The Art of Being a Wildcat


Digital artist Jasper Howell poses on the University of Kentucky's campus on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Martha McHaney

What makes a successful artist? A strong support system? Raw talent? Hard work? Artists can face so many obstacles like creative blocks, injuries and perfectionism. But it isn’t about the challenges artists face; it is about how they overcome them.


There are few milestones in life more overwhelming than entering your freshman year of college; the excitement of meeting new people and getting a real start on your future can be extremely scary. When you factor in a global pandemic, the stress of finding where you belong on campus is compounded.


Four freshmen learned to work through the crazy challenge of entering college mid-pandemic and thrived. These students pushed through and made a name for themselves on campus as artists.


Jasper Howell, Sarah Baird, Maxwell Schroeder and Ben Humphries prove that there is not one way to be an artist, as each of these Wildcats focus on different artistic ventures. A visual artist, dancer, photographer and musician have been able to thrive in their own ways on campus.


“I feel like as a creative, I have a lot of ideas, but it’s a matter of actually making them happen,” Howell said.


Howell, a digital artist from Michigan, turns to his artistic inspirations, like Tyler the Creator, to help him out of his “artist’s block.”



“Butterflies” by Jasper Howell.

Another huge motivation for Howell is the people in his life. Despite not truly getting into art until his sophomore year of high school, Howell has been surrounded by creative people his entire life. His grandmother was an artist, and she heavily inspired him, teaching him more about his craft.


“My favorite piece I have created so far is ‘Butterfly,’ because I made it for someone I really care about,” he said.


The digital art piece features a skeleton with blue and green butterflies escaping its chest, accompanied by the statement “I’ll never forget the first time we met.”


“I think one of the biggest reasons that I am successful, not just as an artist but a student, a lacrosse player, all of it, is the people that I surround myself with,” Howell said. “A strong support system is such a major part of success to me.”


As an artist, Howell is not confined to one medium.


“I have been really getting into photography lately,” he said. “It’s definitely my new favorite, although I will always love creating digital art.”


After college, Howell plans to pursue a career in sports media. Because he is well-versed in a few art forms, he hopes to do something in graphic design, film or photography in the future.


“It is always overwhelming to think about what comes after college, but my experience as a digital artist, as well as the experience I’m gaining at the University of Kentucky is definitely boosting my confidence and preparing me for my professional future,” Howell said.



Dancer Sarah Baird poses with her dance team poms on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Martha McHaney

Dancer Sarah Baird comes from a studio in Greenup County, Ky. She has studied almost every style of dance, including hip-hop, tap, ballet and jazz.


Baird is a versatile artist who knows all about jumping through hoops and overcoming obstacles.


“I’m not going to lie, joining a D1 university dance team in the middle of a pandemic was very overwhelming,” Baird said. “Due to restrictions, we were unable to meet during summer break, which resulted in us being launched into full practice mode. Moving in, adjusting to campus and class, all while having the difficulty of bonding with teammates through masks and socially distanced. However, the dance team has also been a huge support system among everything, and it has been truly much better going through all the stress of COVID- 19 with my team rather than alone.”


The dancer tore her labrum as a sophomore in high school, causing her to miss an entire competition season. Being away from what you love can discourage a person or cause them to lose their motivation.



Sarah Baird performs on stage with fellow dancers in May 2019, in Richmond, Ky. Photo provided by Sarah Baird

“Growing up as a dancer my whole life, basically living life at the studio more than my own home, it was heartbreaking and left me feeling quite displaced to not be able to do the thing I loved most for so many months of recovery,” Baird said.


Despite the setback, she was able to push through and overcome this injury, going on to win a “Contest of Champions” national title.


Baird plans to remain a member of UKDT throughout college but is following a different career path by majoring in mechanical engineering. Baird shows that working hard pays off, as she balances being a D1 athlete, artist and engineering student.




Maxwell Schroeder, freshman photographer, likes to capture human emotion and activity while shooting and filming sports.


Schroeder got his start as a photographer nearly seven years ago when he discovered it was the perfect way to combine his love for sports and his natural creativity. After building his portfolio filming and photographing high school sports, he landed a spot working with UK Athletics as a freshman.



Photographer Maxwell Schroeder sits inside of the University of Kentucky Gatton Student Center on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Martha McHaney

“I am involved in a lot of stuff on campus,” Schroeder said. “Between photography and film, classwork and playing lacrosse, balancing everything is not easy.”


However, he does not let pressure or stress have a negative effect on his skill.


“The most important thing to me as a photographer is definitely quality over quantity,” he said. “I want whoever is looking at my photos to feel something. When I am able to photograph someone making a game-winning catch or a team facing the devastating loss of a tied game, I want everyone else to feel what they’re feeling when they look at my pictures.”


Schroeder’s art can be found on his Instagram page @max.videos.


After graduating from UK, Schroeder has big plans. Like Howell, he is planning to pursue a career in sports media. Schroeder hopes to be a creative director for a major sports association such as the NBA or NFL one day.


Photographer Maxwell Schroeder on the job at a University of Kentucky soccer game in September 2020, in Lexington, Ky. Photo provided by Maxwell Schroeder

Many artists struggle with perfectionism. Ben Humphries, a French horn player from Versailles, Ky., knows exactly what it means to be a perfectionist.


“Being a perfectionist creates a lot of unrealistic expectations for me as an artist, which causes a lot of stress and anxiety,” Humphries said.



Musician Ben Humphries smiles for a photo at the bottom of the Social Staircase in the University of Kentucky Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. Photo by Martha McHaney

He got into music after starting to play the violin in the third grade. The years of experience that he has as a musician had many colleges wanting Ben to consider joining their music program, he said.


After graduation, Humphries plans to continue pursuing his degree at UK, then hopes to find work as a musician and join a major orchestra as a hornist.


Because of the hardships they have faced and the people they have supporting them, these Wildcats are ready to take on what comes next, and thrive as artists.