Laura Jessisch ’20 Creates Art Lessons at Carnegie Picture Lab in Walla Walla, WA

I work in the house next door. Every day on my commute I pass the Harvest Smoothie Co. truck and wave a hello to Marc the owner; I’m sure he’s wondering if I will ever buy a smoothie or just keep commenting on the heat. A forty second walk later I enter Carnegie Picture Lab, a small nonprofit often confused for a printing shop. “No, we cannot scan your 35mm film, sir,” I say for the second time today. I hear our kettle click off and direct the man elsewhere so I can make Kristie and myself tea. Kristie is Picture Lab’s new Project Manager. She is agreeable, intuitive, and, most importantly, laughs at all my jokes. I am sitting in our new comfy blue chair by the front window which we carried across the street from Tamarac at the beginning of the summer. We like to look out the window and comment on all the inconsiderate people visiting Marc’s truck that like to double park behind Kristie’s car. Today is a testing day so we are going to start packing up our supplies in a second. There is no arts program in any of the schools in the valley so our job is to create art history lessons and art projects to enhance and encourage arts education for all students. We visit over 175 classrooms at 15 different schools three times a year, bringing lessons taught by volunteers. My job over the summer is to help solidify these lessons and test them, ensuring they are engaging, fluid, and age appropriate. Today we are going to the YWCA Adventure Club to try out our lesson called The Dot. We will learn about five different artists who use dots in their work such as Georges Seurat and Yayoi Kusama. I have been working on building the PowerPoint for a long time now and we have worked through a bunch of different project ideas. We are still unsure of the exact project we want to do so we will be testing three different options today. The kids are a handful and I definitely prefer days with board meetings and research. I like seeing the inner-workings of a nonprofit and meeting all the amazing people who volunteer their time to help teach art.

Last Friday was First Friday, a monthly event where local galleries and wineries showcase new art. Through the amazing people I have met through Picture Lab I was lucky enough to attend two openings. First, we went to Cavu Cellars to see a board member, Tiffany Singer Jenes, photography exhibit. It was very unique and I enjoyed getting to meet all the artists. Next, Kristie took me to Art Escape Studios which was an experience I will never forget. The owner, Terra Graves, showed me around the space and shared her future plans with me. As we entered the building we were greeted by a large Diana Woolley exhibit. We walked through the gallery, past the table of iced tea and smoked cheeses, to the studios, small spaces partitioned by stacked pallets. Terra rents studio space to several different local artists, all of whom I got to meet. One artist took my name and number and we have plans to print woodblocks together in September. Terra took me on a tour of the rest of the building, showing me her private studio, her in-the-works dark room, and a bunch of her amazing photographic work. Art Escape is in the old Inland Printing building and has adapted well to its new purpose. Then we went upstairs. I climbed a few flights and all of a sudden the stairway opened up into the most incredible space I have ever seen. The entire second story was open floor with a two story loft. There was a canoe hanging from the rafters and cases and upon cases of type from the old printing days. Terra plans to turn this into her new home one day. The building was once an auto shop and there is a huge ramp leading from the second story down into the back alley. I can picture myself riding my bike straight down every day. This space ignited something in me I didn’t quite know was there. This is where I want to end up eventually, an artist, living and working in the same space, interacting with and helping other artists, perhaps with my own gallery downstairs.
Carnegie Picture Lab has opened doors for me in Walla Walla and allowed for me to meet incredible people. I appreciate Kristie’s generosity and candor, and I have learned so much in such a short time. I want to thank her as my supervisor, and only employee of Picture Lab, for giving me cheese sticks and letting me go home early sometimes. I am so lucky to have been able to prepare for the upcoming school year and am excited to volunteer in the fall to teach these lessons we have been creating. Kristie and I have to go teach The Dot now to a bunch of stir crazy kids so I’ll wrap it up here. I feel honored to get to work for such an important nonprofit.

Experiences like Laura’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff

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