Making Their Mark: The 2015 Excellence Award Winners
If you were to ask anyone in the KCAD community what gets their blood flowing first thing in the morning, the answer wouldn’t be “perfection.” That’s because here, we define excellence in terms of impact, and impact comes from taking risks, pushing forward, following your passion, and striving every single day to create art and design that matters.
Each year, those students who exhibit a rare level of mastery and accomplishment in their chosen field are honored with the Excellence Award, the epitome of KCAD student achievement. This year’s winners will be recognized at an official ceremony on May 8, and their best work will be put on display during Commencement Week in a special exhibition hosted in The Fed Galleries at KCAD.
We’re proud to introduce the following students as the 2015 Excellence Award winners!
Allison Charnley – Industrial Design
In addition to making the President’s List in all four of her years at KCAD, Allison Charnley has displayed a strong drive and a dedication to her discipline that have earned her internships at Bissell and Wolverine World Wide. She currently works as a product design intern for Wolverine’s Merrel brand, where she plans to continue working after graduation.
“Allison’s accomplishments at KCAD have been extensive and noteworthy,” said Industrial Design Program Chair Jon Moroney. “Her academic abilities and artistic talents have earned her appointment to the President’s List during her entire time at the college, and her hard work, technical skills, sense of confidence, and initiative are exceptional. Her selection is based not only on her accomplishments at KCAD, but also on our confidence that hers will be a career of significant achievement.”
Athena Anger – Fashion Studies
As a member of the Fashion Studies program’s inaugural graduating class, Athena Anger is also the first student from the program to receive an Excellence Award. Prior to the 2014-2015 academic year, she became one of the first three Fashion Studies students accepted into the Visiting Student Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she is currently finishing her senior year. She plans to remain in New York City after graduation to pursue a design career.
“Athena creates beautiful illustrations that contain the vision of her fashion designs,” said Fashion Studies Program Chair Lori Faulkner. “Her board work is both impeccable and informative. She is able to create her designs using pattern making, draping, and construction techniques learned while studying in the program. Her designs are aesthetically pleasing and well constructed. Besides earning excellent grades, Athena’s designs were voted in the top 5 of the Elle.com/Byco Competition, and her original design won the 2013 Modcloth.com Competition, after which her design was produced and sold online.”
Ed Kindsvater – Digital Media
In addition to excelling in the classroom, Ed Kindsvater also exemplified the spirit of collaboration KCAD strives to instill in all of its community members. As a tutor in the Digital Learning Center, he supported his fellow students and helped them overcome technical challenges to unleash their full creative potential. He also was part of a team of Digital Media students who worked together to create a promo video for the Grand Rapids Film Festival.
Kindsvater hopes to move to California after graduation to pursue a career in animation, and has already begun applying to studios.
“As an artist, Ed has worked hard to critically challenge himself at storyboarding, having been mentored by KCAD Digital Media alumnus James Suhr from Disney Television,” said Digital Media Program Chair Kasey McCargar. “Just as importantly, he is willing to lend a hand to a fellow student by showing them a technique or offering up some advice, and he generally encourages everyone, including his instructors. Ed is an example of what we hope our students aspire to by not only working hard, but by supporting one another towards excellence as well.”
Erin Fisher – Art History
Never one to rest on her laurels, Erin Fisher embodies the spirit of lifelong learning that makes for a dynamic scholar. After graduation, she will begin a graduate fellowship at the George Eastman House at the University of Rochester, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious institutions dedicated to the history of photography and photographic preservation.
"We’re proud to recognize Erin as our Excellence Award winner for this year,” said Art History Program Chair Suzanne Eberle. “She displays a passion for learning, willingness to go above and beyond in her studies, commitment to her educational growth, and an unwavering dedication to art history and photography.”
Jenna Para – Printmaking
Under Jenna Para’s leadership, the KCAD student printmaking student group Collective Pressure has grown in numbers and in its capacity for impact, organizing and hosting a number of public-facing creative events. The group’s collaborative makeup unites students from KCAD’s Printmaking, Drawing, Graphic Design, Illustration, and Painting programs. Para has also attended and participated in a number of national printmaking conferences, including the recent Southern Graphics International Printmaking Conference in Knoxville, TN.
Her plans after graduation are simple: never settle.
“Jenna's extraordinary leadership and organizational skills, her dedication to the craft of printmaking, and her determined search for her own artistic voice through the medium of printmaking have earned her this honor,” said Printmaking Program Chair Mariel Versluis. “Additionally, her devotion to the craft of printmaking is commendable. Her finesse with a variety of complicated techniques, from lithography to intaglio to relief printing, is astonishing. She has spent countless hours honing her craft, and her prints reflect not only her deep interest in technique, but also her search for her own artistic voice.”
Kendall Stuckey – Interior Design
In her time at KCAD, Kendall Stuckey has been active in her local community as a member of the KCAD International Interior Design Association (IIDA) student chapter and as a volunteer with Kids’ Food Basket, a Grand Rapids-based non-profit focused on the issue of childhood hunger in West Michigan.
In December of 2014, Stuckey was hired full time at Custer WorkPlace Interiors after completing a yearlong internship with the company. She now works through Custer as a contract employee for Steelcase's Workplace Services team. She hopes to one day have a job focused on design research in order to better understand the ways in which people and the built environment interact.
“Masquerading as the quiet one, Kendall is the student that continues to impress,” said Interior Design Program Chair Tara McCrackin. “She is smart, articulate, questioning, and has a sharp sense of humor. It is with great pride that we have watched her bloom into the leader that she is today. She willingly volunteers and knows how to build her network and advocate for herself, and her peers recognized her project work and team skills.”
