Student Profile: Audrey Carver, BFA '22
Audrey Carver has been on the move, in the literal sense, since receiving her acceptance to Tufts. Her journey to campus involved a cross-country move and a year spent abroad, through Tufts' 1+4 Bridge-Year Program, all while exploring her connections to the world around her. She tells me about this expansive but intentional path over a cup of coffee in downtown Boston. On a particularly cold and windy day, Audrey seems to be missing the California sun she grew up under.
Audrey hails from Idyllwild, California. Settled in the San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild is brushed with deep-green forests and crystal waters. It is a picturesque town, and a small town—3,000 people small. "Overall, I think I had an unusual childhood," Carver explains. "It's this very hippie town of retired artists in California, and I was just this barefoot forest child." Idyllwild is the place where a young Carver was raised by a community of people who let her explore her interest in art: from painting to sculpture, oil-on-canvas to metalwork.
Carver compares small-town Idyllwild to big-city Boston, an extremely difficult comparison to make. "I went to school with the same twenty people for twelve years. Everybody knows everybody," she says. "Which can be great, but there isn’t a lot of opportunity to grow." A town with no stoplights, in which all the stores close at 5 PM, sits in stark contrast to Carver’s new home. Yet she hasn’t found the transition to be difficult, thanks to Tufts 1+4.
1+4 is Tufts' unique bridge-year experience. Incoming first-years can choose to do a year of service learning in one of four international sites. After their year of service, students matriculate at Tufts—refreshed, excited, and with a new sense of direction. "I applied randomly to Tufts 1+4, but when I got in, it was just too good of an opportunity," Carver says. She chose to spend the year in Cuenca, Ecuador.
For her service site, Audrey was placed in a culinary school teaching English classes. She was able to bring her passion for art into the work she did with students. "They had just changed school buildings, so they had a lot of white walls that my students and I got to paint murals on," she explains. Later, she created a gallery exhibit showcasing portraits of people in the community she had encountered, from strangers to close friends. Carver had to render most of the portraits from memory, a task that required her to be in touch with her yearlong surroundings—both the places and people.
Using cardboard as her canvas, she worked with a variety of materials—from painting on fabric to weaving—so that the portraits were individualized in material and style. "It was really cool. It was a solo exhibition in the mayor’s gallery and I had this big reception," she smiles. "Then, I gave away all the portraits to the [subjects]."
Audrey may have left her mark on Ecuador, but she now finds herself in a new chapter of her artistic life at Tufts. She is a student in the SMFA at Tufts' BFA program, a special opportunity for Tufts students to combine intensive studio arts training with an in-depth, rigorous liberal arts education. BFA students live near the SMFA at Tufts' Fenway campus, a two-minute walk from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Carver is planning to study sociology alongside her studio work. She is increasingly interested in how communities use art to communicate—a sociological perspective on a topic she knows well from personal experience. "I think it’s interesting to look at how people interact, in different ways, with their surroundings," she explains. "Art is really good for that."