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Student Spotlight: Ivy Shonka ’22 Fifth-Year Emerging Artist


What comes to mind when you think of feeling connected to or disconnected from the environment? Perhaps “connection” feels like a walk through the Natural Lands and maybe “disconnection” is logging on to a Zoom class during a blizzard instead of having the real snow day we all deserved. The concept of environmental connection/disconnect is one that Ivy Shonka ’22 ponders often as one of five students in St. Olaf’s Fifth-Year Emerging Artist Program. As an emerging artist, Shonka and her four peers, Kate Helin-Burnette ’22, Aimi Dickel ’22, Sylvie Deters ’22, and Theo Mattson ’22, work on art projects during the school year that will be showcased in separate exhibitions. Of the three Fifth-Year Emerging Artists exhibitions, they will be held at the Groot Gallery on campus,  the Northfield Arts Guild, and the Truckstop Gallery in Minneapolis. 

Students are encouraged to work in a variety of mediums and experiment with their thematic interests because the Fifth-Year Art Program was designed to give student artists the space to dig deeper into who they are as an artist before jumping into graduate school or a professional career. For Shonka, this creative freedom is both the most rewarding and most challenging part of being an artist.

“We have so much freedom in how we use our time, it makes us create balance in life,” Shonka said. “The most rewarding part is the opportunity to overcome this challenge and form my own independent art practice outside of what is prescribed through art classes.” 

How does Shonka overcome the challenge of creative freedom? She turns to another passion she discovered during her time on the Hill. “My environmental studies coursework has really influenced my artwork both in terms of how I think about nature and the environment around me,” Shonka said.

Her interest in the environment goes beyond the classroom as well. In the summer of 2022, she completed an internship at a regenerative agriculture farm in Northfield. “My current art relates to my experience of working on a farm this summer because on the farm you’re interacting with your hands on a daily basis and you’re outside. Then there are feelings of disconnection with coming back into the studio and trying to represent or replicate the natural world,” Shonka said.

Amidst her endeavor to represent the natural world, Shonka gravitates towards woodblock printmaking and embroidering prints. She has also developed sculpture curation skills during her experience as a TA in the art department. 

Are you ager to see the inspiring environmentally-themed art that Shonka has been working on this year? You can support her at the Emerging Artist Show at the Northfield Art Guild from March 15 through April 8. Additionally, Shonka’s work will be at the Truckstop Gallery from May 3 through 11. You won’t want to miss it!