Cooke Conversations: 5 Questions with Sascha Hughes-Caley

Sascha_Hughes-Caley_Headshot.jpgWe’re continuing our series of alumni profiles by interviewing Cooke Scholars from across our scholarship programs. We hope to inspire current and future Cooke Scholars by highlighting the incredible range of personalities, ambitions, and accomplishments of this talented group!

Hi! I’m Sascha Hughes-Caley, recipient of the Cooke Graduate Arts Award (2013). I recently received my MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to graduate study, I studied acting at Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, BC and earned a BA at the University of Colorado, Boulder – double majoring in art history and studio art. I now work as an artist and live in Philadelphia. You can see some of my work at

In no particular order, I am really passionate about yoga, feminism, being outdoors, eating good food, and making 15-second videos of my dog Reef watching meat get prepared.

Sascha’s work will be on view at the Hillyer Art Space in Washington, D.C. between April 1 and April 30, 2016.


1. What does being a Cooke Scholar mean to you?

Community! Ties to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation are far beyond financial. I knew from my first Scholars Weekend in 2013 that I was entering a community of remarkable people; that I would cherish the connections for life.

At any Cooke Scholar group function, I have to sit back for a moment and appreciate the excellence of those around me — thinkers, artists, citizens, change-makers, the list goes on. Since we come from diverse backgrounds, I am constantly challenged to learn from other Cooke Scholars, particularly about resilience, resourcefulness, and what it really means to “think big.”

Anytime I have doubts regarding the merits of my own work or start to feel low, I remember the encouragement the foundation has provided from the beginning.


2. What was the best advice given to you as an undergraduate in college?

The best advice I received as an undergraduate didn’t come from a professor but actually from my parents. They pushed me to explore, and encouraged me to pursue jobs I found interesting or that would take me to new places.

In graduate school seven years later, every position, relationship, and place I had lived was suddenly relevant to my identity as an artist. Choosing to pursue opportunities that might not have seemed linear or logical drew me to exactly where I needed to be. Life is far less mechanical and more holistic than it may appear on paper.

Pressure builds to have all of your ducks in a row upon graduation. Having an outline of your life and career is good, but I think it is important to also leave room for opportunities you may not have anticipated.


3. What is one thing you did to help you transition to your first year out of college (undergrad)?

I kept taking classes. That sounds funny when you think of how exciting it is to actually finish your degree since many of us, quite literally, have been students our whole lives. But isn’t that the point – to keep learning? Critical thinking needs practice. I found a scene study class, and got involved with a local theatre company that was making work I found interesting.

There are so many things you cannot control as an artist. You can always work on yourself, though, and taking a class keeps the embers lit.

4. What was the last book you read?

Wait, does this also have to be a book I would recommend?

How Literature Saved My Life by David Shields! The tone of the book fluctuates between obnoxious and profound. You can read one chapter each night before bed and either feel completely ticked off or totally satisfied. I have also been on a huge Claudia Rankine and Tom McCarthy kick lately.


5. If you were to create your own cookie, what would it consist of and what name would you give it?

A Fruukie! I would find a way to stuff fruit with more fruit. It would do for summertime dessert what “Turduckin” has done for the winter holiday season. Stuff a blueberry inside a raspberry inside a strawberry inside a peach, and voila! Fruukie! Then we can all sit around a table in November waxing nostalgic for Fruukie season.


Read more Cooke Conversations here.