Wu says. “In the end, even though we’re all very different diverse individuals at Penn who come from different academic, cultural, social, and financial backgrounds, we still have these deeper meanings that we can convey through art. … It’s basically just taught me that art can bring people together in different ways.”
POST-PENN: Wu has a summer internship with Capital One, and in a few years, hopes to start her own tech company, perhaps on the West Coast. Art, she says, has taught her to be aware of aesthetics in everything—no matter the field. “I know when I retire, I want to be a painter. Everything comes back to that in the end,” Wu says. “For me it’s just been a really good outlet.”
Originally published on April 10, 2014