Creative Leaders: Introducing the 2019 KCAD Excellence Award Winners
Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) has announced the 2019 recipients of the college’s Excellence Awards. Representing the pinnacle of undergraduate achievement at KCAD, Excellence Awards are given annually to those graduating seniors who exhibit a rare level of mastery and accomplishment in their chosen field of study.
The 2019 Excellence Award winners will be recognized at an official ceremony on May 10, and their best work will be on display during KCAD’s annual Excellence Awards Exhibition (May 7-11), hosted in The Fed Galleries @ KCAD inside the college’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Building (17 Pearl St. NW).
KCAD’s 2019 Annual Student Exhibition (May 7-11), featuring work from each of the college’s programs, will encompass all floors of the college’s 17 Fountain St. NW and Woodbridge N. Ferris buildings. A campus-wide opening reception will be held on May 7 from 4-7pm. All exhibitions and the reception are free and open to the public.
“KCAD congratulates these exceptional students on embracing every challenge and opportunity their time in our creative community has set before them as a catalyst for learning and growth,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “Wherever their lives and careers lead next, we know that their relentless work ethic, insatiable curiosity, and passion for creating and connecting with the world around them will serve them well.”
KCAD is proud to introduce the following students as the 2019 Excellence Award winners:
Elizabeth Bush (Rockford, Mich.) – Collaborative Design
image courtesy of Elizabeth Bush
As a student in the Collaborative Design program, Elizabeth Bush immersed herself in her local community through internships and work positions with Urban Roots, Avenue for the Arts, Spectrum Health Innovations LLC., and the Grand Valley Metro Council. On campus, she was an active member of the KCAD Volunteer Club; the Kendall Green Council, which focused on advancing on-campus sustainability initiatives; and Interspace, a student organization focused on uniting students across disciplinary boundaries for collaborative projects undertaken in conjunction with visiting artists.
Through her Industrial Design minor, Bush also had the opportunity to travel alongside fellow KCAD students to Nicaragua, where they lived, learned, and worked alongside college students there on a number of different design challenges. She also was part of a team that won the People’s Choice Award in the 2018 MWest Challenge business plan competition for a business idea that would allow customers to order custom DIY furniture kits.
“Elizabeth has modeled the epitome of a Collaborative Design student. She embraces the diversity of a team—understanding that the best results are found in the differences—and the struggle of personalities who come with varied levels of confidence, skillsets, and expertise,” said Collaborative Design Program Chair Gayle DeBruyn. “We congratulate her for exemplifying the highest levels of talent, engagement, and curiosity in the Collaborative Design graduating class of 2019, and we thank her for her passionate engagement in the college and community.”
Upon graduating from KCAD, Bush plans to continue seeking opportunities to use her design skills and knowledge to better her surrounding community.
work by Elizabeth Bush (images courtesy of Elizabeth Bush)
Brooke Briggson (Lake Isabella, Mich.) – Painting
image courtesy of Brooke Briggson
During her time in the Painting program, Brooke Briggson distinguished herself as a hardworking and skilled artist with a penchant for research and a deep interest in the cultural underpinnings of various patterns that informed her abstract work. Briggson was named to the KCAD President’s List—honoring those students who achieve a semester GPA of 3.75-4.0—in all but two semesters during her time at KCAD.
Outside of the classroom, she stretched her creativity in other ways as a professional musician.
“Brooke is a terrific student with a great work ethic; as a teacher, you never have to push her to work because she is so self-motivated and driven to paint,” said Painting Professor Jay Constantine. “In art, discipline and determination are just as important as natural ability, and Brooke has both of these strengths in abundance. She is a highly creative person with great potential, and I look forward to seeing her continued development and evolution as an artist.”
Upon graduating, Briggson will enter the MFA program at KCAD to continue her education. She plans to grow her artistic career while pursuing teaching opportunities at the college level, and ultimately, open a multi-purpose gallery space in Grand Rapids focused on promoting and supporting the city’s local artists and musicians.
work by Brooke Briggson (images courtesy of Brooke Briggson)
Ashley Danner (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Fashion Studies
image courtesy of Ashely Danner
Apart from excelling in the classroom, Fashion Studies student Ashley Danner was involved in KCAD’s student fashion alliance Bodies of Art, first showcasing her original design work in the organization’s 2017 fashion show “Remnant,” held at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). Danner was also instrumental in helping plan and execute the Fashion Studies program’s annual Capstone Fashion Show, serving on the production team as director in 2018.
