By Myshala Liddick |
August 10, 2023

UCF’s School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD) celebrates the achievements of faculty, alumni and students as they pursue creative endeavors. This summer, our hard-working community excelled beyond expectations. Allow us to recognize them for their efforts within the art field.

NEA Big Read Project Director and Associate Professor of Art History Keri Watson secured a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant for UCF. Managed by Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read offers grants to support innovative community reading programs designed around a single book. 

UCF Associate Professor of Emerging Media Matt Dombrowski was featured on Adobe’s blog, explaining how Limbitless, a UCF non-profit organization of which Dombrowski is creative director, is teaching students how to work with AI and Adobe technology in their mission to help people with limb difference or limb loss. “We’ve got big ambitions and it’s inspiring to see the traction we’ve gained, but we never lose sight of our true goal, which is to empower others through creativity and get as many arms out into the world as possible,” says Dombrowski. “With Adobe’s support, we’re on track to make that happen.”

UCF alum MJ Torrecampo was a finalist in the 2023 Florida Prize in Contemporary Art. The Florida Prize is “organized by the Orlando Museum of Art to bring new recognition to the most progressive artists in the state,” awarding the winning artist $20,000. Previous UCF SVAD finalists and winners for the Florida Prize in Contemporary Art include Robert Rivers in 2021, Amer Kobaslija in 2019, Brooks Dierdorff in 2018, Mark Gerstein in 2017 and Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz in 2015.

Director of UCF Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology, and Entertainment (CREATE) Stella Sung premiered her composition Starbursts at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts this past May. The composition was commissioned and performed by the Orlando Philharmonic in honor of their 30-year anniversary. Sung’s heavenly Starbursts is inspired by images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and “the colorful and energetic series of metallic sculptures each titled ‘Starburst’ by American artist Dorothy Gillespie (1920-2012).”

SVAD lecturer Ashley Taylor presented “Petty” at Snap! Orlando’s annual showcase Le Salon 2023, “[exploring] the malaise of the broke millennial, and other “unworthy” emotions.” The installation was on view through August 26 alongside works from other featured artists.

"Avocado Toast (Side A)" by Ashley Taylor, 2023
“Avocado Toast (Side A)” by Ashley Taylor, 2023. Image from, courtesy Ashley Taylor.

Two UCF affiliated artists, MFA student Njeri Kinuthia and alum and faculty member Leeann Rae, participated in a special one-night-only artist showcase, PLATFORM, presented by the Orlando Museum of Art. The showcase debuted on Friday, July 28, and featured works of various mediums exhibited in the museum rotunda.

UCF Gallery Director Shannon Lindsey presented a solo exhibition CONSTRUCT::CONNECT at the Terrace Gallery in Orlando’s City Hall this summer. Presented and curated by Snap! Orlando, this exhibit will showcase her multifaceted professional practice as an interdisciplinary artist, university director and academic art gallery director. Select SVAD faculty and alumni will be curated into the exhibition, as well. The exhibit will be on view until September 15, 2023.

SVAD student Raven Niekerk was a featured artist in the 34th Annual University Student Exhibition. The exhibit was on display at the Atlantic Center for the Arts Main from May 20 to July 29.

SVAD Associate Professor Margaret Zaho was invited to speak at the British Institute in Florence. Zaho gave a lecture on “the function, meaning and significance of the Santo Spirito’s painted wooden altar frontals,” many of which can be found in Florence, Italy. The lecture was presented on June 1 and is now available to watch on YouTube here.

15 UCF students received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which funds study abroad programs and internships. Becoming a Gilman Scholar is a prestigious honor with a competitive application process, bestowed upon qualified students of exceptional merit.

The Meridian Parks Art Walk: Summer 2023 opened on July 1 to celebrate 4th of July and share new artwork with the community. The event included a holiday celebration, as well as an outdoor Art Walk, where the artists’ works were displayed throughout the park. The exhibiting artists included Meaghan Slack, Nelly Pompee, Brittney Fucheck, Hadassah Roberts, Kaitlyn Robinkoff, Zofia Martin, Kayla Andries, Tanya Petracca, Sierra Fuentes, Nigel Montgomery, Lisamar Barreiro-Marrer and Hané Harnett.

5 pieces displayed at the Meridian Art Walk. 3 displays at the Meridian Art Walk.

On July 29, UCF’s Flying Horse Editions presented an Open House of their studio “to show the collaborative process used by studio staff and artists.” A variety of works were on display, including screen printing, monotypes, lithography and woodblock printing. The event showcased the different elements of the artistic process and provided a behind-the-scenes view for patrons. “We’re trying to raise awareness that we’re here because we’re kind of a best-kept secret. We want people to feel welcome and see what we’ve been working on,” said Mär Martinez, the studio’s member and marketing specialist. “We’re going to do a printing demo, so there’s an educational component.”

SVAD Associate Professor KJ Mathieson’s work was showcased in “The Elastic Mind,” an art exhibition named after “a psychological term that refers to the ability to think non-linearly and be fluid to survive in times of rapid change and uncertainty.” Mathieson and 66 other artists were selected out of a pool of 300 applicants from around the world to participate in the exhibition, on display April 20 through September 28, 2023 at The Broward College South Gallery. 

SVAD staff members Joe Muley and Brendan Solinsky won awards at the annual CAH staff awards, “which recognize employees who have delivered exemplary service to the collegCAH Staff Awards e and UCF.” Three winners are chosen out of seven nominees and bestowed “prestigious honors that include a financial award of $600 each.” SVAD Marketing Coordinator Hannah Estes, another nominee who “plays an integral role in maintaining our community presence,” was recognized for 5 years of service at CAH.

In honor of late UCF alumna and “shining star” Sarah Brown, the UCF Foundation presents a new fund, the “Sarah Brown Shining Star Scholarship.” Sarah was a passionate creative, who understood the impact art could have on someone’s life and wanted to help the world through her amazing designs. The fund’s goal is $25,000, and each donation aids in the effort to establish an endowed scholarship and “ensure that UCF visual arts students will receive financial support as they pursue their dreams of becoming a graphic designer.” To make a donation, please see the full announcement here.

UCF is proud to be the home of so many exceptional creatives who are unleashing their potential, both educationally and professionally. Check back soon for our next edition of Art Bytes from the School of Visual Arts and Design. Go Knights! Charge On!

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