Anna Heinen, Art

On Dec. 18, UW–Madison will celebrate its Winter 2022 Commencement. We reached out to a few of our students who are graduating from programs in the School of Education to learn about their favorite UW–Madison memories and future plans. Following is a Q&A with Anna Heinen, who is graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree in art.

Anna HeinenWhere are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison? 

I’m from the Twin Cities. I decided to come to Madison because it is a public institution with an awesome art program. It was a great way to go to art school without closing off other options. I loved taking classes in other subjects while I was here. I also value having relationships with people who are not artists but are passionate about other things. A lot of the best friends I’ve made here are not in the Art Department, but we share a lot of interests and have collaborated in really fun ways.

What is your major, and how did you choose it? 

I am a BFA student specializing in ceramics and sculpture. When I made a rat-shaped clay whistle in middle school I decided I was born to work with clay. I know it sounds dramatic, but I really remember coming home from school that day and telling my mom I was born to work with clay. I have loved clay for a long time. It is such a unique material because you can bring worlds that exist in your imagination into reality. In high school I took a lot of ceramics classes and eventually decided that it was my calling. I can’t imagine myself doing much else. I have to work with my hands and I can’t sit still. Ceramics is physical — I use my whole body to do my school work. That’s pretty awesome.

What was your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison? 

I have loved putting together exhibitions with my friends from class. In the fall of 2021 the advanced ceramics class put on the exhibition, “The Ceramics Menagerie.” Gerit Grimm led us passionately as we worked out how to arrange the gallery and how each of our works would play off of each other. It was so fun. I also loved doing the Sculpture Department show in the spring of 2022 titled, “Terrarium 15-12-1.” We took over an abandoned flower shop on State Street and filled it with curiosities we’d made that semester. My favorite part was going shopping for fancy food at Trader Joe’s with our professor, Tamsie Ringler. I spent an entire day preparing cakes and charcuterie boards to celebrate the opening. Learning how to do these exhibitions has been really powerful because it taught me so much about working with other artists and engaging the community in art.

What class or professor had the greatest impact on you, and why?

Definitely Gerit Grimm’s advanced ceramics class. Gerit is such a special person. She has an excellent sense of humor, wild imagination, and never fails to make class fun. She taught me much of what I know about being an artist and I really look up to her. This semester I’ve watched her teach her beginning ceramics class while I’ve been working on my own projects in the studio. The way she is able to form a community in her classes is so amazing: (Her students are) always giggling together. The other day one of her students brought her a pumpkin and she carved it in class. She is a gem.

"I feel rooted in a strong community now, and feel so connected to my friends. The social skills and life skills I’ve learned in college are equally as important to me as the things I’ve learned about art and working with my hands."

Did you participate in any study abroad programs, internship programs, or community activities? If yes, what were your experiences like?

I spent two months traveling in a van around Montana with the program WRFI (Wild Rockies Field Institute). I also did 15 credits of environmental studies classes at the same time. I loved that we couldn’t really use technology for school work because computers have never been my forte. That was so cool and really shaped me as a person. It gave me a profound and spiritual connection to the Earth. I’m so lucky to have gotten to participate in that.

I also spent the past summer working as an Artist Mentor at ArtWorking, a nonprofit art studio for artists with disabilities. ArtWorking is a beautiful community in Madison. It was so fun to get to know each of their 40 artists. ArtWorking is often filled with laughter, music, and creativity. I love it there and I’m planning on continuing to work there after I graduate.

 What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started at UW–Madison? 

If I could talk to 17-year-old me I’d tell them to reach out more and be yourself. I struggled a lot socially as a teen — I never really felt like I fit in and had a lot of social anxiety. It made it hard for me to connect with others and form communities. Being at UW (among other things) has completely turned that around for me. I feel rooted in a strong community now, and feel so connected to my friends. The social skills and life skills I’ve learned in college are equally as important to me as the things I’ve learned about art and working with my hands. 

What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future? 

I’m planning on continuing to work at ArtWorking. When I’m able to, I would like to pursue any residencies or fellowships that are offered to me. I got nominated for the ASPN residency at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. It’s very competitive but if I were to be selected I’d be thrilled to participate. I’m also applying to other ceramics studios for residencies.

I’m starting to realize that I may want to go to grad school for ceramics eventually, but I definitely need some time away from academia for at least a couple years first. I think being a professor of ceramics and working with students who are at an advanced level could be very rewarding for me.

You’re a UW–Madison expert now. What’s one thing every Badger should experience before they graduate?

A sunset over Lake Wingra followed by a swim in the dark.

Pin It on Pinterest