Surviving Art School—and Economic Stress

Art student finds way to hone her craft through tough economic times.

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 Laura Ginn, a vegetarian from greater Detroit, double-majored in philosophy and studio art at Western Michigan University. Now an M.F.A. student in photography at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., she spends her days hunting and skinning animals and building cabins, sharing the experiences through video, photos, and gouache drawings. "This path has been a surprise to me," she says. As for her vegetarianism? "I don't necessarily have a moral objection to eating meat. I'm just really interested in knowing where it came from and having a relationship to that." 

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Native lens: Cranbrook is 25 minutes from her native Clarkston. Ginn says it was a shock to return in 2008 to an area with so many homes foreclosed upon. "There's a lot of anxiety associated with that situation and seeing the people around you lose their jobs. I think my work stems from how to meet that anxiety head-on." Maybe even literally: Her recent video series on the leather-making process depicts her scooping brains from a deer skull to extract a chemical tanning agent.

[Read more: The Art of Keeping Oneself Fed in Art School.]

Right fit: At Cranbrook, students work closely with an artist-in-residence. "It's very much about developing a studio practice and becoming a working artist, which I had no idea how to do," she laughs.

What's next: Ginn graduates next month and will apply to artist residency programs in the United States and abroad. "I don't want to teach right away," she says, "but I think I would like to eventually." The local deer can't wait.