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An interview with the president of ArtSoc

Julia Evans is sitting on a flower-adorned, weathered second hand sofa, surrounded by maps and her own life drawings. “I got this old lady sofa in Bonnington… it was calling my name!” She tells me about vegetarian flat dinners, her plant babies and reading Anna Karenina. “It’s incredible, he’s [Leo Tolstoy] a wizard. Like real life but very structured and quantised in a way. It’s long, but it’s good.”

“As president, I’m the creative director in a way,” says Julia Evans, second term president for Art Soc. “The creative energy of this role is what’s so rewarding – planning projects, finding artists, and sorting out the exhibition.” Julia is a relaxed president who supports the ideas of her committee members, and is there to help out when problems arise – simply put, the kind of leader anyone would be lucky to have. She sees being president for a second consecutive year as an opportunity for her to make the society even better.

As a fifth year chemistry student, she might not appear to be the archetypal Art Soc member on paper, but she is adamant about spreading the message that you can be an artist without studying art. She puts it very poetically: “My day job is a chemist, and at night I become an artist again.” Somewhat contradictory, the society struggles with reaching art students at the university. But to join Art Soc you can be the next Jenny Saville or have no artistic experience whatsoever (and anything in between, of course); the society offers a variety of workshops, classes and collaborations with other societies to appeal to people with different interests.

This year is gonna see the society gradually get back to in-person workshops and socials, which Julia is excited about. “But I hope to keep some things hybrid and make sure workshops can still be accessible for all.” Last year was a challenge, with life drawing classes cancelled due to higher fees and slowed demand, and all workshops moved online. Many people struggled with balancing hybrid learning and society events. There were silver linings however, as the committee managed to find creative solutions. There were online gallery tours, drawing workshops and tutorials, and themed events. Julia hosted a chilled out zine workshop, which was a success. “It was just therapeutic and apparently listening to me talk about sticking things on paper for an hour was nice!”

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For Julia, being president in the midst of a pandemic has been, overall, a fun experience. She explains why the online format has worked well for her personally, “I get most of my joy from seeing a plan executed and seeing people enjoy it. I don’t need to be there in person to get fuelled. I like the creative process, liaising with my committee and then seeing from afar how it’s received.” 

This year, she is hoping to get life drawing classes back up and running. The classes are an integral part of the society with their own dedicated committee members, and they were what drew Julia and many others to the society. Getting them back will be an important piece in returning to normal. 

When I ask about Julia’s own future plans, she’s very clear about her goals. “Regardless of what I do, I wanna have an environmental angle. Develop sustainable materials, maybe vegan paint? I would love combining the two sides, art and chemistry. I get my drive from both, and people don’t seem to see the link half the time.” 

After a few tough years at university, Julia just seems happy with where she is at the moment. It’s the last year of her integrated masters in chemistry, and she’s going to Alicante for a year abroad. “I feel like I now understand what life is like, and how to balance having to feed yourself and still having fun.” 

Image via Museums & Galleries Edinburgh