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The Journey Continues: Exhibition Week 2015

Posted May 18, 2015 in Public

Another year at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is in the books, and another group of immensely talented students has gone out into the world to begin the next chapter of their lives. In a multi-faceted celebration of all that this year’s graduating class has accomplished, Exhibition Week 2015 once again filled the KCAD campus and community with an amazing amount of creative energy.

Annual Student Exhibition

A time-honored KCAD tradition, this immense exhibition once again transformed the entire campus into one continuous gallery. The best work from graduating seniors in each of the college’s undergraduate and graduate programs was painstakingly curated and displayed to the delight of all the family members, friends, staff, faculty, and community members who came to explore throughout the week.

The MFA Thesis Exhibition, housed in The Fed Galleries @ KCAD, brought viewers up close and personal with capstone work from ten students – nine from the Painting program and one from Printmaking program – who’ve completed their graduate studies.

a look at the 2015 MFA Thesis ExhibitionWork by 2015 MFA Painting graduate Joshua Risner in the MFA Thesis Exhibition

The Fed Galleries also played host to a special display of work from KCAD’s 2015 Excellence Award winners, the 14 graduating students who have exhibited a rare level of mastery and accomplishment within their chosen field of study.

Excellence Award exhibitionWork by 2015 Illustration Excellence Award winner Samanhta Luotonen in the Excellence Awards Exhibition


VIP Alumni Event and Docent Tours

Organized by the KCAD Alumni Association, this event brought the strength and vibrancy of KCAD’s external community front and center, uniting alumni, donors, collaborators, and other stakeholders from the local community in a celebration of this year’s graduates.

pair of KCAD alumniAlumni converse and connect outside The Fed Galleries

After mingling, connecting with one another, and enjoying a little food and entertainment, the guests were given guided tours of the Annual Student Exhibition.

VIP eventAlumni and other VIPs exploring the Annual Student Exhibition


Excellence Awards Ceremony

Where the Excellence Award exhibition highlighted the winners’ creative talents, the award ceremony brought just attention to the personal qualities that make these students truly outstanding.

2015 Excellence Award WinnersThe 2015 Excellence Award winners with the Chairs of their programs

As friends and family looked on proudly, program chairs took the stage to deliver moving personal tributes to the winners in a heartfelt display of the kinds of close connections that routinely develop between KCAD faculty and their students.

When the students took the stage, it was not to brag or self-promote, but simply to say thanks to all those who had inspired them to get outside of their comfort zones and strive each day to improve as students, artists, designers, and people.


As raindrops teased outdoors, family and friends gathered inside the beautiful confines of Fountain Street Church to give the graduating class of 2015 a rousing send-off.

commencement 2015(above and below) Inside Fountain Street Church for Commencement 2015

Commencement 2015

MFA Painting graduate Aj Cooke was the first to take the stage. In her opening address, she talked about some of the things she’s learned in her time at KCAD, namely that talk is cheap, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and that great change is only possible when will and action converge.

Aj CookeAj Cooke

"Some or perhaps all of these big-picture ideas we may already have known, but re-learned in the context of higher education,” Cooke said. “And we will continue to re-learn the basics, even when we break boundaries and create new meaning within our individual and connecting spheres. So finally, to all those graduating here today: congratulations. And for those of us who pushed limits, demanded high standards from ourselves and others, and learned from our failures and successes - I can’t wait to see what we do next.”

Commencemen 2015Leave it to KCAD students to get creative with their graduation gear

Next to speak was 2015 Valedictorian and Graphic Design graduate Jamie Vander Werf, who opened her speech with a famous quote from Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

As someone whose love for art began the moment she could first hold a pencil, Vander Werf came to KCAD motivated to succeed in the truest sense of the word.

2014 Valedictorian Jamie Vander Werf2015 Valedictorian Jamie Vander Werf

“This is an exciting time in every one of our lives,” Vander Werf said. “We leave this place that taught us so much and head into the real world, which will teach us even more, because we should never stop learning. I am well aware that college cannot teach a student everything they need to know about the workplace, but it has taught me to know what I want. And most importantly, it has taught me to be passionate, motivated, and determined in everything that I do.”

Then, it was time for the graduating class to have their time in the spotlight. As each student’s name was called, an image of their work was displayed on the screen to a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the audience. More than a record of past accomplishments, these images were also indicative of the bright future that lies ahead of each and every one of the graduates.

Commencement 2015Students line up prior to the start of the ceremony

In the closing moments of the ceremony, Metals and Jewelry Design Program Chair Phil Renato took the stage to deliver a moving tribute to Dr. Oliver Evans, who served KCAD for 19 years, first as Dean of the Faculty, then as Vice President for Academic Affairs, and finally as President of the college. After retiring in 2012, Dr. Evans returned to KCAD to serve as Interim President for the 2014-2015 academic year. Now, he will return to his retirement as KCAD welcomes its next permanent president, Leslie Bellavance.

Phil RenatoMetals and Jewelry Design Program Chair Phil Renato

“Oliver Evans has helped us to take risks that we continue to be rewarded for taking,” said Renato. “He has helped to keep the work that our students do at the center of our mission, and he has directly supported and mentored a great many students, staff, and faculty members. As he retires we hope that he knows how much we appreciate the role he has played in the success of KCAD and its students.”

Oliver EvansInterim President Oliver Evans

To close out the ceremony, General Education professor Susanna Engbers delivered a poignant farewell address in which she urged students to never stop learning, and to never be afraid to take risks.

Susanna EngbersProfessor Susanna Engbers

“Enrich yourself with new ideas, with stories,” Engbers told the students. “Fill your mind not just with your own experiences but with those of others from other historical periods, other countries, other political persuasions. And be vulnerable to the ideas in them. Test them against your own wisdom and experience and let in those ideas that want to lead you in new directions.”

Congratulations to Dr. Evans on his retirement, and congratulations to the graduating class of 2015 – we can’t wait to see what you accomplish next!