Claire Begalla ’24: Making Meaningful Art & Making Art Meaningful
Sometimes it’s the spur-of-the-moment stories that have the happiest endings.
That’s certainly the case for Claire Begalla ’24 and how she found Davidson. She and her family were traveling from her home in Deland, Florida, to the North Carolina mountains one Thanksgiving, and her grandmother suggested they stop at Davidson, as she knew it was “a very good school.”
“We didn’t have a reservation for a tour or anything like that, but we walked into the Admission Office and they were eager to show us around,” Begalla said. “It felt very welcoming. And, it was fall and beautiful, and I fell in love with campus.”
She remembers loving the E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center and the Katherine and Tom Belk Visual Arts Center the most—that’s “Wall” and “the VAC” to her—and she applied Early Decision and was accepted.
Begalla was barely settled in on campus her first year—still early on in the pandemic—when she was hired to work at the Smith/Van Every Galleries under the direction of Lia Newman. They were in need of someone to begin digitizing the permanent collection, and her deep love for photography and art in general made her an even more perfect hire than anyone probably realized at the time.
“I was the only intern allowed in the basement with all the art pieces, and I’d spend 10 hours a week down there, listening to podcasts and books on tape while photographing all the art,” she said. “I loved it then, and I still love working at the Galleries today.”
Begalla’s medium of choice is photography, and she finds ways to incorporate it into her double major of studio art and digital screen media studies, a major offered through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. She’s grateful for the ways her professors allow her to pursue her interests within the scope of class assignments.
Serving as a Davidson Arts & Creative Engagement (DACE) Fellow, Begalla has been able to stretch her musical muscles at Davidson, too. She plays the guitar and sings and is deeply passionate about supporting musicians.
“I helped organize a concert through DACE as the community outreach manager,” she said. “It was at Summit Coffee back in October, and we were able to bring some pretty big names to campus. I’m really proud of that.”
Begalla’s passion for all things arts is no surprise, as her three siblings are artists, too—her brother, a guitarist, producer and artist in Los Angeles, one sister, an indie folk artist in NYC and another sister, Begalla’s twin, who is proficient in sewing and painting and attends Agnes Scott College.
“I love to be creative and think on my feet,” she said. “It’s like when I have an idea and can work on something meaningful to me, I like to think about how I can make it meaningful to another person. How can I connect to others through something I create? No one is ever going to master their art, so I’m constantly challenged.”
Outside of academics, her fellowship and her on-campus job, Begalla nannies for a local family a couple of mornings a week, a welcomed change from day-to-day college life. It’s no surprise she brings art to the kids, both through crafts and sculpture visits on campus.
Following Davidson, Begalla hopes to pursue the curatorial world, possibly ending up in New York. That’s the leading option at the moment, but she hasn’t ruled out other avenues, mostly inspired by her family members, who have careers as therapists and teachers.
Whatever Begalla chooses for her next steps, she wants it to be hard but rewarding, just as Davidson has been.