Nia Sanders '15

After graduating from GPS, Nia Sanders ’15 headed north to continue her education at Brown University in Rhode Island, where she studied computer science and performance studies. Today, she lives in New York city and works part-time as a software engineer at Google and part-time as a ceramic artist, a hobby she picked up in 2020. 

Please describe your current role/what you're doing today.
In my role at Google, I work as a software engineer. I joined full time when I graduated college and worked on one of the Google Cloud products for my first two years, then transitioned to work part time. My current team, called EngEdu, is an internal tools team focused on running the onboarding programs for technical employees. My more formal work in ceramics began last year. I started learning how to make pottery over three years ago, and last spring I was hired to teach private and group classes and started my small business to sell my work at local art markets and online. 

When did you become interested in the arts? 
I've been interested in the arts for as long as I can remember. I think it's something that I always knew that I wanted to pursue, but back at GPS I didn't know exactly what that would entail. I imagine I thought I would pursue performing arts primarily rather than visual. 

Did you participate in any art classes or extracurriculars while at GPS?
Mainly I was a member of Terpsichord from sophomore through senior year and was president my senior year. I also took the required art classes, of course, and I remember taking an extra semester or two of studio art/drawing.

How have the arts impacted your life?
The arts have been a constant throughout my life, so much so that I feel like they are my life rather than just something that has an impact. I feel that art has given me a creative lens and approach to life that allows me to find beauty and inspiration all around me. It's been central to how I move through the world for as long as I can remember, and I imagine that feeling will stick with me no matter the particular medium I'm focused on at a given time.  

What does it mean to you to be able to express yourself through art?
Expressing myself through art means that I get to witness myself through a variety of lenses and watch myself change over time. I get to look back at artwork that I made years ago and feel what I was feeling without necessarily being in that same place in my life, and I get to be curious about what the art that I’m making now says about where I am, even if I don’t have exact words for it yet. 

Why is it important that we highlight Black artists?
I think it's important to highlight Black artists because even though Black people have been heavily influential and often times appropriated in most, if not all, art forms within the US and around the world, there's still great inequity when it comes to access to resources, opportunities, and platforms to share and be credited for our work. It’s also important that kids and young artists who are looking for examples of themselves in the fields they want to pursue can see other Black artists making their way through the art world in a way that helps younger generations see that it’s possible for them, too. 

What did your time at GPS mean to you? How did it shape you?
GPS was a space for me to be supported in developing my artistic side as well as grow on the academic side. It was, of course, stressful at times trying to balance the workload and my creative pursuits, but both the teachers who saw the artist in me and the curriculum that allows students to have a balance between the “desk work” and the creative work kind of set the tone for how my time in college and beyond (so far) would go. There were also many unique spaces, like in Laurel Zahrobsky’s dance class (shout out Letters from Rifka dances!), where we got to explore the overlap between the two “sides.” This was important in developing the understanding that art is in all aspects of life and doesn’t have to be siloed into just studio time. I’d say it set me up well, especially as I start my own business, to be able to step into my creative flow when it’s time to do that, but also have the capacity to organize myself and sit down and learn how to do the more mental, administrative side of the work in order to create a structure for my artistry to thrive.