The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper

Arts and Entertainment

College Artists from the Class of 2021

By Staff Writers Anvi Kalucha & Brooke Zheng

From theatre to art to music, MSJ is home to hundreds of creative minds, some of whom hope to continue their artistic journeys beyond high school. Despite a difficult senior year due to online learning, these members of the Class of 2021 are continuing to pursue the arts professionally in college.

Kevin Huang

Communications & Theatre, Purdue University

This fall, Senior Kevin Huang will attend Purdue University and hopes to major in communications with a minor or double major in theatre. From a young age, Huang fell in love with watching actors and actresses on the silver screen. At first, Huang saw theatre as a hobby, taking part in Homecoming skits and mini skits in his Spanish class. Over the years, he came to accept his passion for theatre, but coming to the decision to pursue performing arts wasn’t an easy process: “Facing Asian stereotypes was an obstacle. The idea that Asians should be working in STEM because jobs in STEM means stable jobs … People [told] me that you can’t do it because you’re Asian, you don’t have the confidence, and people won’t pick you because of the color of your skin,” he said. Huang believes in diverse representation, especially in the acting industry where he believes there aren’t enough people of color. For underclassmen who are also facing stereotypes against going into the acting field, Huang said, “Just follow your heart, because if you decide to major in something like biology, but you really want to do theatre instead, you’re just going to suffer, so just do what you want. If your parents don’t support you … try a minor or join theatre clubs in college or high school.”

Krystal Mao

Music & Business, UC Los Angeles

Senior Krystal Mao entered high school with one clear goal: to become a professional singer. Her sister, an alumna from the Class of 2016, is also a music major, which influenced Mao to pursue music and business at UCLA in the fall. Her interest in singing stemmed from her participation in her elementary school choir, which led to Mao joining various singing groups until she eventually began to pursue it more seriously in singing competitions. Her journey was not without its obstacles though. “When I was younger, I used to be very shy and never used to talk to anyone. If you asked me to go on stage and sing, I would probably think you were crazy. But now, I do it without hesitation,” Mao said. Beyond her shyness, she also used to feel a sense of imposter syndrome at MSJ, where she worries about fitting into the STEM-oriented environment. To any artist going through the same thing, Mao said, “It doesn’t matter that your path is different from the others … Art is just as important as STEM, so stick to your own goals and you’ll make it.” 

Kiran Patel

Character Animation, California Institute of the Arts

Heavily inspired by the Pixar movies he used to watch as a child, Senior Kiran Patel was motivated to study animation at the California Institute of the Arts. Deciding on character animation as his major was not a difficult choice; “To me, it’s the best way to tell stories. And for someone interested in telling stories, and also someone who likes to draw, it is the perfect art form,” he said. However, Patel’s path to becoming confident in himself as an artist had its own twists and turns; he described how he dealt with issues of comparison and insecurity: “There’s always gonna be someone better than you. And that is sometimes really hard to accept,” he said. Patel encourages artists to set their own paths instead of comparing themselves. “The best way to see improvement is to compare yourself to yourself earlier, and you’ll see how much your skills have developed over time,” he said.

Kevin Yang

Entertainment Design, ArtCenter College of Design

From watching movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to learning different forms of art from his grandfather, Senior Kevin Yang knew from an early age he wanted to pursue art. In the fall, Yang will be attending the ArtCenter College of Design to study Entertainment Design, where he will learn to conceptualize and design all aspects of entertainment media, such as video games or movies. Despite Yang knowing early on that he wanted to pursue art in the future, he faced challenges that stood in the way of his goals. “The biggest obstacle was overcoming the “starving artist” stereotype, which is a false idea that professional artists can’t make any money … At times, I didn’t know if pursuing art was the right decision,” Yang said. However, as he learned more about the wide range of careers in the art field, he became more comfortable in pursuing his passions. To any underclassmen hoping to pursue artistic careers, Yang said, “Don’t think you’re doing something wrong just because you’re going in a different direction than everyone else. Instead, try to embrace that difference, look ahead, and keep pushing forward. Be open to trying new things and jump at every opportunity you can get, but always reserve some time for yourself to relax and unwind.”

Cover image by A&E Editor Megh Basu

Photos courtesy of senior artists

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