Tori Watson is passionate about the arts. Majoring in art history and comparative literature and intercultural studies, she also dances in the Counterpoint Dance Company. This summer, she completed a mural in downtown Athens. When she’s not dancing, painting or volunteering, she might be researching Dutch art for her Honors thesis.
A.B. Art History
A.B. Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies
What are some of your UGA highlights?
- I love performing with my student-run dance team, Counterpoint Dance Company. Freshman year, we put together a completely student-run Spring Showcase. We had an amazing turnout, and I loved performing for my friends and family. We put together another Spring Showcase this past spring. Though it was challenging to organize a socially distanced outdoor show, it was so worth it. It was the most fulfilling experience I have had at UGA.
- This past semester, through UNICEF at UGA, I helped organize an event called “Pie-A-Professor.” UNICEF is one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world, and it has saved more children’s lives than any other group. UNICEF was fundraising toward efforts to distribute 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries. We hosted an event over Zoom where professors would get “pied” in the face with whipped cream. We had 14 professors participate. It was such a fun way to bring people together and raise some money before finals. We raised $2,446.
- I started doing research towards my Honors thesis in art history with Nell Andrew this past spring. As a dual citizen of the Netherlands, I wanted to explore a Dutch topic that was under-researched in Anglo-American scholarship. Current research on Nieuwe Kunst, the Dutch iteration of the international art nouveau movement, largely reduces Nieuwe Kunst to a narrative that focuses on batik, a textile-dyeing technique that originated from the Dutch East Indies, as an appropriation of primitivism rather than as a mastered indigenous craft. Through this research, I hope to correct the Western Nieuwe Kunst narrative that accepts appropriation by drawing attention to the unique identities and approaches of Javanese, Indische and Dutch women. I’ve loved working on this topic. I will complete my Honors thesis in spring 2022.
How did you decide to come to UGA?
I really wanted to go to a big school where I could make a lot of friends, but I also wanted to take small, challenging courses in a variety of subjects. I loved UGA’s Honors Program because I could take small classes but still experience a large, busy campus.
How did you choose your major?
I am so grateful that I stumbled upon comparative literature freshman year because it challenges me to read books outside of American literature. I can also explore how literature connects with cultural forms such as the visual arts, film and music. I also decided to take some art and art history classes my freshman year, and after taking one intro art history course, I was hooked. I love how art allows people to express themselves and document their unique experiences. Art history and comparative literature together allows me to analyze intersecting histories, philosophies, politics and cultural forms. Both majors are helping me develop a greater understanding of cultural diversity in an increasingly globalized age.
What is your favorite class you’ve taken?
I love when I can make connections between my classes in different disciplines. My favorite class was History of the United States 1865 to Present (Honors) with Brian Drake. He gave us total freedom to explore ideas in our research papers. I incorporated art history into my essays, using photographs from my Modern Photography art history class with Janice Simon as evidence. I try to make connections between my classes each semester because it helps me engage with the material and understand big-picture concepts.
What has surprised you about UGA?
This school is so large, but sometimes it feels so small because finding community is so easy. There’s something for everyone here! Student organizations are a great resource to exploring interests and developing long-lasting friendships.
Where have you interned? What have you learned?
I learned to look for opportunities in the local Athens community. I was most recently selected to paint one of seven murals that will be displayed in downtown Athens by the Athens Area Arts Council, Athens Downtown Development Authority and the Lyndon House Arts Center. This was my first major commission as an artist, and I am so honored to have my work displayed in public. I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity to use my voice in support of loving beyond labels and celebrating people for who they are.
I currently work at Starbucks as a part-time barista and at my family’s brewery as a social media and marketing assistant and tasting room server. Serving people both coffee and beer is so fun because I get to connect with people.
Fun fact about me:
To show gratitude for my friends and family, I love baking and making coffee for them. Catch me baking macarons, decorating cakes and making lattes in my free time.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I am passionate about the arts and how it brings people together. Since I was a little kid, I’ve been involved in every art-related hobby you could name: dancing, acting, singing, painting, playing piano, even playing trombone at one point. Art creates community and cultivates creativity. Sophomore year, through UNICEF at UGA, I spearheaded an event called Tricks and Treats for UNICEF, where we raised money for UNICEF’s fund through a night of performances. We hosted a variety of student organizations, including dance teams, a capella groups and musical theater groups. We raised over $300. This event showcased what I love about this university—students here come from a diverse pool of creative interests. It was so fun to celebrate this diversity and raise money for a great cause.
What are your plans after graduation?
I would love to stay in the art world, either working with a museum or a gallery. I’ll be looking for internships post-graduation. I am considering continuing my education in art history through a master’s or Ph.D. program. I also want to continue taking art commissions.
I #CommitTo the arts! Art is such a fun way to engage with community, express yourself, and experience others’ life perspectives.