Lindsey Aleman – Drawing
Lindsey Aleman’s talent isn’t just well-know at KCAD; it’s also made an impact outside of campus in a big way. She was recently one of just 27 artists accepted into “Drawn,” a juried exhibition at the prestigious Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, OH that drew applications from 394 artists working in the U.S., England, Japan, and Spain.
After graduation, Aleman plans to continuing exhibiting her work and building her portfolio.
“Lindsey is a smart and considerate student who has a quiet yet persistent drive,” said Drawing Program Chair Stephen Halko. “She has challenged and continues to challenge herself in unique ways, and is always receptive to feedback, even when it encourages her to move into uncomfortable territory. She asks very profound and meaningful questions. Few students are as aware and thoughtful as she.”
Michelle Rose - Graphic Design
Michelle Rose’s defining experience as a KCAD student didn’t come here in West Michigan, but rather across the Atlantic Ocean in Malmö, Sweden. During a summer 2014 study abroad trip, she gained a valuable new perspective by seeing how Swedish culture thinks about and practices design.
After graduation, she plans to follow her passion for graphic design and use her skills to make a difference as an active member of the West Michigan design community.
“When selecting an Excellence Award winner, the Graphic Design faculty looks for students who not only exceed expectations in the classroom, but who show a high level of involvement in program-wide and college-wide events and in the local community as well,” said Graphic Design Program Chair Jason Alger. “As someone who really knows how to marry advanced technical skill with a sensitivity for connecting with people and bringing ideas and concepts to life, Michelle certainly fits all of those criteria. She is very deserving of this honor.”
Nathan McCallum – Sculpture and Functional Art
In the past three years, Nathan McCallum has shown his work at over half a dozen galleries across Michigan, and this summer he will be attending the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina as a scholarship recipient. His long-term goal is to start a residential building company that aims to create work inspired by iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
“Nathan's strong work ethic and determination are contributing factors to his broad and well-developed portfolio of both utilitarian works and sculpture,” said Sculpture and Functional Art Program Chair Bob Marsh. “He has exhibited a constant and continual interest in going above and beyond assignment expectations.”
Patricia Thoms – Art Education
Over the course of her time in the Art Education program, Patricia Thoms has realized that effective teaching is as much about what you’re willing to learn as it is about what you already know. After graduation, she plans to spend the summer working as the arts and crafts director of Camp Newaygo before looking for a full-time teaching position in the fall.
“Patricia is a student that excels because she loves learning,” said Art Education Program Chair Cindy Todd. “She sets the bar high for herself, exemplifying the Art Education teacher model, and is a very talented painter. One of her greatest strengths is her empathy. Often, she would consider a topic and put herself in her students' position, examining the issue from their point of view. Patricia is optimistic and uplifting. She recognizes that a good teacher can change the world - just what our world needs.”
Ryan Klotz – Painting
One need only look at Ryan Klotz’ work to understand how deep his commitment to his art runs. During his time at KCAD, his intense focus on sharpening his technical and conceptual skills sets has made him an incredibly mature painter. After graduation, his sole focus is to continue to explore the possibilities of the medium and hone his talents.
“Ryan was chosen as the Excellence Award recipient because of the skill, craft, and scope of his work,” said Painting Program Chair Jay Constantine. “By combining painted and sculptural elements, he is able to represent an in-depth look at the visual subtleties of light and form using something as simple as cloth folds.”
Samantha Conway – Metals and Jewelry Design
For her senior thesis project, Samantha Conway worked to marry her interest in spare, modern forms with contemporary materials and technologies as well as with a reexamination of male, female, and unisex market and user categories. Using high-powered carbon dioxide lasers, she melted ideas of masculinity, femininity, texture, wearability, permanence, and preciousness together layer by layer, sintering a coherent set of objects that she plans to build on in the coming years.
“Where some designers are motivated almost entirely by how far they can stretch something until it breaks, I see Samantha as always looking for stable forms that people will want to live with,” said Metals and Jewelry Design Program Chair Phil Renato. “I have great confidence that her work will continue to improve, and that this work will incrementally improve our material culture.”
Samantha Luotonen – Illustration
As a student, Samantha Luotonen showed her work in a number of exhibitions, including the Statewide Fine Art Competition at the Ella Sharp Museum of Art and History in Jackson, MI and the Monthly Artist Showcase at Misterdressup in Montreal, Quebec. She was also an active freelancer, obtaining her first job – illustrating a children’s book by Grand Rapids author Julia Vandermolen – while only a sophomore.
After graduation, Luotonen plans to continue working as a freelance illustrator.
“Sam is a dedicated and skilled artist,” said Illustration Program Chair Jon McDonald. “She is a professional who gained the respect of the entire faculty. Sam was serious about her education and this is why she is so successful. She has distinguished herself as a quality person and talented artist. We are honored that she chose Kendall to give her the necessary skills to enter the field of illustration.”
Samantha Stutzman – Medical Illustration
As President of the KCAD Illustration Society, Samantha Stutzman displayed incredible leadership skills, including organizing a joint event with KCAD’s Art Education Student Association that raised money for both organizations via a silent art auction.
After graduation, she hopes to be accepted into an externship for a medical publishing company in New York City, and plans to one day pursue a master’s degree in medical illustration from the University of Chicago or Johns Hopkins University.
“From the first moment I met Samantha, the one thing I immediately noticed is that she has a sweet, quiet intensity about her,” said Medical Illustration Program Chair David Gianfredi. “I would soon come to understand the passion she has for life and for chasing the dragon we call excellence. I never saw Samantha as just a student; to me, she has been a professional in training for her entire time at KCAD, and there is a huge difference. The one thing I don’t have to do is wish her luck - she will make her own. I see nothing but success in her future.”
Congratulations once again to all of these amazing students - we can’t wait to see what your future holds!