“I wonder how high we can pile up the sand?
“Let’s make a canal or a river!”
“Does the sand get redder than this? What’s the reddest it can go?”
“This is so cool!”
One would expect these phrases to burst out from a bunch of kids playing in a sandbox. One would not expect said kids to be four Vassar college students in the Geology department building, none of whom were geology majors, and at least one who had never set foot in the building. Yet there we were: two seniors, a sophomore and a first-year playing with sand and colors. Our imaginations buzzed with activity, as we were fueled by a curious, young energy.
The feeling of youthful joy becomes elusive on an increasingly familiar campus. To an impressionable first-year in their first semester, Vassar is an undiscovered, uncharted world of exciting possibilities. Yet, Vassar quickly becomes all-too comfortable. The campus space seems to shrink as one’s mental map is filled, and the range of possibilities narrows as routines calcify.
For Sam Lim ’19, a senior with nearly four years of Vassar life under his belt, “elusive” does not mean “impossible.” He took it upon himself to break away from his routine, finding new places and engaging in new events on campus. So when I asked him if he was interested in being featured in The Miscellany News, the opportunity presented another chance for fresh discovery.
Lim offered to take me around to some of the areas he frequented as a senior. Sophia Yoo ’19, a friend of Lim, volunteered to drive us around and give us access to the art studios. Yvette Hu ’22, the Misc’s Photo Editor, joined us to take photos. With our four-person motley crew, we set out from the Main building for the art studio near the Safety and Security Office, and then off to the sculpture studio near the ALANA center. Yoo had first introduced these spaces to Lim, who was now introducing them to Hu and me.
A sheer abundance of objects and unexplained art crowded the art studios: drawers upon drawers of supplies; complex machinery with serrated edges and numerous moving parts; stacks of wood, pipe and other materials; paintings, pictures and prints of different palettes and styles sprawled all over the floors and walls.
Yet what most caught Lim’s attention was the dark room, where students develop film and photo negatives. The room had to be kept extremely dark to avoid damaging the light-sensitive cellophane. There were various light settings and colors for the room, and even a rotating half-cylinder door, to prevent light that a conventional open door would let in. More objects abounded: trays of various shapes and sizes, canisters of chemicals and their strong accompanying smell, black and white strips of still frames.
“I just think this room is so cool, and after I saw it I actually tried to get into a photography class this semester,” Lim explained. “The class was full so I couldn’t take it, but it’s still cool I got to come here and learn about this place.” When I asked how he felt about the timing of his encounters with the dark room and his interest in photography, he nonchalantly quipped, “At the end of the day, it’s better late than never.” The end result didn’t seem to matter as much as the process: the thrill of venturing off the trail and finding sweet berries of inspiration.
After visiting the art studios, we briefly stopped at the recording studio of WVKR, Vassar’s local radio station. Here, students and locals can get behind the mic and experience what it’s like to be a radio host, or to get their original music featured. From the moment we stepped foot in the studio, the stark contrast to the art studios was striking. Where the art studios were large, loud parties of colors and art, the recording studio was a relaxed library of black shelves, labeled by genre and lined with neatly arranged CDs.
Lim and Yoo both hosted in their senior years, and described some of the DJ duties, including PSAs, song requests and so forth. Yoo participated regularly in a program established with her friends to showcase a variety of Korean songs of different times, origins and personal significance. The recording studio is another fertile soil for the fruits of inspiration.
As we took a moment to lounge in the space, I asked Lim if he had any concluding remarks for our radio studio visit. He responded by giving additional context to his senior year, namely other activities he explored, like watching comedic performances and sports matches, before delivering his reflection. “Vassar is full of all these opportunities, and really talented people doing really cool things,” he said. “I appreciate what everyone does more and feel more strongly connected to the Vassar community.”
Just as the interview was winding down, Lim remembered he had not been to the Geology department building, which boasts its own small museum. The four of us promptly made our way over. Situated in Ely Hall, a red-brick building with arched, wooden double-doors, the museum exudes earthiness and age, with beige walls and brown wooden display cases filled with fossils, rocks and yellowed documents. We circled around the display cases before spotting, directly below a projector, a sandbox.
Rather than a traditional venue for childhood skirmishes, this sandbox turned out to be an interactive topographical map. As we experimented with the sand, we realized that the projector shone a spectrum of light across the sand, with each color representing a certain elevation. If we put our hands high enough in front of the projector, a dark blue light moved fluidly to lower points of elevation, which we speculated represented water. We were completely lost in the sandbox before anyone realized.
Ultimately, Lim not only shared but embodied the new lens he gained, seeing the world less like a familiar dirt path and more like a colorful, communal sandbox.