Art has been influential presence in the life of Deerfield artist Sofia Novak ’18 since she could hold a paintbrush. Novak explained, “My family and I often joke that I held my first ‘exhibition’ when I was two and covered the wall of my house in paintings, forcing my parents to repaint the wall.” She continued to gain exposure to various forms of artistic expression through both travel and extracurricular activities. Novak added, “When I lived in Thailand especially, I traveled around the world and observed a wide variety of art, and it helped me understand cultures different from my own.” She pointed out that in addition to the visual arts, she also delved into theater, ballet, and even the violin throughout her childhood.
At Deerfield, Novak has generally focused on the visual arts, starting with AP Studio Art in tenth grade. She stated, “What I really like about the Deerfield art program and Mr. D. is that it allowed me to develop a strong skill base. Deerfield has given me a lot more confidence in areas ranging from traditional still lifes to skeletal abstract works.” Novak also mentioned that at Deerfield, she has gained insight into the thought process behind artistic work, noting, “I see the value in each type of art. Art is a problem solving process that teaches you discipline and focus. You have to see how objects truly are rather than how you perceive them at first in order to fully capture them on paper.”
Recently, Novak decided to use the artistic skillset that she has cultivated at Deerfield in order to further engage with the Slovak community in Atlanta, using a grant from the Center for Service and Global Citizenship (CSGC). When she found a Czech and Slovak school near her home, she started a program that focused on Slovak themes such as traditional dress and ceramics. Novak clarified, “I thought that a one-week art camp would be a great way for kids to meet each other and keep traditions alive.” Speaking to what propelled her initiative, Novak described the loneliness she felt growing up in Atlanta due to the feeling of being separated from the Slovak community. Novak expressed her hope that the camp allowed for Slovak kids to share a fun educational experience in which they could also learn more about their heritage.
Encouraged by the success of her art camp, Novak has decided to collaborate with the CSGC in order to organize similar workshops at Deerfield and in the surrounding community. Additionally, she plans to continue her activities in the Slovak-American community, stating, “I’m working with the Slovak ambassador and embassy in America to create a place where I could create a small exhibition of the kids’ works.” She will also continue her work at the Slovak school in Atlanta to create more educational workshops, including a Christmas-themed one this winter.
Finally, Novak encouraged those skeptical about pursuing art to try it out because of the positive impact it can have on their individual and cultural awareness. She expressed, “I think art transcends language and cultural barriers and helps me understand how we’re all connected but also very different. Looking at a piece of art, I can sometimes imagine how life was in a different time period or country.”