Staff Writer/Communications Manager, The Pantograph Punch / Freelance Artist
Bachelor of Visual Arts
The biggest gift her lecturers gave her was their continual belief in what she could do and achieve, says art and design alumna Vanessa Crofskey who completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts, specialising in sculpture.
“I think the academic staff we had were so special, and showed us they really cared and thought that what we were doing was important. Making art and then showing it to others can be really scary and personal, so it’s important that those lecturers hold space for you. I loved that we were able to crack jokes and cry in front of them.”
Part of AUT’s close-knit visual arts community, her lecturers were also more than understanding when Vanessa wanted to explore other creative pursuits; in fact, they highly encouraged it.
“I remember needing some time off because I was in a play and doing poetry outside of school. I felt so guilty but my lecturers told me that performance and writing were a part of my practice and all of these outside experiences counted too. They encouraged me to continue doing these passions alongside my coursework.”
Finding the right place
Vanessa says she knew that she wanted to study visual arts when she was in high school.
“Visual arts was something I had both talent and interest in. I originally applied for the fine arts course at another university and even spent my first year there, but the atmosphere wasn’t really for me.
“One day, I snuck into AUT and had a look around the campus while we were on a class visit to ST PAUL ST Gallery. Everyone seemed really friendly, and there was lots of studio space and labs which the lecturers kindly let me wander around. I saw there were some really cool minors on offer for art and design, and decided to switch universities and try my hand at AUT.”
It's a decision she hasn’t regretted, says Vanessa who is proud of receiving the Head of School Award for her graduate exhibition and representing AUT at a Venice Biennale event at Government House in Wellington.
“Our class size for sculpture was really small, so the friendships I made ran deep and the attention from the lecturers was really high. We all stayed late in the studio and supported each other through the trials and tribulations of art school. One of my favourite memories was our trip to Taranaki to visit the late Peter Peryer in his studio and see the Govett-Brewster art museum. I’m still good friends with my classmates and lecturers, which feels really important.”
A life full of creativity
After graduating from AUT in 2017, Vanessa now splits her time between her work as an artist and her role as a writer and communications manager for The Pantograph Punch, one of New Zealand’s major online arts and writing journals.
“My job at The Pantograph Punch involves overseeing the audience engagement and marketing strategy for the arts journal. As a writer, I review arts exhibitions, interview cool artists I admire, and get to write and publish personal essays on craft and society. I love being able to tell the world what excites me through my writing.
“As a freelancer, I also get to make art for galleries and public programmes. I love being able to witness the finished creation – be it performances, essays or installations – and track that back to having an inception of an idea. It’s so cool to see something go from an unrealised concept to a physical living thing.”
Vanessa says she is particularly proud of her work for Artspace Aotearoa’s New Artist Show 2020; work that was created in response to the global pandemic and rising anti-Asian sentiment.