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Moved by Art, Hardewig Lives Unimaginable Dream

By Ashley Stone

When Sam Hardewig arrived at Nebraska for her swim and dive recruiting visit six years ago, she was adamant about studying nutrition and health sciences due to endless employment opportunities. Her parents were surprised by her decision and encouraged her to pursue a field with fewer employment opportunities, but one in which she held an ever-growing passion – art.

“My parents actually encouraged me to pursue art, which isn’t common for most students who study art in college,” Hardewig said. “They kept saying, ‘If you want to study art, we support you.’”

Majoring in art is often atypical for student-athletes due to the rigors of athletics, time-intensive curriculum and required studio hours. Many of the additional opportunities her classmates were afforded, such as studying abroad, were experiences she had to forgo due to competing in Division-I athletics.

Hardewig’s work ethic and “mind-over-matter” mentality helped her excel in athletics and academics, graduating with a dual degree in fine arts and art history in December 2016. With limited job opportunities, she found immediate success pursuing a number of art-related opportunities from curating exhibits to sculpting personal pieces.  

“After graduation, one of my sculptures was featured at the Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio and at an art show in Madison, Wis.,” Hardewig said. “While working part-time, pursuing my own art career and talking with professionals about their career paths, I realized my passion was not found in creating my own art, but in helping others understand and appreciate art.”

Sam Hardewig self-portrait sculpture featured at Manifest Gallery's 2017 Rites of Passage exhibition and Wisconsin's Arts + Literature Laboratory.

Sam Hardewig self-portrait sculpture (above) featured at Manifest Gallery's 2017 Rites of Passage exhibition and Wisconsin's Arts + Literature Laboratory.

With this realization, Hardewig recalled her classmates’ study abroad experience in Italy and seized her opportunity to utilize Nebraska’s Post-Eligibility Opportunities (PEO) program to see art she learned about in class, but never thought she would have the opportunity to see.  

“Not once during my art history class did I consider it possible to see the artworks [I learned about in class] in person [due to competing],” Hardewig said. “While I never thought the experience possible, Nebraska’s continued support through PEO made my wildest dreams a reality.”  

Hardewig was one of 22 recent Nebraska graduates to utilize the $7,500 post-graduate scholarship in spring 2018. While a majority of the others used their funds for a one-semester internship, Hardewig took part in two courses at the Florence University of the Arts in Italy - a seven-week gallery course and a three-week food and culture course.

The below question and answer section takes you through Hardewig’s candid and impactful Italian art experience. Buon appetito!

If you could take away one thing from your PEO experience that most impacted or benefited you, what would that be?

Never underestimate the power of a smile. When I first arrived, I was so intimidated by the language barrier and being lost essentially 100% of the time. I kept my head down. Once I became more familiar and comfortable, I began to smile more and be myself. There are multiple places I had only visited once, yet when I returned weeks later, they remembered me. There is no language barrier for being kind and passing on a smile; it’s always appreciated.

In what way(s) did your experience enhance who you are?

My study abroad experience forced me out of my comfort zone. When I first arrived, I was alone. My roommates were on spring break, my SIM card wasn’t working, and I don’t think I had ever truly read a map before. Immediately, I was forced to be vulnerable and ask others for help. I had to be more open-minded as well as patient and understanding.

What was the most memorable experience in your study abroad travels?

This is a hard question. Based off my emotional reaction, I would say going to Bar Luce in Milan, Italy. Bar Luce was designed by my favorite film director, Wes Anderson. I learned about this café about four years ago. When I saw photos and read about the café, I knew I wanted to go. Again, I never saw how that would be possible. Like many of my experiences abroad, I happy cried. However, when I was in the café, I wasn’t only tearing up, but tears were streaming down my face. I couldn’t believe it. Everything was perfect: the servers, the color scheme, the drinks, and the food. It was just like being in a Wes Anderson film. When I was there, I had my luggage with me. I looked like a sad, lost girl when I was crying. I didn’t care; I was so happy!

How did this experience help expand your potential? How does this experience help in pursuing your dream goal(s)?

I want to work in a museum, ideally in the education department. It’s an extremely competitive field because there aren’t as many openings or positions as other jobs. This experience allowed me to visit the top art museums, such as The Louvre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London. Taking a gallery class at Florence University of the Arts, colleagues saw me as ‘having more experience,’ which was both an honor and a compliment. Thanks to PEO, I now have an edge with the experiences I gained learning about and seeing high-end museums. Some of the curating I experienced inspired me, and some I found myself heavily critiquing, which was fun for me. The entire experience reminded me of how much I love being around and talking about art and how much I belong in a museum and around art.

Hardewig poses outside of The Louvre in Paris.

Hardewig posing outside of The Louvre in Paris.

Why would you encourage others to participate in Nebraska’s PEO program?

It’s an absolutely amazing opportunity. I studied art history and the Italian Renaissance was one of my favorite classes. Never, not even once, did I ever imagine seeing these artworks in person. PEO provided me with the financial aid to take my college experience to the next level.

Other than thank you, what you would like to say to Donors who provided the support for you PEO experience?

I truly cannot put the extent of my gratitude into words. I went to the Fountain of Trevi in Rome, got ready to toss my coin in, paused, and smiled. “What else is there to wish for?” I thought to myself. I can’t even say that my wildest dreams came true with this trip because I never dreamed this was possible. You are changing the lives of so many student-athletes. Thank you for your donation and support.

Hardewig sits in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome getting ready to participate in the popular ritual of throwing a coin over her shoulder into the fountain to ensure she'll return to Rome. 

As your PEO experience has ended, what is your next career step?

I plan to return home and apply for museum and gallery jobs. Working with this gallery class reminded me the pure joy I feel when handling artwork as well as hanging and curating exhibitions. It’s something I know I am good at and enjoy doing.

Photo Album | Sam Hardewig: Moved by Art

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