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Njideka Akunyili Crosby '04 H'19

Visual Artist

Njideka Akunyili Crosby '04

“I graduated 15 years ago with a double-major in biology and studio art. To add to the spectrum of emotions that comes with finishing college, I was abandoning my longtime aspiration to become a medical doctor in favor of pursuing a career in painting, much to the chagrin of my Nigerian parents. However, I felt confident that the skills I’d developed at Swarthmore—the ability to solve complex problems—prepared me to navigate future uncertainties. 
“Before Swarthmore, whenever I thought of an artist, the word ‘starving’ was never far behind in my mind. My conviction that an artist was someone to be pitied went unchallenged until I enrolled in art classes and actually interacted with professional artists — esteemed faculty members like Randall Exon and Syd Carpenter. By graduation, I actually hoped for a life like theirs — making art and hopefully teaching smart and inspiring students like you. This 180 degree in my mindset showed me that being seen matters. Stories matter. It took proximity to real-life artists to alter the singular narrative I had harbored my whole life.” Read more.