Off campus, she completed an internship at GRAM helping manage the museum’s archives of historical fashion and secured a job as a design assistant with Fabritech, a Jenison, Mich.-based decorated apparel company. As a senior, Danner also took the opportunity to travel to Fashion Week in London and Paris on a trip sponsored by KCAD’s Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion.
“Ashley is an intuitive and thoughtful designer who is willing and able to explore new methods while always keeping her signature style,” said Assistant Professor and Fashion Studies Program Chair Lori Faulkner. “Perhaps the strongest reason for Ashley’s being awarded this honor of excellence is her ability to work with people from all walks of life. She is respected by the other students in the program for her classic style, her commitment to excellence in construction, and her compassion for others.”
Upon graduating, Danner plans to continue on in her position with Fabritech.
work by Ashley Danner (images courtesy of Ashley Danner)
Michael Denny (Saint Clair, Mich.) – Industrial Design
image courtesy of Michael Denny
As a student in the Industrial Design program, Michael Denny approached every project with a fierce determination and a passion for entrepreneurship.
In addition to being named to the President’s List every semester of his time at KCAD, Denny was part of a team that won 2nd place in the MWest Challenge business plan competition, undertook a summer internship at Holland, Mich.-based ergonomic office furniture manufacturer OMT Veyhl, and excelled in collaborative class projects. He and his peers helped Spectrum Health Innovations LLC develop new medical device products, and helped Holland-based Tiara Yachts envision a new line of luxury watercraft.
“Reflecting back on Michael’s path through the Industrial Design program, three characteristics distinguish him from his colleagues: work ethic, leadership, and determination,” said Associate Professor and Industrial Design Program Chair Jon Moroney. “Though his work was creative and compelling, what most impressed the faculty was the growth of his leadership capabilities and his determination to execute his design solutions to the highest level.”
Upon graduating, Denny plans to continue working at Madison Heights, Mich.-based industrial design firm Murry Design, where he’s currently employed.
work by Michael Denny (images courtesy of Michael Denny)
Dee Derusha (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Graphic Design
image courtesy of Dee Derusha
In addition to excelling in the classroom, Graphic Design student Dee Derusha earned an Award of Excellence in the 2019 Communication Arts Photography Competition, was named one a semifinalist in the 2018 Adobe Design Achievement Awards, and won the Student Best in Show award in the 2019 American Advertising Federation of West Michigan ADDY Awards before going on to win a Gold ADDY at the district level.
Derusha also volunteered as a designer for Girls Rock! Grand Rapids and Code for Good West Michigan, and worked on-campus in KCAD’s Material ConneXion Satellite Library and for KCAD’s Design West Michigan.
“Dee’s talent is exceptional; her work is crafted at the highest level with an important, careful, and deliberate voice,” said Associate Professor and Graphic Design Program Chair Joan Sechrist. “Creativity is a part of who she is, not just what she does. It feeds her soul simply to be thinking and making, whatever the outcome. Her talent, work, generosity, humility, and courage make the Graphic Design faculty proud to be a part of her journey.”
work by Dee Derusha (images courtesy of Dee Derusha)
Annina Fremgen (Pensacola, Fla.) – Furniture Design
image courtesy of Annina Fremgen
As a Furniture Design student, Annina Fremgen received four of the most prestigious scholarships in the furniture industry: the Celia Moh Scholarship, the American Society of Furniture Designers (ASFD) Touching Lives by Design scholarship, the International Society of Furniture Designers (ISFD) Scholarship of Merit, and the Women in the Furniture Industry Scholarship. She also served as President of both the KCAD Furniture Club student organization and the college’s ISFD student chapter.
Off-campus, she expanded her skills, experience, and network with a series of internships with Grand Rapids-based Belwith Products LLC, Archbold, Ohio-based Sauder Woodworking Co., and Charleston, S.C.-based Redhead Furniture Design.
“A very wise colleague once told me that when a student comes along who is eager to learn, as you watch his or her skills develop and confidence and knowledge grow, you feel a sense of pride in their accomplishment and pleasure in knowing that you made a difference. Annina is that student for me,” said Assistant Professor and Furniture Design Program Chair Monty Simpson. “She has a bright future ahead of her, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
Upon graduating, Fremgen plans to relocate to North Carolina, where she will pursue work as a product designer with a focus in furniture design.
work by Annina Femgen (images courtesy of Annina Fremgen)
Mallory Heiges (Lake Ann, Mich.) – Digital Media
image courtesy of Mallory Heiges
As a Digital Media (now Digital Art and Design) student, Mallory Heiges excelled in collaborative projects that emphasized community engagement.
