Haley Gewandter ’06 graduated from the Brearley School in 2010. She went on to earn a B.A. in Visual Arts from Bowdoin College. While pursuing her career as a visual artist, Haley began working as an academic and art tutor for an elite tutoring company. After reconnecting with fellow VCS alum Jenne O’Brien at their 10-year reunion and learning that she too was working as a tutor, Haley and Jenne formed their own tutoring business, The Learning Collaborative, which is still in operation to this day. Outside of work, Haley loves traveling, cooking and exploring the outdoors.
VCS: What are some of your fondest VCS memories?
HG: When I was in 7th Grade, I was lucky enough to study the Italian Renaissance with Laura Shearer. Although I was admittedly resistant to all things history-related as a student, Laura opened my eyes to a world of art and culture that completely changed my life. I fell madly in love with the Italian Renaissance period, so much so that when it came time for me to select a foreign city in which to study abroad in college, the decision to live in Florence was obvious. While studying art there, I had the opportunity to visit many of the churches and see most of the paintings that Laura had taught us about in 7th Grade—it was an experience that I will never forget!
To this day, my obsession with the Italian Renaissance is still going strong. I employ a number of traditional oil painting techniques that date back to the Italian Renaissance, while the content of my paintings reflects sociological observations about present-day issues.
VCS: Can you tell me a little bit about what you are doing now?
HG: I graduated from Bowdoin in 2014 and moved back to New York, where I immediately began searching for an art studio space. I knew that I needed to secure a job that would help to supplement my income, so I began tutoring academics and art. A few years ago, I started a tutoring collaborative of my own with another VCS alum, Jenne O’Brien. One of the highlights of my tutoring career has been working with VCS students!
I feel so lucky to have careers that work together synergistically. Working with students fuels my art-making, and my studio time helps me to approach my students with patience and creativity.
My art career thus far has consisted of a combination of small-scale oil paintings and large scale public art pieces. In May, I exhibited with Superfine! New York, an art fair in the Meatpacking District. This past December I exhibited 16 new paintings in Miami during Art Basel week. I have been fortunate to be selected to create a handful of murals since graduation, including a commission in Bushwick for CITYarts, an organization that pairs professional artists with students of all ages to collaborate on murals throughout NYC, and another for a real estate company in Hamilton Heights. I love the contrast of painting alone in the privacy of my studio and then creating murals very publicly and very collaboratively with people of all ages and backgrounds. It always keeps me on my toes!
VCS: Can you identify a time at VCS that lit a fire in you?
HG: One time that stands out was the year we studied Japan, which I believe was 4th Grade (then called 10/11s). We did everything from sewing kimonos to learning the Japanese katakana alphabet to building a teahouse in our classroom. It was really cool. A group of my best friends and I fell in love with the language, so much so that our parents asked Yumi, the teacher who taught us katakana, if she would give the five of us private Japanese lessons a couple of mornings a week before school started!
Our parents, who were all close friends as well, said that they would take us to Japan as a graduation present if we continued studying Japanese until graduation. We were so excited. Sure enough, when we graduated, the 15 of us went to Tokyo and Kyoto!
VCS: What would you say your VCS education did for you?
HG: So many things. VCS grounded me, shaped my morals, taught me how to learn and instilled in me a love of learning that I still have to this day. It also gave me friends I will have for the rest of my life, and a community that feels like home.