campus news and events

What Fire Can Do

Danlan “Justus” Zhao '15 has a burning passion for art, especially ceramics, that elemental medium born of clay and fire.

“For me, life is inconstant, like ceramics. I am the spectator, watching my fingers dance with the clay; it communicates my emotions. Looking at how each piece comes out of the kiln, I feel my life is full of possibilities,” she says. “Poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, ‘We live in the world when we love it,’ and I feel full of love and kindness when making pots. Art teaches me to love people.”

Last summer, Zhao's love took her to Taiwan, where she was an intern at the Taipei Story House. She learned how to manage a small museum, offered tours in English and worked on the website, among other duties. She also took the opportunity to visit an esteemed potter who spent hours with her drinking tea and sharing stories. He encouraged her to believe in herself, but no artist's support means more than that of her adviser back on campus, Artist in Residence David Ernster. “Dave is the best model I can think of,” she says. “He makes me so confident and comfortable to believe in my talent as an artist.”

For Zhao, far from her family in China's Henan Province, the ceramics studio in the Sawyer Fine Arts Center is another home in the world. Graduation looms though, and Zhao is waiting to hear from M.F.A. programs. She hopes she will be able to create poetic, quality work that will let her “add brilliance to the world, like a sunset.”

“I am really grateful to Colby-Sawyer because it has provided me with such a friendly studio environment and excellent professors who have cultivated my interest in art,” she says. “Without the college's support, I couldn't have experienced so many wonderful things. If one day I become a successful artist and have the ability, I will build a new art building here for students who have the same passion that I do.”

Zhao, who graduated in May, will begin her M.F.A. studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art this fall. Cranbrook is one of the top arts schools in the country.

- by Kate Seamans, senior director of College Communications

About Colby-Sawyer College

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. The College's faculty, staff and students strive for excellence in an engaged teaching and learning community that fosters students' academic, intellectual, and personal growth. With a strong emphasis on learning outcomes, including breadth and depth of knowledge, self-growth, creative and critical thinking, and effective communication, Colby-Sawyer prepares students to thrive post-graduation and make a positive impact upon a dynamic, diverse, and interdependent world.

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