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New KCAD Scholarships Foster the Next Generation of Creativity

Posted August 1, 2016 in AlumniPublic

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Portfolio magazine. Read the complete issue here

Grand Rapids has a long history as a place where art and design are made and celebrated. And now it has an even stronger future as a place for emerging artists and designers, thanks to three new scholarships for KCAD students.

Given annually, the Mathias Alten Legacy Endowed Award, Jan G. Vonk Endowed Scholarship, and Conduit Study Away Annual Scholarship will help defray the cost of college and participating in study abroad programs. All three of the new awards were created by people with ties to the Grand Rapids community—a community that Sandy Britton, Dean of Student Success at KCAD, says understands the importance of supporting KCAD. 

“We know that Grand Rapids loves art and is an ideal fit for the creative soul,” she explains. “In order to nurture this culture of creativity, we need to continue to foster learning and provide the tools to help each student. With approximately 95% of the KCAD student population receiving financial aid, providing scholarship opportunities for our students is extremely important."

Established by Anita Gilleo, granddaughter of Grand Rapids-based post-Impressionist painter Mathias J. Alten, the new Mathias Alten Legacy Endowed Award honors the collaboration between her grandfather and KCAD’s namesake, David Wolcott Kendall.

Anita GilleoAnita Gilleo

When Gilleo first began giving to the college in 2001, creating an annual scholarship that she then endowed in 2015, it marked a continuation of her dedication to preserving and promoting her grandfather’s legacy. Many of the estimated 1,500 Alten paintings currently on display throughout West Michigan were personally donated by Gilleo to various organizations. She has also produced a documentary film on her grandfather and successfully campaigned to have his Grand Rapids home included on the National Register of Historic Places. 

It’s Gilleo’s hope that the award will not only assist KCAD students financially but also encourage them to pursue the techniques Alten was known for, including solid drawing and draftsmanship skills, discipline and industriousness, respect for traditional standards of craftsmanship, versatility of medium and subject matter, and “painterly” technique.

The Jan G. Vonk Endowed Scholarship was created by Katherine A. Vonk and her children in honor of her husband and their father, who attended KCAD and taught in the Graphic Design program from 1966-2005. Vonk also served as interim dean of the faculty and played a key role in KCAD’s acquisition of the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building.

Jan VonkJan Vonk

The award is given to a full-time Graphic Design student who exemplifies personal integrity, dedication to the program, and community service, the same qualities exuded by a man who saw KCAD as a home away from home and approached his work with genuine joy and devotion. 

Graphic Design Professor and Interim Dean of the College Ron Riksen, a longtime colleague of Vonk’s, recalled, “Jan put his heart and soul into teaching. He was a big helper to many students over the years, and a believer in helping others, if possible. This award will honor his legacy by supporting students through the gift of scholarship.”

Established by KCAD alumnus and Conduit Studio owner John O’Neill (’01, Graphic Design), the Conduit Study Away Annual Scholarship is given to a full-time KCAD undergrad in any major who wants to take part in a study-abroad program.

alumnus John O'NeillJohn O'Neill

O’Neill says eligibility is purposely broad, explaining, “I didn’t want it to be based on GPA or portfolio, because this program could be the transformative experience that improves your portfolio.” Instead, students are given 100 words to respond to a open ended prompt that encourages them to take a risk, and the college’s scholarship committee selects a winner.

“Study abroad was such a transformative part of my education. It was the moment when I took personal ownership of my education, and it definitely shaped my education and career.” O’Neill acknowledges that some students don’t study abroad because of the expense, but says, “If there’s a way to bridge that gap, we want to help.”

According to Britton, these awards will help KCAD continue its vital role in helping students “shake up industries, open minds, and shape the world for the better.”