Kate Lydon ’21 entered Hollins as a first-year student in the fall of 2013 along with twin sister Maura ’17. Originally from Texas, the sisters had spent several teenage years in Germany before returning stateside for their senior year in high school in Franklin County, Virginia.
Unable to make the financial commitment of taking out more loans to complete her degree on time, Kate decided to hit the pause button after her third semester. She had been working at the riding center as a student and was offered to work full time, and she took a class or two on the side as a perk, but she thought her hopes for a college degree were gone.
As she learned and understood more about the tuition assistance program available, she realized a degree was still possible. “I decided to begin seeking a degree as a Horizon student in 2018 with a goal of finishing in two years,” she said, “but I pushed it to three so I could take some more art classes along the way.”
Kate remained connected to the campus community both through her full-time work at the riding center and through her love of music. She took music classes, participated in the Appalachian Music Ensemble and the choir, and occasionally accompanied students for their vocal performances on her violin. “I came to Hollins with some classical training on the violin, but now it’s more often I’m playing the fiddle,” she said.
The debt Kate had racked up in her first year and a half of college is now fully paid. She graduated in May with the rest of the class of 2021, completely debt-free.
Kate Lydon, Well Fed Farm: Dutch Belted Cattle.
“I had a lot of time—more time than most—to think about what I wanted to do for my senior project,” Kate said. “I’m passionate about a lot of things, but I didn’t necessarily feel educated enough on many of those issues to make a confident artistic statement about them.”
She found her focus in a topic she grew up learning and talking about: endangered livestock breeds. Having grown up on a farm where animals were bred and raised, most memorably working with Irish Dexter cattle, Kate and Maura were aware that many livestock breeds are threatened or critically endangered and even went to shows working to educate people about the issue.
“These breeds don’t do as well in mass-production industrial settings because they don’t grow or mature the fastest or produce the most,” she said. “They do, however, have attributes they have developed over hundreds of years to allow them to thrive in different environments with less management. Small farmers across the country have realized the benefits of these attributes and are fighting to keep these breeds alive and to inform people of their amazing nature.”
Once those memories came into the picture, she knew it was the opportunity she’d sought. Kate based her series on a set of images sent to her by farmers in the Livestock Breed Conservancy.
Kate Lydon, Buckhill Homestead Farm: Gloucestershire Old Spots.
Always a lover of relief printmaking, Kate was introduced to trace monotyping in classes with former Hollins Associate Professor Jennifer Anderson Printz and Susan Lichtman, who served as the Frances Niederer Artist-in-Residence in 2017. Tip Toland, the 2016 Artist-in-Residence, had also inspired Kate in how she “celebrated the human condition without the veneer.”
“The hatch work is something I’ve always been attracted to, and I stumbled upon the use of red and blue line while working through an idea midway through my project,” she said. “I fell in love, as it reminded me of the red reveal hidden messages and 3D puzzles I loved so much as a kid.”