Kerry Dennis
Pre-College Summer Session

Every summer, high school students spend three weeks at MCAD finding out what college life is really like.

What surprised you most about the Pre-College Summer Session?

The student gallery at the end of the program was a surprise to me. I thought that I would mostly be doing painting exercises, drawing, and learning via lecture about color and technique. I hoped, but wasn’t sure if I would return home with more than one finished, portfolio-worthy project. That’s why the last day of PCSS—when I was standing in a gallery surrounded with beautiful art by my peers and some by myself—I was pleasantly surprised. It was wonderful to return home and show my family not just one final project painting, but multiple still lifes, landscapes, and drawings.

“I got a chance to be who I wanted to be and enjoy doing work I was excited about every day.”

Kerry hanging out in his painting studio; photo by Forrest Wasko.

What aspect of the program has had the biggest impact on you?

The aspect that had the biggest impact on me was the focus throughout the program. The program was so well focused in our major that everyone improved very quickly. I became a better artist because all my thoughts and energy for the entire day were on art and nothing but art. I’d never had a chance like that before—to spend three weeks on my passion of fine art. Usually other things would get in the way.

How has your artistic practice changed since the program?

My artistic practice has evolved to the next level because of this program. I came to PCSS with some basic understanding of color, paint, and the process needed to make a painting. But because of MCAD staff and PCSS, I have at least doubled my understanding of light, composition, color, and most importantly technique. For example, before this program, when approaching a painting I would put a bit of color from each tube of paint on my palette, look at the object I was trying to record, and then start painting. Now for a new project I start with an under drawing, carefully measure the image I want to paint, and then use a limited color palette to layer paint according to light onto a primed canvas. So I learned new techniques that transformed my artistic process.

PCSS Final Exhibition

Kerry poses in front of his pieces in the PCSS Final Exhibition; photo by Forrest Wasko

What was your favorite experience outside of the classroom?

My favorite experience outside of the classroom was the homework. After dinner all the painters would go to their studios to do their homework, usually painting something like a still life or a landscape. If they weren’t painting they would be socializing or in their dorms if they finished their work early. It was really great for each painter to have a cubicle to call their own while still being right next to another student in another studio. The reason it was so good was that when I needed a break from my homework I could take a walk around the room and see everyone else’s art, and I had the option to stop and have a good conversation with a friend for as long as I wanted before returning to work. Half the reason I came to PCSS was to have the opportunity to live and interact with other artists like myself from around the country! 

Kerry in his studio

Kerry working hard in his painting studio; photo by Forrest Wasko

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about attending the Pre-College Summer Session?

My advice would be to come prepared to work hard but still have fun. Each major had a different work load, but my experience was that to be successful and learn as much as possible you had to be in a mindset of study first then socialize after. Being at PCSS was getting a taste of how college life is, and so I got to experience how the high school mindset differs from a college mindset. The best part was that even though hard work was required, for me it just felt like I got a chance to be who I wanted to be and enjoy doing work I was excited about every day!

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