SMU student Gabi Graceffo works to develop an arts mentorship program in Dallas

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In Gabi Graceffo’s first year, her professor told her to pursue what her heart wanted– regardless of what her parents thought, regardless of what society thought, and regardless of what anyone else thought. Since that moment, Graceffo has been following her passions at full force. Graceffo started college double majoring in Psychology and Art, but her professor helped her realize she truly wanted to pursue English.

Graceffo is now double majoring with a BFA in Studio Art and BA in English with a creative writing specialization. She is triple minoring in Italian, art history and photography. From a young age, Graceffo has loved reading classic novels. An aspiring professor of literature or creative writing, Graceffo plans on going to graduate school to study literature interdisciplinary studies with art.

Graceffo founded the SMU-IDEA Mentorship Program, in which ten high school juniors from the Innovation Design Entrepreneurship Academy come to SMU for art workshop lessons where they spend time with college students on campus. There, high school mentees get a good understanding of why they should go to college and the opportunities art will give them.

“I also wanted to get the students more in touch with the college experience, and how they can interact with the art world now and in the future,” Graceffo said. “We gave workshops in various media so they developed skills in those areas, but we also had conversations about topics important to them about college, their academics, and their struggles.”

Graceffo started the program almost completely by herself, with help from the Meadows Recruitment Office.

“I started the SMU-IDEA Mentorship program because, growing up in Dallas, I noticed there is a pretty apparent issue of accessibility to the arts across socioeconomic lines,” Graceffo said. “There are some kids that go to Booker T.’s and get complete access to the arts district and great resources at the school, but others just a few miles away at schools that are underfunded have little access to art.”

Since her first year Graceffo has been editor-in-chief of Kairos, SMU’s creative and literary journal that collects text, art, opera, music compositions and business ideas throughout the year and publishes the collection once a year in the fall. Graceffo herself has published art pieces in Kairos.

“It’s a creative journal–so anything that’s original that you created in your time at SMU while on campus,” Graceffo said. “Of the extracurricular activities I do, Kairos has been my main passion.”

Graceffo also plans on specializing in her own personal research on gender and sexuality and text-image relationships in a semester long research thesis in the spring of her senior year.

“With text-image relationships, I study the influence they have on each other in terms of the experience of reading it and seeing it at the same time,” Graceffo said. “I’m just very intrigued not only with the story and the plot as it is. I’m intrigued with the context that surrounds these books, and I’d love to dive in and pick them apart.”

Gabi combined her majors to focus on studying graffiti and its effects in twelve European cities.

“So I’m looking at that and the art history, social history, gender and politics of the city, the dynamic that is present and how that wraps up into the graffiti,” Graceffo said.

Graceffo said there’s a history behind graffiti to consider while researching it.

“I start back in the beginning of the city and look towards how people have always been writing on walls or drawing on walls, and how that changes over time and how that changes between locations,” Graceffo said.

After graduation, Graceffo aspires to get a fellowship to study intensively abroad and switch locations every two to three weeks.

“I think I’ve created a lot of opportunities for myself. I’ve taken what’s offered and then pursued things I wanted to do,” Graceffo said. “And I think SMU has a wealth of opportunities, in terms of helping students research and also helping them get connected to Dallas and the art scene, and also the Dallas literary scene.”

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