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Mother and Daughter Find Their Art + Design Paths at Salem State

Salem State students often note that when they came to campus for the first time, they knew it was the right fit for them. Something just felt familiar, like they had found home. For Erin Melin ’22 of Peabody, arriving at Salem State represented a new family tradition. She and her mom Chris ’89 are both Salem State Vikings, both honors program students and both art + design majors. Even with so many similarities, their individual paths within art + design have been unique.

For Chris, Salem State was a natural decision. She knew that to eventually build a career as an art therapist, she would need a graduate degree. Salem State offered the 2-D art and psychology programs she was looking for at a manageable price point, even with graduate school ahead. When she was a prospective student, the honors program also reached out to her about joining the Viking community, a personal touch she remembers decades later.

“As an art major, I was exposed to so many other areas of art that weren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse, which was a great experience and important for my career,” Chris recalled. After graduation, she went on graduate school at Norwich University and worked as a clinician in Boston for 20 years. Through art therapy, Chris helped people suffering from mental illness to process what they were going through. Art, she explained, is really just another way for humans to communicate.

“Thinking about what could be most helpful to them and knowing that my expertise could help them through a particular moment was really rewarding,” she remembered.

When Erin was thinking about her college search, she originally considered art school. However, Salem State’s offerings allowed Erin to start out undeclared and explore her educational interests in art, education, and English before deciding on a specific path. She chose a graphic design concentration paired with a minor in advertising. She quickly excelled, receiving a certificate of excellence in art history, certificate of excellence in graphic design, and a certificate of merit for her “We. Belong. Here.” campaign logo, co-designed with classmate Julia Serino.

As part of her honors thesis experience, Erin is performing an independent research project in packaging design, studying how fun and engaging cereal box designs can be used to promote healthy choices to children. The project has connected her to faculty from across the university, including art + design, psychology and media and communication. She even had a prototype of her design printed by a Salem State alumnus Brian Ardolino of Park Press Printers.

Asked what she’d do differently, Erin’s passion for learning shines through. “I wish I could have taken more art classes!” she exclaimed. “I love learning about so many different things, it’s hard to fit them all into my schedule.” She encourages incoming art students to be open to whatever comes their way at Salem State. “The faculty send out so many opportunities, like internships, scholarships and calls for exhibition. Building relationships with them has really helped shape my experience.”

Seeing Erin successfully balance the intensity of the honors program with demanding studio classes and other coursework has been a point of pride for Chris. She praised the art + design faculty for providing hands-on, real-world experiences. As both an art alumna and a parent, she encourages fellow parents to be open to the unique opportunities that a focus in art can create. “Be supportive and allow (your kids) to develop into who they are,” she said. You never know what opportunities will arrive in a field as broadly applicable as art. As she recalled from a speech given by former Montserrat president Steve Immerman, “Art is everywhere”.

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