Meet Andrea Strongwater!

This week we sat down with artist and illustrator Andrea Strongwater to learn more about her inspirations and motivations. 

We first asked whether it was a conscious decision to become an artist. “No.” , said Andrea, “There was never any question. From the time I was born, I was an artist”. She recalled that as a preschooler, she made a piece of art that so captivated one of her classmate’s mothers that she asked to have it for display in her own home. When we asked what Andrea would be had she not pursued a career as an artist, she surprised us with one of her answers - “an architect or a research physicist”. She explained that the reason she chose to attend Cornell as an undergraduate was for the support in creative expression across disciplines that are often treated as starkly engineering or science, this allowed her to explore avenues of study that she might not have otherwise. For Andrea, her pursuits revolve around creative problem solving and finding new ways to tell the stories of who we are; and in that way, being a physicist certainly makes sense. 

What are some current projects? Andrea is currently working on the publication of the full text edition of “Where We Once Gathered, The Lost Synagogues of Europe”. [The abridged version is already in print and available on her website] The book features 83 synagogues across Europe that were destroyed by the Nazis during the Third Reich. She has researched and recreated each building in an artistic rendering and tells a brief story of the community that built each of the synagogues. “It’s a way of telling history that relates to how people think today”. Outside of the book project, the prolific and whimsical artist is further developing her gift product merchandise, which she describes as, “just a whole lot of fun!”. She’s currently focused on jigsaw puzzles because they tell a whole story, often from everyday life - like a trip to the Ithaca Farmer’s Market! You can anticipate seeing one of your favorite Ithaca institutions in puzzle form in 2022. 

What is your all time favorite creation? At this Andrea laughed, saying that it’s usually whatever she’s most recently finished. To illustrate her point she related an anecdote in which she was visiting her brother in Atlanta and admiring a painting he had hanging on his wall. When she asked her brother who the artist was, he swallowed his surprise to inform Andrea that she was admiring her own work! 

How did you become a Mimi’s Maker? Andrea was delighted to tell us that she’s been a Mimi’s fan since day one! She once furnished an entire apartment with all Mimi’s finds. And when the pandemic hit, she had a deal fall through with the Cornell Store when they made the decision to close, leaving her with a small mountain of merchandise. As she considered other avenues to sell her work, she turned to her social media feed and noted our Makers posts and decided to reach out. The rest, as they say, is history and we couldn’t be happier!

What is your favorite aspect of the Ithaca Community? Over this we chatted for a while, as there is so much to love about our corner of the finger lakes region, and we landed on the following sentiment: It’s the magic of opposing yet harmonious forces. Ithaca has all the charms of being a small town, while also having a cosmopolitan feel to it. There’s the joy of meaningful connections, the recognition of neighbors, and the stability of a place that changes slowly in comparison to larger metropolitan areas. And there is also cutting edge research at the universities that brings in world class talent seeking to shape the future. As an alumna she cites Cornell in particular, “It’s like Disneyland for adults- whatever you need or want to know, someone is there who wants to help you”. 

Who is your hero? “Walt Disney. He got to create his own world and it never ends!”

What does the future have in store for you? Finishing my book! And, she added with a wink, “figuring out how to have a great house every summer in Ithaca”. 

Any advice to artists wanting to build a career out of their passion? “Don’t do it unless you have to do it.” She explained that it is by no means an easy, respected, or lucrative road to take, so you have to really love it to persist through the inherent challenges. “Oh, and learn social media!” she adds. 

Thanks for spending time with us getting to know Andrea Strongwater! 

You can find some of her products with us here. 

Follow her on instagram @andrea.strongwater 

Connect and shop through her website

And shop her puzzles locally at Sunny Days of Ithaca