If you were to ask any Oregon State University student what the true “hub” of campus is, I can say without a doubt that a good percentage of them would answer “the Memorial Union.” Whether they’ve met for a study group here, gotten a bite to eat, done homework, or even taken a nap, the MU is a location that is familiar in the eyes of every student who calls themselves a Beaver. But through the hustling and bustling of the Memorial Union lobby sits what appears to be an unlikely pair indulging in a cup of coffee from Java Stop while engaged in a seemingly riveting conversation. To the untrained eye, these two people possess a multitude of differences, but if you were to gain access to their conversation, you would find that, in actuality, these two have a special bond, and that their only real difference is an obvious, yet irrelevant one: their age.
Now, most of us have heard the old saying “age is just a number,” right? Though we hear this common expression uttered on an almost daily basis, just how often do we see it in person? Lucky for us here at Oregon State, we are able to see a perfect personification of the phrase right here on campus through the constantly budding friendship of two of the university’s most determined, hard-working art students: sophomore Paris Myers, 17, and fifth year senior Amy Isler Gibson, 61.
Defying the Odds
Myers defied the odds of your average OSU student by entering her freshman year at the ripe age of 16. That may sound crazy to most of us, but little do we know that Myers had already immersed herself in a university-level learning environment after having taken multiple classes through the online program at Johns Hopkins University during her high school career at Crescent Valley High School.
Her passions are divided amongst an abundance of topics, which explains her double major in Bioengineering and Art, along with her double minor in Photography and Art History. While art has been a part of her life for nearly as long as she can remember, her love of science is a primary reason she chose to pursue it.
“Art is meaningful in so many ways, and, though some may not think of it this way, is as legitimate in explanation as most branches of science,” she said.
Part of her journey here at OSU is finding the answer to the question, “Is art illustrative or exploratory?”
Gibson, however, is defying the odds in a completely different way. After studying at the University of Oregon and earning an extensive background in psychology and philosophy, she worked as both a psychotherapist and philosophy teacher for several years (she even taught here at OSU!). Although, much like her counterpart, Myers, Gibson found herself yearning to pursue her multiple interests as well, which is what drove her to return to school at Oregon State as an Art major so late in the game.
“Art requires a level of closeness within a community, which the program here really offers,” she said. “A tight knit community in art can completely change you. I always say it’s humane and rigorous at the same time.”
How Did They Meet?
Though the pair both experienced the feeling of diving in head first to a university setting as what some would call an “unconventional” student, their commonalities weren’t entirely realized until the Art and Science departments’ collaborative “Creative Coast” trip of 2017. The trip takes OSU students to different parts of Oregon, showcasing each stop’s unique beauty, and gives them the opportunity to learn more about the state they call home.
“We had a very similar experience on that particular trip,” Gibson said. “There was an incredibly important part where we were taught about the history of the Native Americans at Cape Perpetua, and learned that it was one of the places where they were starved out.”
While not many of their peers seemed affected by this newfound information, both Gibson and Myers found themselves having a physiological reaction and wondering, “How could I live here for such a long period of time without knowing such essential history?”
It was this mutual understanding that brought the two together for the rest of the trip, and eventually led them to the goal of finding art’s deeper meaning.
Where Are They Now?
Almost a year after the Creative Coast trip, the pair are constantly sharing ideas to collaborate on, including a project with a focus on the coast. Both their shared belief in art’s effect on knowledge and epistemology, and their mutual ability to always say yes is driving them into fresh, creative ideas almost daily.
“Having Paris here is something that constantly reminds me that I am not alone in this,” Gibson said. “My fear, when I came [to OSU], was that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. But the fact that our experiences are so paralleled is incredibly comforting.”
“With Amy, I feel that I’m treated as an equal,” Myers said. “We both think so highly of each other, and have this sense of togetherness that I believe art truly requires.”
The two agreed that the age difference has never drastically impacted their friendship, and has actually bettered their ability to collaborate on projects.
“Our difference in age really has nothing to do with the way we treat each other,” Gibson said. “It’s sometimes a bonus in that it expands our way of seeing and gives us that extra edge to constantly challenge and root for each other.”
If you’re interested in keeping up with Myers and Gibson, their work is often seen in local galleries from Newport to Eugene, and, of course, right here on OSU campus! Be sure to check out the School of Art & Communication to find any future art shows so you can see the two of them in action.
School of Art & Communication Contact Information:
Fairbanks Hall @ Oregon State University
Phone #: (541) 737-4745