Madi Clower ’22

As a student at GPS, Madi Clower ’22 made a name for herself as an incredible artist and president of the BIPOC Forum. She was always working to ensure all students had a safe space and felt heard, and was appreciated by peers and faculty alike. Today, she is a sophomore at East Tennessee State University, where she is majoring in fashion merchandising and marketing and minoring in studio arts and is a member of the Kappa Delta sorority.

What are your hopes for the future?
I have a lot of hopes for my future. At this time in my life, I am learning that my hopes and dreams may not work out or maybe they're not actually what I want to pursue. I started college with a drive to pursue a Studio Art major in hopes of getting into graduate school to become a licensed art therapist because I thought, "Wow, that is what is going to make me successful." But when I finished my second semester of sophomore year, I had a realization that art is my passion and I didn't want it to turn into a chore. I have now changed my major to Fashion Merchandising and Marketing in hopes of being a visual merchandiser or a personal fashion consultant. I also want to become a licensed aesthetician and start a private business. 

When did you become interested in the arts? 
I've been interested in art since I was a child. As I have gotten older, my interest in expanding my techniques piqued, and I was looking for all of the resources for me to excel. I became fascinated with art history and learning the origin and the figures who paved the way for this skill. I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in art in some form once I recognized that you can find art everywhere if you have an eye for it. 

What art classes or extracurriculars did you participate in while at GPS?
I utilized the art department so much at GPS. I participated in Art I and II with Mrs. Glasscock and Mrs. Brock. I took AP Art with Mrs. Yu during my senior year.

How have the arts impacted your life?
Growing up, I wasn't very good with words when conveying how I felt, so I expressed myself through art. It became my therapy and I was able to learn so much about myself and my habits. Art has also grown my worldview. I've learned how fine arts are different to each culture and used uniquely. I try to incorporate something new into my work to push myself beyond my comfort zone, and it helps me grow.

What does it mean to you to be able to express yourself through art?
Art improves your wellbeing by heightening your creativity and improving your skill sets. It reduces stress and anxiety by giving you a space to just let it out with no repercussions. Because there is a whole fine arts community, it isn't hard to find friends or people who have the same problems that you have. Having the space to express yourself with no judgment is so great for your mental health. Living in a world driven by social media and the news pushes people to be under constant scrutiny by others to where we are so scared to even sit alone by ourselves in a room with our thoughts. Art silences that fear, brings out your inner confidence, and builds you up. 

Why is it important that we highlight Black artists?
It is important to highlight Black artists because many chose to utilize their talents to express their concerns about social injustices and inequity. Black people's artistic expression calls for social change and activism. One of the first traces of art was found in Lascaux, France, in an enclosed cave with preserved finger paintings. Indigenous peoples finger-painted figures and animals to teach, tell ancestral stories, and create maps for generations to come. They wanted to keep their culture alive, the good and the bad parts. This was the only way they could keep a record of their lives as their native language was not written at the time. Much like the indigenous peoples, Black people want to keep their story alive, the good and the bad. Holding onto history is a reminder of what was in parallel to what could be. Art is the visual representation of the reminder that we as a society can do so much better in how we choose to treat each other based on the color of our skin.

What did your time at GPS mean to you? 
I had a great four years at GPS, but I always felt like I was there for so much longer. I had two older sisters attending GPS when I was pretty young, so I was always at GPS for softball games, plays, musicals, and so much more. I never knew that I would be able to experience GPS for myself. If I could turn my time at GPS into a quote it would be, "You've got to take the good with the bad." GPS is an academically rigorous school with some really fun events, but you have to learn how to balance the two. Academics have always been hard for me, but my teachers at GPS worked with me to make it easier for me to understand based on what I needed. I always just wanted to have fun, go to the dances, and football games. But for me to do those things I had to excel in my classes and work hard. Balancing these two gave me motivation, increased my work ethic, and helped me figure out what I needed to do to be successful in classes. Not saying that I was your straight-A student, but I learned some very hard lessons that are so important to learning about myself and how I function. I wouldn't trade my time at GPS for the world because I still have that community as an alumna. The teachers are still rooting for me even though I graduated two years ago!