New Paul Smith’s students become part of art project

PAUL SMITHS – Incoming freshman at Paul Smith’s College were welcomed this week with several events, including treks and a group art project all their own.

About 300 first-year students arrived on campus Friday. To help them get used to college life, they were divvied among 16 peer leaders, who gave them tours of the grounds and introduced them to other students and professors before they begin classes Wednesday.

“I love Paul Smith’s,” said peer leader and hospitality major Chelsea Hutchinson. “When I transferred here, it was very different from what I was used to in Ohio. It’s worth getting to know the campus and everyone on it, and this is my way of helping new students do that.”

For the first time, the college brought in Aquil Virani, a visual artist and graphic designer from Montreal. He welcomed the new students on Friday and told them, “If you can write ‘ABC’ on a piece of paper, you can draw.

“No one thinks they’re an artist,” Virani told the Enterprise. “I made the point that ‘ABC’ is simply straight lines and curved lines, the same as you use in drawing.”

Virani asked the students to doodle on scraps of paper and explained that he would re-draw the images onto a three-part collage painting called “We Are All Artists.”

Virani soon began receiving a variety of roughly drawn sketches. Some represented the forests, lakes and mountains surrounding Paul Smith’s, some represented the artist behind the image, and others contained words or phrases. The finished product will be unveiled today at 1:45 p.m.

“This is one of the best activities to feel a sense of community,” Virani said. “I just act as a unifying filter so it looks cohesive, but they are all a part of the final piece.”

Fish and wildlife major Kara Meierdiercks, from Geneseo, said she drew a number of things including an apple, a goldfish and a My Little Pony. Kim Yager of Schenectady, also a fish and wildlife major, drew her “fursona,” a wolf version of herself.

Paul Smith’s Academic Success Center Director Virginia McAleese said that kind of community building has been the focus of Welcome Week at the college. She explained that events like the first-year Olympics, workshops on topics like time management and student loans, and a series of weekend treks that included hiking, paddling and fishing, were all developed to make the new students feel welcomed and give them a sense of their new home.

Kayla Russell, a bakery and pastry major from Calcium, near Watertown, participated in the group hike up Whiteface Mountain.

“I’ve never been on a mountain that big before,” Russell said. “We learned some of the plants and animals that live on the mountain along the way, too.”

Brian Raichel, an ecological forest management major from Long Island, opted for a canoe trip while James Shobbrook, a fish and wildlife major from Plymouth, Mass., settled on a visit to The Wild Center nature museum in Tupper Lake. Both said they are happy to be in the area, and that they’re looking forward to starting their classes.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or