Global Designer Creates New Scholarship to Enrich Midwestern Opportunities

Posted April 10, 2023 in Giving, Scholarship

Self-expression. Collaboration. Support. Those are three elements that artist, designer, developer, and urban planner Ian Stallings believes are key to nurturing creativity, and he found them all at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD).

Ian Stallings with KCAD Dean of Academic Affairs Stephen Halko (left) and KCAD President Tara McCrackin (right) at the 2022 Commencement ceremony, where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts.Ian Stallings with KCAD Dean of Academic Affairs Stephen Halko (left) and KCAD President Tara McCrackin (right)
at the 2022 Commencement ceremony, where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts.

Stallings, a renowned designer who maintains a global portfolio of residential and commercial projects, established the Ian Stallings Design Endowed Scholarship at KCAD in 2021 to honor the important role of designers and artists in solving real-world problems. To apply, students must be enrolled at the college, hold a minimum 2.5 GPA, and demonstrate financial need. The scholarship is renewable for all four years, as long as students continue to meet the criteria.

While Stallings’ own education and early career were based in San Francisco, his path to becoming a friend of KCAD began in the Midwest. Born and raised in northern Indiana, he left the area to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now CCA). “I was in the last graduating class that had ‘craft’ on my degree,” he says, “but the idea of craft has come back into fashion again. People are, by nature, expressive and creative. They like to work with their hands. And having those healthy identities that are local and regional is interesting.”

After graduating, Stallings worked in film and TV production for a decade, including the LGBTQ Film Festival in San Francisco. “I basically love the sets,” he explained, “so it all comes together with the rest of my career. Buildings and design and those kinds of spaces have always been something that fascinated me.”

In 2008, he opened his own studio, Ian Stallings Design, creating residential and commercial spaces in San Francisco, London, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Michigan, Indiana, Montana, and China. “I just love the idea of home, how we live in our spaces, and what they're used for,” he says.

That feeling grew into other kinds of projects—including city planning and community redevelopment such as the Wabash International Art Residency Stallings recently created in Indiana. “My dad was a holistic preservationist, flipping houses and doing revitalization work before it was on HGTV. So spaces and buildings, the way they’re made, who’s in them, and how they’re used are all kind of in my cultural DNA,” he says.

After marrying a man from Michigan, Stallings returned to the Midwest, settling in East Lansing. While attending a design industry event at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, he connected with KCAD President Tara McCrackin. “She and I became fast friends,” he says. “We had lots of overlap since she had taught interior design, and obviously, we both love all the arts and all the disciplines. We continued our friendship, and when she introduced me to KCAD, I was really impressed and taken by what a healthy creative process they had—an ecosystem where there are vigorous critiques and people can be very challenging, but they do it in such a way that it isn't un-constructive. That’s rare in the art world!”

Stallings on stage sharing words of inspiration and encouragement with KCAD's graduating class at the 2022 Commencement ceremony.Stallings shared words of inspiration and encouragement with KCAD's graduating class during the 2022
Commencement ceremony.

He says prioritizing expression, mental health, and collaboration during critiques creates space to get those ideas out onto the medium. “That kind of approach gives students the freedom to play, experiment, and troubleshoot instead of getting shut down by a slammed door,” he says. “It just makes me happy to see this happening in Grand Rapids.”

During his travels around the world, Stallings says he often hears the same refrain from artists struggling to pursue their art. “People say they’ve moved to the center of the cultural movement, but now they don't have the time, space, or money to do any of the work they moved there to do! But in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Detroit, you can afford to live and create and make a living.”

By providing financial support for students at KCAD, Stallings hopes to enrich the creative ecosystem throughout the Midwest, starting at its roots. “It used to be, if you wanted to be successful, you had to get out of the Midwest,” he says. “Now that’s changing, and we have a chance to create opportunities for our creative people. I hope that the students stay here and use all of their talents to create here, versus leaking talent to other places. There’s so much to do and it's so exciting for creative people—so come on in. We would love to have you.”

Join us in creating transformative opportunities for the designers and artists of tomorrow with a gift to the KCAD General Scholarship Endowment. Right now, all gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar through the Ferris Futures Scholarship Fund, which means that no matter the size, your gift will make an enormous difference. Learn more and give today at

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