Not too far from the prestige at NYU and Columbia is an institute quietly bustling within Brooklyn.
Sculptures roam the campus and visitation is welcome to outsiders as the art world is part of our streets. This school gives promise
and structure to our country and it follows all of the old regimes that any top school would contain as it leads current students to a form of
legitimacy. The Pratt Institute is a walk into history and a treadmill further into the future.
I came about visiting the campus by profiling a promising artist named Michelle Alfonso, who goes by the name Instagrandmaw. Her years have been dedicated to
this institute and she is ready to graduate and move onto her career of illustration and beyond. Michelle's work contains the wit of a Hallmark card and a touch of sentiment , adorned with her quirky illustraions of the most iconic hip-hop artists of the past or current. She's gained success creating holiday cards through her online Etsy shop and in local stores in NYC. There not your typical greeting cards. For example: Feeling like your Mom doesn’t
know how much you appreciate her? No problem. Grab a “Dear Mama” card embodied with Tupac on the front and no other words will have to be said.
Think your bae hasn’t been feeling you as of late? Revitalize your relationship. Grab them a “Where Would I Be Without You” card covered by Ja Rule and
your nights of getting the cold turned shoulder are about to end. The cards are more than cards. They are real poetic meanings that breathe a whole new form of
appreciation in our lives.
My spirit was intrigued by the work done here. While e-cards had their fame for awhile online there is still a deep market out there for physical cards and imploring a certain feeling to someone real to you. I was convinced I had to reach out and get a glimpse into another artists’ world. I was then invited to
get a tour of the institute in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. I had no desire to pass on this and within a week’s notice I met up and I received the grand tour.
It’s midterms week and Michelle (her real name) was working on an upcoming piece for one of her courses. I delved in and captured her in an empty room
with lots of space and open thinking to be had. A macbook was open and a paint palette on a USPS priority mail slip was slowly drying. I suggested we
played the new Drake album and she would continue painting - courtesy to one of the artist’s she’s featured numerous times on her holiday cards. It was no
doubt that we had the same music interest and inspiration that we spoke of further inspirations for our craft.
Thereafter a few listens to some tracks - we headed out to the halls and outdoors out and about the campus. Michelle shared stories of her time at the fine
institute and with all the history this school has had there are no short of interesting tidbits along the way. The school oozed with hallways that would creek as you walked along and windows older than your mom and grandmother’s age put together. I was fascinated by this semi-ivy league and east coast feel. There
were no students there just to “hang out”. Everyone was working on something or reading. This was a school above all others that I’ve stepped into and the foundation of hard work is implemented deeply.
All of what I was shown gave me a greater respect for those that have the opportunity to learn here. And another respect for someone like Michelle who’s already made an impact on many lives through her work. She’s already received the exposure from Complex magazine and will no doubt catch the eye of artists to come. When I asked Michelle what’s next after school - like all students we don’t really know what’s to come. But her ideas keep flowing and she gave me a glimpse into a character she’s drafted for an upcoming children’s book she’s working on. As long as she keeps the progression going there’s no doubt that the doors will remain open.
The tour was finished and Michelle continued to work on her piece. I felt guilty for leaving early as I felt that I also needed the excuse to stay and work on something. That’s the atmosphere that a school like Pratt Institute leaves you. You’re not just going there for the name - but for the game of cards it hands right over to you.
I remember reading somewhere that our generation has seen more art than our parents - combined. And some. Tumblr and Instagram has given us the infinite daily dosage of expression without having to step outside and have to deal with people. But let’s not forget - people are who made the art in the first place. And it’s the people you can still connect with at any given moment to see what may transpire. Walking thru the halls of the school brought a live gallery feel to my experience and hearing about the deadlines, struggle, and various woes that go into placing the art in front makes it a more special kind of interaction. Art forever lives outside these walls confining your Apple product. And Michelle is leading the procedure by personally mailing her work to your front door. A gift that no technology can hope to achieve - yet.
Visit her shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Instagrandmaw