In February, Susie Little was sitting in figure-painting class at the Carver Center for Art and Technology when her guidance counselor came in and pulled her out of the classroom. Usually, when a guidance counselor pulls a student out of class, it's either for something really good or something really bad. That day, it was something really good.
Susie's mom was waiting for her outside the classroom, holding an envelope from the admissions department of Cooper Union in New York City. Last year, Susie, a 17-year-old senior, and her mom attended one of Cooper Union's open houses, where Susie presented her art portfolio for review.
The school liked her portfolio, and she went home with a coveted early acceptance application. She had a month to write 15 short essays and submit a rigorous art portfolio, which included some of her previous work and some new assignments. For one of the assignments, she had to do a series of images based on the etymology of the word "ephemeral."
"It was really a lot of stuff to do in a short period of time," Susie said.
Although she sent out applications to 14 schools, Cooper was her No. 1 choice.
"I'd always wanted to go there," she said. "I really didn't know that much about it, but then we went to the open house, and I just really loved it."
Susie knew Cooper's art program accepted only 60 students each year, because it provides free tuition to all of them, worth a total of $100,000 per student ($25,000 per year). So she worked hard on her portfolio, sent it in and waited.
And in February, it paid off. Big time. Her mom hadn't opened the envelope from Cooper's admissions department, but she'd held it up to the light, seen it was an acceptance letter and was so excited she told Susie on the spot. Ecstatic, Susie went back into class and told everybody the good news.
Susie graduated earlier this week , and instead of taking tons of time off, she's preparing for her first professional exhibition. Called Emerging Artist: Susie Little, it opens Saturday at gallery M.I.M. at M.I.M. studios. For the past year or so, Susie and her mother have helped M.I.M.'s owner Jo-Ann Aiken with her shows. A few months ago, Susie told Aiken she was graduating this year, and Aiken decided to throw her a show.
Emerging Artist: Susie Little consists of about 25 pieces, including paintings, photography, jewelry and mixed media. There's no theme - it's just a variety of work that represents the kinds of things Susie's been doing recently. She's put a lot of time into the pieces, especially two 3-by-4-foot embroidered panels that took about a month each to complete.
"I love how involved some of my work is, and how long it takes," she said. "When I work on something, when it comes out, it has to come out the way I want it. Not exactly how I envision it - things will change and that's fine - but I work and work at things until they come out just the way I want them."
As school wound down and Susie finished her artwork, she noticed she had some free time. She said she was sitting in front of the television when she thought, 'I have to be doing something; how can I not be doing something?' so she started drawing in a new sketchbook. She says if she already does artwork for fun in her free time, she knows she'd love to do it for a living.
"Emerging Artist: Susie Little" opens Saturday and runs through June 18 at gallery M.I.M. in M.I.M. studios, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 130. There will be an opening reception from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Gallery hours vary, call 410-663-6623 or visit www.madeinmetal.net.
For more art events, see Page 34.