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All in Good Time: Victoria Kitirattragarn, BFA '19

Victoria Kitirattragarn

Time figures prominently in Victoria Kitirattragarn's interdisciplinary work as violinist, oil painter, and future art conservator.

While a senior at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, she became a master of time management in order to pursue her insatiable curiosity and lust for learning. For the majority of her school life, she split her time between the Boston Conservatory (where she played chamber music), an art preservation internship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and her BFA classes at SMFA.

As someone acutely aware of maximizing the value of every minute, this fascination with time started at a young age.

'I Chose Artist'

Kitirattragarn remembers the moment she decided on her career path. "In third grade, they ask you what you want to be when you grow up," she said. "This was easy for me. I chose artist."

Even at a young age, Kitirattragarn's vocation was clear. She started violin at three and piano at five, and later picked up oil painting in middle school. "My mom encouraged me in everything," she said. "She wanted me to find what I was passionate about and enrolled me in all kinds of arts programs."

The discipline and practice violin required paired well with Kitirattragarn's love of oil painting. Unlike acrylic, she notes, oil has a long lifetime. It takes time to dry, which makes it beautiful to her. "You can work when it's dry, paint over, start again," she said. Oil painting allows her to be both the conductor and soloist, controlling the timing and outcome of the final piece.

Although Kitirattragarn wouldn't necessarily call herself an oil painter now, she entered SMFA at Tufts as one. The school's multidisciplinary nature and participation in the ProArts Consortium made the program an easy choice.

She remembers the SMFA campus tour distinctly. What immediately resonated with her was learning that the school had no majors. The fact that each student created a self-directed course of study initially surprised her, but she quickly bought into the notion of having the freedom to learn about many other disciplines. She subsequently was able to explore many mediums, which she credits for a broader outlook on her work as an artist, performer, and future conservator.

Not all of Kitirattragarn's choices worked out, she admitted. Despite her love of learning and "where there's a will, there's a way" attitude, courses such as coding, for instance, were a real struggle. But to her, that was perfectly fine. "You're there to experiment, and it's okay to fail or make bad work," she said.

Where Art and Science Converge

As someone whose life has been enriched by the arts, Kitirattragarn explained her choice to pursue a career in conservation as driven by morals and ethics. The April fire at Paris' Notre-Dame and the loss of art in churches and synagogues around the world pains her to the core. "It's scary to think about art not being around for future generations to learn from," she said.

Kitirattragarn has been doing her part to preserve centuries-old traditions. In an internship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Kitirattragarn worked with Japanese Hokusai prints from the Meji period (1868–1912). She prepared treatment reports and performed surface cleaning to remove graphite and dirt from the delicate rice paper drawings. This meticulous work took considerable time and patience to ensure the art's integrity.

Preservation is top of mind for Kitirattragarn these days. The highly competitive field of art conservation demands a deep knowledge of the sciences and art history along with well-honed technical art-making skills. Following graduation, she was to begin preparing for graduate school by taking organic chemistry in the summer.

"Masters in conservation programs in the U.S. are very competitive," she said, "and no one gets in on the first try." In fact, she heard that three is the magic number of times to apply before being admitted. For the time being, she'll work toward completing her prerequisites, pursue other internships, and continue playing violin.

Not surprisingly, Kitirattragarn was looking forward to some downtime. But first, she'd need to present her thesis on the preservation of music.

Meanwhile, a stack of at least eight books was on her nightstand waiting to be devoured. Soon, she'd start chipping away at Isaac Asimov's Robot Dreams, and maybe find time to sit in the park and take a breath. Before summer school started, of course.

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