Jerry Shu ’21 Experiments with Art and Song, Breaking Traditional Boundaries

A pomegranate splits in half over the backdrop of a newspaper, capturing the sharp contrast between hard and wrinkled through the versatility of acrylic paint. According to Jerry Shu ’21, this piece is not only one of his more memorable pieces he has created, but it was also a challenge for himself to explore a medium that he was not yet familiar with. 

“Acrylic has a flexibility to switch between those two modes… it really helped me experiment with having very fine details using acrylic, like really getting at the cracks in the pomegranate, but the more watercolor-like aspects of acrylic helped to draw out the newspaper,” said Shu. 

Beginning at five years old, Shu has always used a more traditional approach to creating art. After coming to Andover, however, and enrolling in Drawing I and II with Emily Trespas, former Instructor in Art, Shu began experimenting with different mediums and subjects. 

“I went [into the class] thinking drawing was just going to be like sketches in a sketchbook with an HB or 2B pencil. But [Trespas] taught me to use charcoal, micron, and even watercolour towards the end to change how I view what drawing means… I was taught to use drawing to convey my messages or my values in a way that I really hadn’t thought of before,” said Shu. 

According to Shu, the class taught him to approach art from a different perspective and think more critically about his creative process. Friend and fellow artist Leo Deng ’21 noted that by constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional art and challenging himself, Shu brought greater value to his art. 

“In Andover, I know he has gone through revelations that he wants art to have meaning. I remember in a conversation he said that he didn’t understand the purpose of a landscape painting other than being aesthetically pleasing,” said Deng. 

Apart from art, Shu’s perspective toward chorus and music has also shifted at Andover, prompting him to be more creative within the songs he performed alongside The Fidelio Society. In particular, Shu credited the annual trip to Portugal for changing the way that he viewed and invested himself within chorus and its community. 

“That trip was pretty transformative in how I viewed singing… that experience of performing in front of an audience and building that sense of trust among the singers was really powerful. I came back with a desire to join Fidelio the next year, and it furthered my music career in Andover in that way,” said Shu. 

In Fidelio, Shu was able to discover a wide variety of innovative contemporary songs that pushed the boundaries of traditional choir music. Though Shu still enjoys traditional choir music, he now prefers the experimental songs, which have not only changed his perception of choir, but also might change the audience’s as well. 

“There’s something fun and innovative in performing experimental pieces. There was one piece called “c l a p / b a n g”  and it involved body percussion alongside singing… Adding the body percussion definitely brought the audience’s attention towards the performance being not only audio, but also visual,” said Shu.