Heiges provided quiet but steady leadership in initiatives such as helping design a website for The Diatribe, a local nonprofit that unites education, social justice, and spoken word poetry; designing a website for the Digital Media program’s Neuro-Media Project, aimed at providing insights and tools to help individuals and organizations better serve neuro-diverse populations; and contributed to the sound production of a series of animated videos she and her fellow Digital Media students created for Mental Health America.
Heiges was also named to the Dean’s List every semester she attended KCAD.
“Mallory is the quiet commander and the talented tamer of wicked problems; the one who says ‘I can do that’ when daunting tasks present themselves,” said Digital Art and Design Professor Bill Fischer. “It’s a simple promise that seems so innocuous when said in the absence of context. But, in the throes of creative collaboration, it is how art and design happens. It is how excellence happens. Those four words will certainly propel Mallory to great heights as she delivers on the simple promise, ‘I can do that.’”
Upon graduating, Heiges plans to relocate to Traverse City, Mich. as she explores her career options.
work by Mallory Heiges (images courtesy of Mallory Heiges)
Meredith Honkanen (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) – Metals and Jewelry Design
image courtesy of Meredith Honkanen
In the Allesee Metals and Jewelry Design program, Meredith Honkanen continually pushed the bounds of her creative practice in the studio through experimentation, research, and a willingness to learn a wide variety of techniques, materials, and processes, from goldsmithing and bronze casting to 3D modeling and printing.
Outside of her work in class, Honkanen has been an active member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG). She attended the organizations 2018 Annual Conference, where she soaked up new ideas and inspiration while connecting with fellow designers and makers. She’s also a three-time recipient of the Allesee Metals and Jewelry Design Endowed Scholarship, and a recipient of a KCAD Merit Scholarship.
“Meredith rises and starts her work early, asks excellent questions, takes risks, and works diligently toward assigned and self-directed goals—though never in a blind or linear manner,” said Professor and Metals and Jewelry Design Program Chair Phil Renato. “She’s one of those rare students who seems to take a great deal of pleasure in work that she takes extremely seriously. It has been an honor to watch her wrangle shapes and words and processes into objects that keep working on so many levels after they leave her hands.”
Upon graduating, Honkanen plans to relocate to Detroit, where she’ll tap into the city's emerging creative energy and begin her professional career working as a bench jeweler or an intern for one of several jewelry, metalsmithing, and design studios in the area. Ultimately, she hopes to have the opportunity to teach, encouraging others in their pursuit of careers in craftsmanship and design.
work by Meredith Honkanen (images courtesy of Meredith Honkanen)
Travis Lind (Kalamazoo, Mich.) – Illustration
image courtesy of Travis Lind
During his time in the Illustration program, Travis Lind distinguished himself as a deft visual storyteller who balances exceptional conceptualization and research skills with a keen eye for detail and composition. A natural fit in the program’s communal environment, Lind has also fueled his own creative practice by constantly exchanging ideas and perspectives with his fellow students.
Outside of his work in the classroom, he was featured in Student Scholarship 2018: The Exhibit, an exhibition organized by the prestigious Society of Illustrators in New York City to showcase over 100 of today’s top-level college illustration students. Lind also had six of his illustrations featured in the book “Infected by Art – Volume 7” after being selected through a juried competition open to illustrators worldwide. Lind made his mark here in Grand Rapids with murals he created for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.’s outdoor Movies on Monroe space, and outside of local gallery Lions & Rabbits.
“The work Travis produces is both magical and creative. He pushes the limits of the environments he invents, whether they contain a frog jester performing table top while others dine, or his hauntingly dark landscapes with robotic soldiers who display a strong sense of vulnerability,” said Illustration Professor Patricia Constantine. “Travis is the illustrator both colleagues and professors consider the ultimate level of the Illustration program. We are confident he will continue to do wonderful things in the future.”
Moving forward, Lind plans to translate his passion for visual storytelling into a career as an illustrator/concept artist.
work by Travis Lind (images courtesy of Travis Lind)
Jaclyn Lewis (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Art Education
image courtesy of Jaclyn Lewis
During her time in the Art Education program, Lewis developed an aptitude for forming positive individual relationships in the classroom, especially during her required student teaching placements.
In addition to her outstanding work in the classroom, Lewis was heavily involved with the Kendall Art Education Student Association (KAESA), serving as the student organization’s social coordinator, vice president, and most recently, president. In these roles, she helped lead the organization’s on-campus activities, including an annual silent auction fundraiser, and was given the opportunity to present at the Michigan Art Education Association (MAEA) Annual Conference. Lewis also served as the preservice division representative on the MAEA Council, and was an active member of the Kendall Clay Club student organization.
