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Mia Gualtieri on her artistic evolution on Grounds

The student artist talks harnessing her craft, fostering community and the lessons she’s learned while at the University

After graduation, Gualtieri looks forward to moving to Los Angeles to continue honing her craft.
After graduation, Gualtieri looks forward to moving to Los Angeles to continue honing her craft.

Since arriving to the University, fourth-year College student Mia Gualtieri has transformed into a multifaceted artist, capable of captivating audiences through film, music videos, design and Studio Art exhibitions. Ahead of her quickly approaching graduation, Gualitieri sat down to speak about coming into herself as an artist in Charlottesville and the mark she hopes to leave on the University’s vibrant and talent-filled art scene. 

When Gualtieri moved to Grounds as a first-year, she said she initially had not planned on filmmaking being an integral part of her college experience. This all changed when COVID-19 turned the world upside down in the spring of 2020, causing the University to send its students home to attend lectures over Zoom. For Gualtieri, she said the pandemic was the wake-up call that pushed her to explore the passion she had long been repressing. 

“The only thing that was getting me excited to do anything was the thought of being on a set one day and making my own films,” Gualtieri said. “I was like, ‘I can't wake up and be doing Zoom classes about stuff I'm not caring about anymore.’ That is when I sort of started really committing my whole self to it.”

When Gualtieri first started making films she said she was most interested in exploring narrative, primarily using it as a device to contextualize contemporary queer identities. Now, Gualtieri’s work is more experimental and focuses on using visuals and abstraction to cultivate sensory experiences. 

As with film, the visual art of design was something Gualtieri said she felt more inclined to explore once the barriers of intimidation and uncertainty were taken away, and what brought down those barriers were the practice-based classes Gualtieri took at the University.

“When I started at U.Va. I took an Intro to New Media class where we just learned every app in the Creative Cloud,” Gualtieri said, attributing the course to taking the medium from daunting to accessible. “It was demystifying these things that enabled me to actually get over the fear and get excited about what the potential was.” 

Gualtieri said that what she learned in the classroom would be the foundation of her time at V Magazine — the University's student-run fashion, arts and culture magazine — of which she is the outgoing co-editor-in-chief. Similarly to her coursework, the magazine allowed Gualtieri to learn by doing. 

“It opened the door to what I could do as a student here, and how I could actually be building tangible skills and meeting people who had similar interests,” she said. “Working on that first shoot I think really demonstrated to me how if you want to do certain things, you have to make your own space for it.”

As co-editor-in-chief, Gualtieri said it was important to her to make the magazine a place for creativity to prosper, but also where community could be found. 

Gualtieri said this same desire to build community through art was one of the main inspirations behind the Gelatin Film Festival — an experimental short film festival founded by Gualtieri and fourth-year College student Alyce Yang, Gaultieri’s friend and long-time collaborator. The Festival was held at Visible Records March 18, and featured a variety of analog short films. 

“The event was focused on bringing all Charlottesville artists [and] community members together into a space to have this larger conversation,” Gualtieri said.

Gualtieri said that these four years’ worth of experiences have culminated into the confidence that she now feels in her art and her abilities. When speaking about her Studio Art thesis — the project she is most proud of — Gualtieri said she was proud of the exhibition because of how much she trusted herself throughout the process. 

“I feel like I needed all those other experiences to grow enough confidence to be like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’” Gualtieri said. 

After she walks down the Lawn during Commencement this weekend, Gualtieri will be moving to Los Angeles with Yang. The two lived in and explored the city for two months last summer, and Gualtieri is excited to return and cement herself professionally. 

“The advice I've been given is that in many ways you can’t plan ahead,” Gualtieri said. “The things that come unexpectedly end up being the things that are the most fulfilling and work out in the coolest ways.”

Gualtieri said that her plan is to continue directing film and music videos, working on commercials, getting art into gallery spaces and possibly revisiting the narrative style of filmmaking that she got her start with.

“I'm excited for all the random connections and people I can meet and how that can become other things, and just staying true to what I want to be making, and finding other people who are on the same page,” Gualtieri said. “That is the goal.”