Welcome to The Art of Athletes, a new blog series showcasing the underrated creative minds behind Pfeiffer’s athletes. To begin the series, I, Lea Hilton, will provide readers with a deeper understanding of the bridge between artists and athletes on campus. In the end, I would like Pfeiffer students to be interconnected with one another through creativity, art, and storytelling.
Tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in the bridge between art and athletics?
Both art and sports have become therapeutic for me. While growing up, I did not have a dad and my mom struggled a lot which eventually took a major toll on my mental health. Sports always came naturally to me, but in middle school it brought me tons of anger because we lost a lot. Going from a youth team that was very successful in wins to a team that had a losing streak of ten, I found myself frustrated often. I needed another way to escape from my recurring thoughts. Ultimately, I sought out poetry in middle school to express my feelings instead of being angry. While poetry was my safe haven, I took an interest in painting and drawing. Although I am definitely not the best at either, art became a stress reliever, especially when I paint my poetry on canvases. In high school, I picked up four sports: volleyball, soccer, track, and indoor track. This was also a way to escape, but when I went home at night, my mind wandered, and I used my artistic abilities to relieve my built-up emotions. I think that it is important to step outside of your comfort zone of athletics and take on something that brings you a different kind of peace. Sports give me a rollercoaster of emotions, but creating art soothes me and gives me a sense of tranquility.
There appears to be a disunion between artists and athletes—even one that extends beyond our university. Why do you think this is so?
I believe that when you come to college as an athlete, your teammates are the first people you meet and create a bond with. While this may not be true for everyone, this was true for me. In a sense, I was embarrassed to be associated with different groups of people because I did not want to stray from what I was comfortable with. In fact, the times I did dare to stray away, I got called out for it which ultimately made me fear reaching out to others who weren’t my teammates. I think that athletes on any college campus get a notion that they are not really meant to be in different groups such as people who create art. Also, when people see you play your sport in a game, match, or so on, they automatically associate you with what you do within your sport. Assuming it is like this on other campuses, if you're a good athlete, you are recognized for being a good athlete and not necessarily what you do outside of that. Most of this is stereotypical as well, but as an athlete your image mostly revolves around playing sports and being athletic.
"In fact, the times I did dare to stray away, I got called out for it which ultimately made me fear reaching out to others who weren’t my teammates."
Despite apparent differences, athletes and artists do possess some similarities. What do you perceive these similarities to be, and how can they be used in establishing a stronger connection and encouraging greater unification for students?
Being an athlete and artist has expanded my mind in many ways. While they are two very different things, all aspects seem to click in the same way for me. I can relieve any emotion in some way regardless if I am playing my sport or writing poetry. Both require a form of creativity as well. Within your position or what you are best at in your sport, you normally put your own spin on the way you as an athlete play your game. As a middle hitter, I had to be creative with my hits. Where you place the ball on the court during a game relies heavily on how quick you can think on your feet. I also have to be creative with the calls I make. If I know that one of my plays will not work, I need to be able to call a different play in order to hit the ball where it needs to go. When beginning the sport, you have to try out to be on the team. We may not realize it, but trying out requires creativity too. Putting yourself out there and showing people your talents tests those types of abilities. It is the same way with art. When creating art, you have to be creative or have inspiration for what you are doing.
As it is your hope to strengthen/bolster this seemingly non-existent relationship between these two groups, how will this blog function as a means to fortify a bridge between Pfeiffer artists and athletes?
I hope to strengthen this bridge between Pfeiffer’s artists and athletes by being real and open and finding a connection with other people who feel the same way. When finding athletes who are open about their artistic abilities and writing about their experiences, I want to inspire the rest of the community to take on the arts and dive into a world of creativity. I was always interested in sports because I saw pictures of my mom play when she was younger, but art is something I learned that I was curious about. In reality, it saved me because I had to learn to be patient with my work and enjoy the outcomes. My intentions are to help others and create a better community overall.
What value do you see being produced on our campus as a result of sparking this conversation?
I think that bringing attention to this area of conversation will create unforeseen friendships and will allow people to get a better understanding of the artist behind the athlete. We are so unaware of the talents that our campus holds and I want people to try out different arts to see what they are really capable of and ultimately be more comfortable with sharing what they do off of the field. In terms of building a better community, I strive for cliques to be separated and have people reach out to different groups that they may not necessarily be comfortable with. We may want to ask ourselves who we sit with in the cafeteria. Who sits alone? Do we ever pay attention to the others around us when we are with our team? How do we make other people feel when they are surrounded by us?
While being an athlete I suffered through a knee injury that really changed my perspective on what being an athlete meant. I thought my relationships on the team were permanent, but when you step out of the realm of being an athlete, it almost feels as if you are shunned for doing something that people aren’t used to seeing you do. Being a part of a team does not determine if you are an athlete and I wish this was something I realized sooner. All too often athletes go through different struggles and I can say that my mental health was in shambles after my injury. Poetry was my way out of the thoughts that filled my mind about not being able to play the sport I loved for months. You never know how art can change your environment and the people who fill it unless you try.
"Do we ever pay attention to the others around us when we are with our team?"
What are some suggestions you could give your fellow classmates when seeking a new art to try out and are there any additional forms of art you have your eyes on?
When seeking a new art to try out, be patient and learn your strengths and weaknesses. When expressing my feelings, it was always easier for me to talk about them, but it ended up being very toxic, so I found a new way to speak without verbally speaking. Poetry became my first outlet outside of the sports that I played. I tried drawing and was not very good at it, but it was something I enjoyed doing and never frustrated me. Think about what you already enjoy. If English is something you are good at, try poetry or write a fictional story. If you enjoy sunsets or things that are aesthetically pleasing, seek photography or painting. Art also has its ups and downs, but if you can be patient, creative, and passionate about your work, you cannot fail. A new art form that I seek to try out is playing the guitar. My older brother, my hero, is far beyond musically gifted. I only wish to participate in our amateur family band when I become good at a musical instrument.
Does your work on the field/court inspire your artwork?
My work on the court inspires my artwork in more ways than you could imagine. Ironically, I remember writing my first acrostic poem about volleyball and how it made me feel. The encounters that I have had because of sports, such as my past coaches or the people I have met along the way, influences the types of poems I will write or a painting that I will paint. If I am frustrated about having a bad game or a bad practice, I seek my pen and paper and begin to write. I only hope that it does the same for you.
Where do you think you would be if you had neither?
If I didn’t have sports or art, I probably would not have seen my birthday after age fourteen. Growing up, I had to learn what it was like to do things on my own and go through things by myself. I struggled with my image and I never knew how to control my anger about the situations I faced, but when I played sports, it relieved me of that built-up anger and allowed me to be surrounded by people who were rooting for me. Art came later, but it saved me in a different way. I’ve always loved helping others, but when I could not keep myself afloat, I never knew how to stop giving all of my energy to others and help myself at the same time. Art allowed me to create something that relieved me of those feelings, but also inspired and helped others when they read or saw it. I remember walking around high school wondering if I would be better off dead, now I create art with my fingers and play sports that I love, alive.
"I remember walking around high school wondering if I would be better off dead, now I create art with my fingers and play sports that I love, alive."
Have any questions or suggestions?
Email us: ThePhoenix@pfeiffer.edu