Anya Shire-Plumb's Brandeis career is a work of art

Anya Shire-Plumb standing at a railling with a tuscan town in the distance behind her

Anya in Florence during her midyear semester

If there is anyone who is fully immersed in the artistic opportunities that Brandeis has to offer, it would be Anya Shire-Plumb '22. This prolific Studio Arts and Psychology double-major sat down with me to tell me how Brandeis has allowed her to expand her artistic endeavors.

Anya first tapped into what Brandeis’ art community has to offer during the summer before her senior year at high school. She attended BIMA: Jewish Arts at Brandeis University, a pre-college art program here on campus. It was there that she got a glimpse of what attending Brandeis as a studio arts major might be like. 

After Anya graduated high school, she decided to take a gap year before starting college at Brandeis as a part of the class of 2022. She chose to spend her gap year at Middlesex University in London completing a Foundation Year in their fine arts program. “It was literally just a year of creativity,” she told me when describing the freedom that came with the Middlesex University’s contemporary approach.

Once Anya’s gap year came to an end, she had another semester as a Brandeis midyear to explore her creative aspirations. She decided to study abroad in Florence, Italy where she took classes that would transform her experience as an artist. “My gap year may have been more focused on contemporary art, but Florence was the start of my dive into classical fine art techniques,” she told me when describing the drawing class that she took during her semester abroad. By going back to a more basic level and re-learning the foundations of drawing, Anya found a renewed appreciation for the process.

After completing her first year at Brandeis, Anya decided that she could not help but once again take advantage of another international opportunity to learn about and create art. She embarked on her experience with Brandeis in Siena, an intensive 2-course summer art program. “It was the perfect add-on to the foundation I had set in Florence.”

oil painting of a woman with long brown hair and a red sweater in front of a blank wall

A self-portrait of the artist.

Upon returning from the program in Siena, Anya applied for and began working as a Brandeis in Siena Ambassador for the Brandeis Office of Study Abroad. Along with the convenience of an on-campus job, Anya loves working with the other folks in the Office of Study Abroad. “The study abroad office is so friendly,” she told me. “It’s exciting to be around other students and staff that are as passionate about study abroad as I am.”

Just about anywhere on campus that allows for artistic expression, Anya has tested the waters or dove right in. Although her favorite medium has always been pencil—with charcoal and oil paint coming in close behind—Brandeis’ studio arts program has allowed her to explore new areas of art that aren’t typically her focus. Last semester she took a sculpture class which allowed her to work outside of her comfort zone. This semester she is taking a printmaking class, an area she is excited to revisit for the first time since her creative gap year at Middlesex University.

Outside of class, Anya has had her work shown in several exhibits on campus. After her summer in Siena, her artwork was shown in the exhibit “New Work from Home and Abroad -- Work by Award Winning Students” that took place last September in the Goldman-Schwartz Studios. Just recently from February 12th to March 1st, her work was exhibited in the “Rise Up” show that featured work from Brandeis’ Studio Arts majors and minors in the Dreitzer Gallery. Anya is also excited to be designing for this year’s Liquid Latex show that is taking place on March 24th.

Anya is involved in a number of non-academic artistic projects as well. She runs an art instagram, owns a nail art business, and is currently working on a mural at Gann Academy, the high school she graduated from right here in Waltham.

When Anya is not working on her next creation, she is involved in a variety of non-art related activities on campus. She is the social media chair on the executive board for Students Talking About Relationships (S.T.A.R.), a peer support resource available to Brandeis students, as well as an active member of Brandeis Climate Justice.

Looking forward, Anya can see herself pursuing a career in a number of areas where she has found interests. Although art and psychology are her main aspirations, she is also interested in languages as she speaks Spanish, Hebrew, and Italian. Whether she ends up in a career such as art therapy where psychology and art intersect, or something totally unrelated to her courses of study, she knows that cultivating her passion for art will always be an integral part of her life.


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