'I became confident that I would be able to settle anywhere in the world'

Adam Shulman

Performing & Media Arts & Fine Arts
Shushan, N.Y. & Shimamoto, Japan

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

It’s not so much a singular memory, but a series of indelible feelings enabled by generous

person climbing tree

circumstance. Albinio, Italy: the orange ocean spray hazing between me and my damp friends on an end-of-semester adventure. Mount Pleasant, N.Y.: looking back at Ithaca while the snow swirled and ankles froze. New York City: biking in the rain from an internship to a Cornell filmmaking alumnus’ couch. Wakayama, Japan: whipping through a semi-tropical forest in a train during a typhoon on the way to work at a contemporary art festival. These were exhilarating memories that first came to mind that wouldn’t have occurred without the support and circumstances generated by this institution.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

Every spring, I have completed a massive personal creative project. In Spring 2021, I created "After Nature Had Drawn a Few Breaths," an illumination and projection installation transforming the exterior of the Schwartz Center with color. In Spring 2022, I designed the projections for “The Pleasures of the Quarrel” in Bailey Hall, a collaborative opera with professional dancers and singers, the Cornell Chamber Orchestra and student dancers. In Spring 2023, I cared for “Nature’s Play,” a year-long experiment in stewardship, regenerative land art, and environmental performance. All three of these projects were guided by Professor Jason Simms, and I’m unbelievably grateful for the resources and approaches with which he has empowered me. These primarily PMA projects depended on countless faculty, staff and students to realize. Thank you! (Also, see adamshulman.art to learn more about these projects!) For the last three years, I have received grants from the Experience Cornell and Serve in Place programs that have allowed me to spend the summers studying paper-making, contemporary art, and ceramics in Japan (2022), printmaking in NYC (2021) and teach filmmaking and photography in my NYS hometown (2020). Wow. As a concurrent student in AAP, I’m eternally grateful to have studied abroad in Rome. The immersive and fundamental education in Western art placed so much of my work and attitudes in context. Through that semester, I became extremely close with many art students who continue to collaborate. These friends have since performed in my own work, and together we hosted the “Art Crawl” series of apartment gallery shows to showcase creations by non-art students in personal spaces.

person with giant roll of paper

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell?

I grew up homeschooled on a secluded road outside a tiny hamlet. I didn’t know how I would fit into the "real world." Cornell became the perfect stepping stone, and I became a social butterfly (at least as far as the metamorphosis metaphor goes). Especially after my study abroad, I became confident that I would be able to settle anywhere in the world, seek out fulfilling relations, and respond creatively. And, I became more grateful for the stability of my tiny hometown as the "real world," even if I'm unable to return.

person outside in a city

What are your plans for next year?

I’m planning on traveling through France and Japan where I have family, applying to a lot of artist residencies and contract jobs and finding strong artistic communities. I have never had the chance to prioritize my own art without constraint, and I’m going to find spaces to support this attitude. Then I’ll have a better answer to this question.


Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2023.

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Adam Shuman