Old Lyme - Carlin Felt, a Utah native, experienced some culture shock four years ago when she began at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts.
Used to the mountains and the expanse of the West, Felt, a drawing student, thought the trees and forests of Old Lyme were a tad claustrophobic.
Now, though, as Felt and her Lyme Academy classmates donned caps and gowns on graduation day Saturday, she's grown to appreciate the small town where she honed her skills.
"I liked the quaintness here," Felt, who took home two awards, said. "It was really conducive to work."
In a brisk hourlong ceremony held at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School, 22 students received their bachelor of fine arts degrees, and three students received post-baccalaureate honors.
Debra Petke, president and CEO of Lyme Academy, said the school was proud of the work the students did during their time at the school and urged them to be optimistic in the face of the uncertainty of post-graduate life.
"This uncertainty is gift," Petke said. "Don't let it bring you down, use it to propel you forward."
Alumni speaker Eloise Gada, a 2000 graduate of the college, who now teaches art at East Lyme High School, offered some practical advice to the students, encouraging them to attend graduate school.
Then Gada got more specific and shared something she learned in her time out of art school.
"Don't paint nude paintings of old men," Gada said, to a round of laughter. "Nobody wants to buy them."
New York-based artist Lennart Anderson, who gave the commencement address, started his speech by telling the graduates to make an effort to keep in touch with their friends in the coming years.
"The rest of this speech is drivel," Anderson joked.
Anderson told them to keep in mind the basics, even as their work might become more elaborate.
"The design skills I learned in high school are the skills I still remember," Anderson said.
Anderson then offered thoughts on the nature of creativity, telling the students that when they are stuck on a project, to remember "what made them want to paint it in the first place."