Welcome to the place where I talk about myself…A.K.A. the most daunting and terrifying prospect for me! (Seriously, whenever I have to do introductions and tell everyone “a little bit about myself,” I panic and say whatever first comes to mind which is always something super weird.)
I guess I’ll start with introductions!
I’m Amara Andrew. I’m an archivist, historian, illustrator, and lover of the most perfect combination in existence: tacos and tequila.
My Story Begins in a Beautiful Stucco House in the Middle of the Desert…
I was born and raised in Arizona and I seriously miss the sunshine (and heat!) every single day that I’ve lived in Chicago. Why did I end up in Chicago, you ask?
Well, upon graduating from high school, I wanted to move away from the endless vacation vibe of Arizona to a grittier, urban environment. I originally intended to move to Manhattan after getting accepted to one of the top art schools in the country, but there was just one MAJOR problem: money.
So, I settled on the next best urban environment: Chicago. My mom’s family is from Chicago, so it also felt like a nice transition into adulthood without being totally on my own.
Community College: the Best Money Saving Move
Once I moved to Chicago, I wanted to be smart with my money.
I had a serious reality check when I started looking into the prices of colleges and, at the relentless urging of my mom, finally gave in to attending community college for my first year of college.
I have to admit: attending community college first was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Not only did I save a shit ton of money, but I was also able to try out a few unique classes that I, otherwise, might not have been able to do due to either financial or course restrictions at universities. I took courses ranging from illustration to fashion design to metalworking…it was awesome! (Not to mention I changed my major about a dozen times while taking all of these classes. I just loved every class I took!)
The Problem with Choosing What You Want to Do for the Rest of Your Life When You’re Only 18
(Spoiler alert: I changed my major…a lot.)
After getting my core requirements completed for a fraction of the cost, I was accepted to Columbia College Chicago, a private art school located in downtown Chicago.
Even though I had taken a bunch of interesting classes in community college, I was still a little fuzzy on what I wanted to major in. I decided to shift my attention to graphic design because I was told that it was a safer, more modern version of illustration.
That’s when shit got real.
I honestly never loved anything more than illustration, but when you repeatedly hear how difficult life is going to be and that you will constantly struggle as an artist, it does make you panic a little bit. (Especially when you have no choice but to be entirely financially independent!)
From graphic design, I switched gears to advertising art direction because I thought I could make more money doing that. I really hated advertising. It made me miserable, angry, and I hated trying to sell people stupid shit.
To blow off some steam, I enrolled in a few art history courses. After my first day of class, I visited my guidance counselor and changed my major to art history. I knew this was my new love.
I graduated from Columbia with my Bachelor of Arts in Art History. My undergraduate thesis was titled “Rediscovering the Authoritative Female Figure in Italian Renaissance Portraiture” and I even won the Hollis Sigler prize for it! Woohoo!
Adventures in Grad School…Yikes.
During my last year of undergrad, I had applied to a few Art History grad school programs and was accepted to all of them. I decided to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago that fall since I felt like it would be an easier transition (not to mention I had met my boyfriend Jeff at that time and that kept me here in Chicago).
Holy shit was I unprepared for grad school.
I know I could have taken a year off to relax a little bit after finishing undergrad, but, again, financial independence.
Grad school was an absolute whirlwind, but it was also an amazingly educational time period. I wish I had slept more so that I could remember more things from that time, but oh well!
There were definitely some days when I wondered if I was cut out for academia. This was easily one of the most stressful periods in my life as I had a lot going on in such a short amount of time. There were lots of growing pains, especially because I came from a hands-on art background versus an overly academic one, but it was all worth it.
I graduated from UIC with my Masters in Art History and my thesis was titled “Another Way to Consider Absorption: Anxiety about Domesticity in the Salon Paintings of Chardin and Greuze.”
Basically, I told Michael Fried to shove it.
How I Figured out that Art History Majors Could Actually Get Jobs
While I attended Columbia, I worked in the Rare Book room at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library and enjoyed it so much that I sought out a position at Columbia in their Archives & Special Collections. I fucking LOVED IT!
So, when I started at UIC, I sought out employment in the Special Collections & University Archives department and it just so happened that they had ONE opening.
Talk about the right place at the right time!
I started working there the summer before I started grad school and I’ve been there ever since!
My Current Sitch
With my years of experience in academia, historic preservation, writing, and drawing, I figured why not try to take all of my knowledge in those areas and help people?
I hope you’ll stick around and see where this goes! I look forward to sharing my journey with you 🙂
Don’t be afraid to reach out with any questions, comments, or if you just want to say howdy! 🙂