The Creative and Performing Arts Fellowship, created through the generosity of Bruce ’65 and Jackie Maggin P’02, enabled Willem Ytsma ’16 to travel to Savannah, Ga., where he took photos as he encountered the culture and landscapes. The fellowship will also enable him to display his work in Easton. The CaPA program nurtures an artistic student community at Lafayette, funding projects and connecting student artists with faculty advisers.
By Willem Ytsma ’16
We used a Road Food book as our map for the whole trip. Both of us being millennials, we never bought a real one. Besides, those things are huge and we had a GPS. It was good enough. We were headed to Savannah, Georgia.
The route was long, so we split it up over two days. There was a lot of traffic and construction. I suppose these things are unavoidable when one is making such a long trip, though it doesn’t make them less annoying. I spent a comparatively small yet disproportionately aggravating part of the drive in near-standstill traffic thinking about how much more efficiently the traffic would progress if all the cars were controlled by robots instead of people.
To pass the time my girlfriend Alaina and I listened to music, the Bugle, and made up a road game. The goal was to count from 1 to 100 using numbers seen on the road. The next number in series could be found within a larger number on a billboard, license plate, side of a truck, etc., but the digits had to be next to each other and in the right order. Mile markers on the highway could be used, though not consecutively. This game took us at least 15 hours of driving over four days to finish.
We were taking this trip because neither of us had ever been south of Virginia before (We have aunts with phonetically similar names living there) and we had heard that Savannah was a beautiful historic town that was filled with all sorts of art. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) basically owns the town, buying centuries-old buildings and renovating them into galleries that showcase student work as well as contemporary art. When buying Chinese food, an employee at the restaurant remarked to us that there were more art galleries per square mile in Savannah than in New York City.
Since Alaina and I are both from Pennsylvania, we weren’t used to the friendliness of the people in the South. I wasn’t entirely sure how to handle being conversed with by so many strangers or how to properly receive a compliment; I didn’t know whether to just say thank you or to fire back a compliment of my own. To be fair, I have the same problem in Pennsylvania as well but I’m not in this situation as often. I thoroughly enjoyed these conversations in spite of my inherent awkwardness, I must admit. I liked being able to talk to and learn about all of these different people even in such a sort of trite way.
Despite their friendliness, I still couldn’t work up the courage to ask if I could take their picture, which is something I’ve been trying to do for a while. My method of taking pictures of people has always been to either become friends with them and take their picture so often that they don’t notice I’m doing it anymore, or to do the act as secretly as possible; a method for which I have gone to the lengths of modifying cameras to make them more discreet. Sometimes I use a combination of both. I was only able to ask one person for their picture; they were a cashier at a reclaimed art supplies shop who seemed like they would be cool with it. I had never seen a store like that before, full of half-used paints and recycled canvasses and grab-bags full of bottle caps. Alaina and I wandered the store for a while, looking at and trying on things. I ended up buying some yellow-ochre-ish paint because my yellow ochre had sprung a hole and was drying out, a camera lens filter and an ‘imagine whirled peas’ bumper sticker. Say it out loud.
For our stay in Savannah, I had booked us a boat in the Isle of Hope. I had never lived on a boat before, and now that I have I can say that it’s basically the same as living on land except it’s smaller (cozier) and more complicated to use the toilet. I had originally wanted to stay in a boat because my grandparents on my father’s side were from the Netherlands and lived on a houseboat together after they got married. The marina itself was very scenic, though not as close to Savannah as I had thought. It didn’t matter though, because there were interesting things in between.
The whole time we were in Savannah, Alaina and I had meant to go to the beach. In SCAD’s Jepson Center, there was a great exhibit of Martin Parr’s photographs from beaches around the world that got me really excited about outdoor photography like that. Nothing gets me excited about making good art like good art. Sadly, we were only able to make it to the beach on our last night in Savannah. We went to the beach on Tybee Island after sunset.
There were bugs everywhere and Alaina and I had to pee. It was perfectly cool and clear out with no moon. We could see so many stars. There was a meteor shower that night, and we saw a couple burn up in the sky above us. I personally don’t understand why they’re called showers. At best meteor showers are actually meteor drizzles, based on the frequency of the ‘drops’. If meteor showers truly deserved their name, every time I’d look up in the sky while one is happening I should be legitimately afraid that the world is ending. Though I suppose the term ‘meteor drizzle’ doesn’t really make people excited about astronomy.
But I digress. Despite the clear skies at the beach, there was a lightning storm in the distance and the sky far off in the horizon intermittently lit up orange, reflecting on the ocean. The beach was all but deserted, save a couple shadows of people watching the sky. I took my second-ever star trails photograph that night. It was only a 20-minute exposure because I was worried about the stars being washed out. It ended up turning out well.
The trip was in part funded through the CaPA fellowship program of which I am a member. Besides helping fund this trip, CaPA will support me in putting up a gallery show in Easton of the work I will produce from it. CaPA is a relatively new program at Lafayette College that provides funding and support for a group of artistic students, no matter what their major. It encourages collaboration between artists and advisors, and between the artists themselves. It is a program that keeps motivating me to create art and giving me the insight and tools to do so in ways I wouldn’t have thought of before. This is mostly due to the advisors and the faculty involved in the program, who are always motivating us to create art and take risks in our art-making process. I would like to thank them for affording me this experience to grow and learn as an artist.