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Art Major Elisabeth Baird on Inspiration, Collaboration and Kindness

Baird — a native of Garden Grove, CA — will graduate with a BA in art on April 24, 2020

Ever since she was a young girl, Elisabeth Baird has felt drawn to art. “I remember watching my mom draw when I was little, and wanting to be an artist because I wanted to be like her,” she said. “I also love the idea of storytelling. Some of my favorite artists tell stories without saying anything.” Growing up in California, the beauty of nature and landscapes has also had a profound effect on Baird as an artist — something she didn’t realize until she traveled abroad. Last August, she went on a field study to Scotland and the Faroe Islands with a small group of students and faculty.

“I loved learning from the landscape and the ocean, and watching the birds dive over the sea stacks into the water,” said Baird. “I'll never forget driving around Scotland with the other students and our professors. I loved learning from them.” Baird points to the field study as one of the most memorable and influential experiences she’s had at BYU. “I love that BYU gives students so many opportunities to apply for experiential learning grants. That trip has been really impactful on me, retrospectively,” she said. “I know it impacted my art, but I don’t think I'll fully understand how until I'm older and can look back and trace that influence over the expanse of the work I'll make. It will be interesting to see.” Throughout her time as an art major, Baird has learned the importance of collaboration and how involving others enriches the creative process. “I see more and more how no one really accomplishes anything great on their own,” she said. “We build off of the ideas and successes of those who came before us and those who have worked alongside us.” In addition to her art degree, Baird will receive a teaching license through the art education area's K-12 licensure program. The connections she has made through student teaching have been among her most rewarding experiences in the art program.

“I felt great going to teach every day. I felt like I was doing something really meaningful,” said Baird. “I want to empower students the way so many of my teachers throughout my life have empowered me.” Baird hopes to find ways to empower and support those around her — as an artist, family member, and friend. She is passionate about social issues, and after graduation, she wants a career that fulfills both her passions: teaching art and working with marginalized groups. “I'm hoping to combine the two,” she said, “but honestly, so much is so up in the air right now, I mostly just want to be a kind person. I want to use my education to be kind in any way I can be.” To students just starting out in the art program, Baird’s advice is to be engaged and take advantage of every opportunity to collaborate with others. “Ask for teachers to mentor you, work one-on-one and in groups with teachers and classmates as much as possible,” said Baird. “Asking for help is important. And so is being willing to say ‘I don’t know,’ and being comfortable with that. I’ve learned I’m a better creator when I do these things.” Q&A WITH ELISABETH BAIRD, BA ‘20 ART | ART What did you want to be when you grew up?

“I wanted to be an artist or teacher.” What was your favorite class that you took at BYU? “I loved the storytelling class taught by Teresa Love because I'm interested in telling stories. I continue to use things I learned there in my work as an artist.” Is there a specific work or practitioner in your field that has had a particularly strong influence on you? Ei Weiwei’s work has had a big impact. I love how he works with social issues and makes the most beautiful installations. His works using the life vests of refugees have been really important. So has Olafur Eliasson. I got to see his retrospective at the Tate Modern this summer, on my way home from Scotland. His piece ‘Your Blind Passenger’ was one of the most spiritual art works I’ve witnessed.” Do you have a hidden talent or a hobby outside of what you do for your major? “I'm learning to whistle! I'm also a wilderness survival guide — I lead trips mainly in Arizona wilderness areas. I enjoy learning and passing on some of these ancestral survival skills.” What is your favorite snack for between classes? “Pop-Tarts. The strawberry ones.”