Author: Anna Maples

Photos: Emily Nevils & Jessi Dodge

January 27, 2016

Inaugural showcase awards $10,000 in prizes to student artists displaying work across various mediums.


This week, for the first time ever, undergraduate artists and designers at MU are competing in the Undergraduate Visual Art & Design Showcase for thousands of dollars in prize money to help fund their careers.

The event will be open until Friday in Jesse Hall and is intended to become an annual occurrence.

Respected fish netting artist Janet Echelman, whose work has been featured at events such as the Vancouver Olympics and in cities across the globe, gave the keynote address. She spoke about her artwork, both domestic and abroad, as well as the impact that public art can have on congested cities.

“​Public art can bring people together across all kinds of divides, because if art can give us an authentic human experience in the public realm, we want to speak about it,” Echelman says in an email.

Students were nominated by their professors in the School of Journalism and the College of Arts and Sciences to participate and compete for a total of $10,000 in prize money for professional development to “enhance their educational and professional experiences in the area of visual art & design appropriate to their career plans,” according to the event’s website.

Most of the pieces were done as school projects, ranging across various mediums. The showcase featured photography, sculpture, architecture, advertising campaigns, clothing and costume design, lighting design, video and paintings.

Begin Chapter One

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Chapter One: Jessie

Senior and fine arts major Jessie Hicks displays her work in distinctly different ways depending on the location.

“I’m an installation artist, so all of my work is arranged within a space and is site specific,” Hicks says. “I work with layering a lot within spaces.”

Her project is made mostly of craft materials and dollar store purchases, and it looks at intersections of online data storage and the art world.

“I explore the sublime of fast-moving goods and where that might intersect with the sublime of digital spaces,” Hicks says.

The most frustrating part of creating the piece came not from complicated artistic questions or ideas, but rather in the form of a lost tool during production.

“Somebody took my hammer!” Hicks says. “I brought my own hammer from home, and then somebody took it.”

Chapter Two

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Chapter Two: Kathleen

Senior Kathleen Kowalsky, a textile and apparel management student, created a burlap dress sculpted into waves, inspired by the Italian Renaissance.

“I realized that a lot of the inspiration came from nature, and it came from things that are raw and things that are very rugged and edgy,” Kowalsky says. “Environmentalism is really important to me, and so this piece kind of reflects that. But it also brings a lot of inspiration from the historical statues and things like that and brings it into a more modern day piece, so I guess it’s kind of a whole conjumble of things.”

Kowalsky is also a cofounder of Truman’s Closet, which provides free professional clothing for MU students and faculty to borrow, in order to expand opportunities and reuse clothing.

Chapter Three

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Chapter Three: Andrew

Fine arts student and fifth-year senior Andrew Nikonowicz assembled his presentation from a larger project on display in New York, “This World and Others Like It.” The work is a combination of photography and computer generated images that comments on the connected yet separate worlds of technology and reality.

“The sequence as a whole is sort of an attempt to make the suggestion that all of these realities are acceptable realities, and they are exceptionally more intertwined than people are willing to admit,” Nikonowicz says.

He emphasizes the generational difference regarding experience with technology.

“I was born after the Internet was invented, and so these relationships that I have with technology have always existed,” Nikonowicz says. “My relationship with technology and with the real world have always been parallel.”

Chapter Four

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Chapter Four: Imani

Inspired by a textiles class called “Creativity,” Imani Chambers, a senior textile and apparel management student, created a very personal garment that can also be used as a tapestry.

“I took a bunch of pictures from old photo albums and then scanned them into a computer,” Chambers says. “Using Photoshop and Illustrator, I manipulated them and created my own print.”

Chambers says the piece of clothing is meant to reflect the times of love and family in life during periods of anxiety and confusion. Chambers says she has felt this within her own life as she approaches her graduation.

“I’m very nervous to open up a new chapter of my life, and a lot of times when I get nervous I like to get that comfort from people who know and love me,” Chambers says.


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While the designers and artists are competing for funding prizes, another goal of the showcase is to provide students with the opportunity to discuss their work in a scholarly setting, according to the event’s website.

Echelman was enthusiastic about the opportunities offered by the success and continuation of the Undergraduate Visual Art & Design Showcase.

“Your educators and administrators are doing exactly what I would recommend in terms of creating these prizes to encourage professional excellence, and providing mentors to help students reach high levels of professionalism in their work,” Echelman says.

Anyone can go check out the wide range of art and design work for free in Jesse Hall until Jan. 29.