“Jaclyn is a dedicated, energetic, and passionate teacher, and her confidence is a direct reflection of her competence,” said Art Education Program Chair Dr. Cindy Todd. “She produces very thorough and interconnected lesson plans that span art history and cultures in a relevant way for today’s student, and she maintains a strong level of rigor and relevance while also being very agile in diversifying and accommodating for a variety of students, especially those with special needs.”
Since completing her final student teaching placement, Lewis has been actively working as a substitute teacher, and recently accepted a position at Windemere Park Charter Academy in Lansing, Mich., where she’ll begin her career as a full-time art teacher.
work by Jaclyn Lewis (images courtesy of Jaclyn Lewis)
Liz McMahon (Rockford, Mich.) – Art History
image courtesy of Liz McMahon
As a student in the Art History program, Liz McMahon thrived by taking an integrated approach to her education, drawing from a multitude of experiences, disciplines, and perspectives as she grappled with the rich, layered nature of the subject matter at hand. McMahon was named to the KCAD President’s List for five consecutive semesters.
Apart from her success in the classroom, McMahon studied abroad in Italy and undertook a six-month internship at Grand Rapids-based floor care product giant Bissell Inc., where she worked as an assistant archivist. She was also a contributing writer for West Michigan-based online publication H.A.C.K., which covers visual art and culture throughout the state.
“Liz actively makes connections across classes as well as to the so-called real world; she demonstrates that she can use what she learns in one area of study, apply it to others, and show why it matters outside the classroom as well,” said Art History Assistant Professor Stefanie Snider. “She excels at making these connections, at exploring crucial ideas and thinking critically about what it means to be an art historian as well as a global citizen in the twenty-first century.”
Upon graduating from KCAD, McMahon plans to work in a gallery or museum setting while contemplating her plans for graduate study.
work by Liz McMahon (images courtesy of Liz McMahon)
Elise Adrian Ostrander (DeWitt, Mich.) – Medical Illustration
image courtesy of Elise Adrian Ostrander
During her time in the Medical Illustration program, Elise Adrian Ostrander cemented herself as not just an exceptional student and a skilled visual communicator, but a leader among her peers as well.
On top of her success in class working under faculty at KCAD and at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, Ostrander served as President of the KCAD Medical Illustration Club for three semesters. During that time, she organized a resumé workshop for club members, led the club’s participation in the 2019 KCAD Silent Auction to raise money for members to attend the upcoming 2019 Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) conference in Milwaukee, and led the planning and execution of a 2019 Professional Forum for KCAD Medical Illustration students that brought professional medical illustrators on campus to talk about the realities of working in the field and review students’ portfolios. She also served as a board member of the KCAD Illustration Society student organization.
“Elise distinguishes herself with the correct combination of traits successful illustrators share: her work stands out among her peers, her ability to communicate with her images is strong because of her attention to detail and her understanding of the concepts she is illustrating, and she takes direction and works with her peers with no ego,” said Assistant Professor and Medical Illustration Program Chair Matt Schenk. “We will miss Elise as she moves forward, but we have no doubt that with her fearless ability to communicate and collaborate and her abilities as an artist, she will have a long and successful career.”
Upon graduating, Ostrander plans to stay in the Grand Rapids area and establish herself as a professional medical illustrator.
work by Elise Adrian Ostrander (Images courtesy of Elise Adrian Ostrander)
Kailey Pagels (Traverse City, Mich.) – Pathways Academic
image courtesy of Kailey Pagels
In her classes in Pathways, KCAD’s model for general education courses, Kailey Pagels built upon her experiences in the Art History program to undertake a concentrated exploration of the historical and culture nuances of Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album, “Lemonade.” Pagels’ resulting capstone project stands as a thoughtful analysis of the relationships between race, class, gender, and culture.
Outside of her success in the classroom, for which she was named to the President’s List every semester of her time at KCAD, Pagels has earned multiple KCAD scholarships, including the Kendall Merit Scholarship and the Conduit Study Away Scholarship. The latter helped her realize the formative experience of traveling to Italy on a KCAD Study Away trip and soaking up the country’s abundance of history, art, and architecture. She also completed a stint as an ArtPrize exhibitions intern leading up to and during ArtPrize 2018.
“Kailey is a joy to have as a student. She is thoughtful, and she elevated the conversations among her peers,” said General Education Assistant Professor Christine Haskill. “It is with great pleasure that we honor her with this award and wish her well as she continues her studies.”
