Opinion | Summer of creativity: vignettes from summer break


Leah Mensch | Contributing Editor

Assistant opinions editor Leah Mensch painted her bedroom door over the summer.

By The Pitt News Staff

Grace McGinness, Staff Columnist

Being creative is hard. There, I said it, and that is my unpopular opinion of the summer. It’s easy to brush creative projects like scrapbooking, ceramics or robotics aside as flimsy, idyllic wastes of time. But I had to produce a creative project for my summer class, a literature course called Words and Images, and it was one of the hardest tasks I accomplished this summer. And it was strangely practical.

For my creative project, each person from the class had to reimagine a myth or monster as it may appear in today’s contemporary society. I chose the dragon as my monster of choice and based my research on its mythology. I thought it would be interesting to visualize today’s dragons as firewall-breaking computer viruses that hoard people’s online information. Naturally, the only way to express this interpretation was through a stop-motion animation video.

Pitt has a green screen for students to use for video recording in Hillman Library, and while I had zero experience in either animation or video production, I thought that I might as well make use of it. After eight hours of production, more than 250 images, 20 well-worn pieces of tape and six hours of video editing, I managed to make a 27-second stop-motion video.

There were so many practical things about the creative production for which I would have never thought to prepare — like the way the light hits the green screen to eliminate glare or shadows, what order to take the pictures for easy assembly or how to resize each image to fit together without losing clarity. In spite of all this work for what seems to be such little payoff, I was so proud of those out-of-focus 27 seconds because I could say, “Yeah, I did that.”

Genna Edwards, For The Pitt News 

I went to the ER for the first time this summer. Long story short: golf cart accident. After I got 16 stitches on the index finger of my dominant right hand, I had to relearn how to do basically everything. I couldn’t hold a spoon, brush my teeth or comb my hair. The three weeks the laceration took to heal became a creative experiment, a test of patience. I was my own lab rat.

Re-teaching yourself basic skills with only one functioning opposable thumb quite frankly blows. It took me three days to master brushing my teeth without swiping mint toothpaste all over my face. I opened peanut butter jars by sitting down, placing the jar between my feet and twisting the cap off with my working hand. Since I couldn’t cook — open wounds and flames don’t mix — I quite cleverly resorted to a diet of delivery and ice cream.

Now healed and sporting a wicked scar, I’m confident if a ninja ever slices my hand off I’ll be totally fine.

Leah Mensch, Assistant Opinions Editor

I painted my bedroom door this summer because the only thing more boring than doing yard work is a plain white door with a classic silver door knob.

The only other thing more boring than doing yard work is watching paint dry. Unless, of course, it’s a mural of a sunset’s progression — a clear, blue sky fading into a sherbert rainbow and finally collapsing into a starry night sky — which is exactly how I painted my door. I learned the hard way, a few years ago, the importance of using painter’s tape to keep the edges of the painting straight, and the importance of using quality brushes — read, brushes that don’t come out of a children’s watercolor book — to get the job done. First I painted the background, which was the blue sky, the progression of the sunset’s colors, and the night sky. Afterwards, I added clouds in the blue sky with a sponge brush, and painted stars into the night sky with a fine-tipped paint brush.

I’m not artistic by nature, but painting the door was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I won’t be seeing the door again until I come home for Thanksgiving break, but I plan on painting some more for the time being. Probably on paper next time, rather than a door or a wall. I can’t imagine my landlord being thrilled with a sunset mural on my South Oakland bedroom door.

Ana Altchek, Staff Columnist

Arriving in Pittsburgh with painful jet lag in the midst of a thunderstorm gave me a slight culture shock after spending the last three and a half months in a literal desert. About four days ago, I returned from my summer trip to Israel, where I immersed myself in Middle Eastern culture and explored my Jewish heritage.

My summer consisted of working at a political research center during the morning, sunbathing at the beach in the afternoon and discovering the variety of Tel Aviv nightlife in the evenings. I stayed with family on the weekends, and during the week I resided in an apartment in the center of Tel Aviv with two strangers I now consider my best friends.

While the experience sounds incredible, and it was, there were obviously setbacks. Aside from a cockroach infestation and tarantula sighting in my apartment, I also struggled to cover expenses for an entire summer abroad, had to adapt to cultural differences, dealt with a language barrier and put up with the distance from my close family and friends for months.

With that being said, I would not change anything about my creative experiences and am forever grateful for the life lessons it taught me and the way it allowed for me to grow. Not only did I learn about another culture, but I expanded my personal connections and became close to people who I would have never met had I not been forced into this self-sufficient environment. All in all, if the opportunity presents itself in any capacity, I encourage everyone to go abroad at some point — and more so, to do it alone. 

Mackenzie Oster, Staff Columnist

Summer is when we are finally free from priorities, and the opportunities are limitless. It’s when that stack of books on your bedside table can finally come to life. That paint brush that you haven’t touched since highschool has patiently awaited for its moment. The days feel infinite because you are no longer tied to the demands of school work or structure.

Until, of course, you have to find a summer job.

Summer is now all work and no play. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hot Georgia days I have back home, but I spent the majority of this past summer attempting to save for the upcoming school year by fulfilling the demands of two jobs. The freedom just isn’t there anymore. In its place, there’s structure, priorities and things that have to get done. The summer of a college kid is used for saving, internships and resumé builders.

All I have to say after my summer full of maintenance is thank you, Pitt, for making my summer as an adult a bearable one, because I knew that when it was over, I’d come back to a place that made me appreciate the creative opportunities of a city. Especially because after four months of work, I know I’d return to school and the weight of being an adult would dissipate into my favorite persona — a broke college kid.