Tia Swiontek was undecided about her major when she met with her NSU advisor a little more than a year ago. She had considered roles in health care, like pediatrician or optometrist, but they didn’t quite seem like the right fit. When her advisor mentioned exploring art, something Tia hadn’t seriously considered before, she was intrigued.
“I always enjoyed art, but I didn’t practice consistently,” Tia said. “I would doodle a lot, and periodically I would create something out of the blue, but I didn’t go beyond the required art classes in high school.”
That would soon change. After her first class with Northern State University art professor Peter Kilian, Tia was hooked.
“That’s where my interest really developed,” she said. “I started painting, adding in details that meant something to me or felt right for the piece.”
Her first-ever painting took third place in a juried art show, using a primary color scheme for a collage of abstract shapes and whimsical images. Another professor liked the piece so much, she commissioned a similar one for her husband’s birthday. Tia incorporated winks and nods to their personalities in their painting, utilizing a similar collage style.
Her painting technique is detailed and full of shapes that could be one thing, until you view it from another angle and realize it could be something else entirely.
“One of my paintings was being installed in the gallery at NSU, and the people hanging it weren’t sure which direction to hang it,” Tia said laughing. “It can be looked at from different angles, and it feels like a new piece each way you take it in.”
Just one year into her art journey, Tia has been busy. Her work was recently featured in an NSU student art show at the Red Rooster, and her piece Progression was selected by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce and Aberdeen Area Arts Council for a public art installation. The eye-catching painting can be found wrapping the traffic control box at the corner of 6th Avenue and Main Street.
“It was exciting to have my work selected and displayed so publicly,” Tia said. “One thing I’ve learned is that you have to take opportunities while you have them. I’m still starting out and I want to share what I’m creating with people.”
While painting came first, Tia has also branched out into watercolor and pen and ink pieces. She’s having fun exploring different styles and finding what speaks to her. An oil painting in a cubist style, an ink drawing with shading made up entirely of line work – her portfolio doesn’t all fit into one box.
The same is true of Tia’s other form of artistic expression, dance. Growing up in Aberdeen, Tia started gymnastics and dance classes at a young age. That grew into a passion for dance in high school. From ballet to modern, acro, jazz, contemporary, and dance team, Tia explored various dance styles much the same way she’s exploring art styles today.
“Ballet was always the base of everything for me,” Tia said. “From there I branched out into other styles and that opened my eyes to some of the opportunities in the larger dance world.”
Tia passed her student exams through grade V, part of the technically rigorous Cechetti method for ballet training. She also attended the South Dakota Ballet summer intensive the last two years, honing her technique with professional dancers from across the country. This year is her first teaching dance at the ARCC, choreographing and coaching students in ballet, modern, and jazz.
Now a sophomore at NSU, Tia has settled on art education as her major, hoping to blend her love for art and teaching. While she’s leaning toward focusing on teaching elementary art, anything is possible. With a few more years of coursework left, she’s looking forward to exploring more artistic genres and continuing to evolve her own signature style. //