Upon graduating with her degree in Art History, Pagels will return to KCAD in the fall to enter the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies program, where she plans to continue her education in preparation for eventually earning her Ph.D. in art history. Ultimately, she hopes to work either within academia or as a curator/exhibitions director.
work by Kailey Pagels (images courtesy of Kailey Pagels)
Travis Sell (Ludington, Mich.) – Drawing
image courtesy of Travis Sell
Travis Sell’s time in the Drawing program was marked by a desire to push the boundaries of his chosen medium. This past semester, Sell began exploring ways to use virtual reality technology to create an entirely new kind of digital drawings, a process that led to his innovative body of thesis work. In sharing the results of his experimentation with his fellow Drawing students, he sparked a widespread interest in the technology, and subsequently led an effort to secure permanent VR technology for students in the program to use.
Sell’s success in the classroom earned him a place on the KCAD President’s List three times, and he was twice named to the Dean’s List.
“When Travis has an idea, he asks how,not if it can be done,” said Professor and Drawing Program Chair Stephen Halko. “In a short amount of time, he went from drawing objects from observation in a classroom to creating his own world using virtual reality software to draw meaningful content from his memories and imagination. The work he makes is uniquely his own and a testament to his work ethic, determination, and fearlessness. And while his tenure at KCAD may be coming to a close, his future as an artist is only accelerating.”
Upon graduating, Sell plans to continue developing his creative practice while pursuing other opportunities to grow professionally, be it designing tattoos, working in a design studio or art gallery, teaching virtual reality drawing, or going back to school to earn his MFA.
work by Travis Sell (images courtesy of Travis Sell)
Dayna Walton (Hudsonville, Mich.) – Printmaking
image courtesy of Dayna Walton
Dayna Walton found success in the Printmakingprogram largely by blending her creative talents with her passion for connecting to the world around her.
As she worked to refine her creative practice—largely inspired by her interest in and knowledge of biology—Walton also launched her own business, Solstice Handmade, through which she sells her own hand-printed artwork and textiles and offers community workshops on topics such as embroidery and screen printing. She also worked at local gallery Lions & Rabbits, where she assists with curating and planning classes and events, and volunteered multiple times at Grand Rapids’ annual Festival of the Arts event.
In the summer of 2017, Walton received the Gordon Art Fellowship from the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Barry County, Mich. allowing her to work on creative projects in the midst of the Institute’s 750 acres of preserved grasslands, wetlands, forests, and lakes. Walton also had her artwork featured in the 2018 East Lansing Art Festival, where she received the Knight Emerging Artist Fellowship.
“Dayna’s exquisite, detailed, and vibrant etchings tell stories of our natural world in tandem with the rich, mysterious world of the imagination. Her intricate, multi-layered images examine familiar pockets of the landscape, the places we traverse and yet often give little thought to until we take time to rest, consider, think, notice, and study,” said Professor and Printmaking Program Chair Mariel Versluis. “In addition to her disciplined, focused attention to her studio work, Dayna is also a young artist deeply engaged in her community.”
Upon graduating, Walton plans to continue operating Solstice Handmade and leading creative workshops in the Grand Rapids area.
work by Dayna Walton (images courtesy of Dayna Walton)
Leanne Westrate (Clarkston, Mich.) – Interior Design
image courtesy of Leanne Westrate
During her time in the Interior Design program, Leanne Westrate quickly adapted to the iterative process of design and earned a reputation for producing professional-quality work driven by creative problem solving. For her senior capstone project, Westrate collaborated with some of her fellow students to propose a sustainable, economical, and scalable design for an education respite center for at-risk teens constructed out of shipping containers.
Outside of her work in class, Westrate was active in the KCAD student chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Michigan Chapter, serving a one-year term as the organization’s president. She also won first place in the 2018 IIDA Michigan ThinkUp! Student Design Competition, a charrette style event that unites teams of local interior design students in an effort to develop and propose design solutions over the course of a single day.
“Because of her interest in deep exploration of any problem, the solutions Leanne has reached are rich, beautifully detailed, and impactful,” said Interior Design Assistant Professor Mary Ellen Fritz. “Her work at KCAD is so strong because she truly delights in the journey. It’s been a delight to get to know her and her brain, and we look forward to the next steps of her journey.”
Upon graduating, Westrate plans to pursue a career in commercial interior design in the Grand Rapids area.
work by Leanne Westrate (images courtesy of Leanne Westrate)