Tag Archives: art career preparation

Printmaking students attend international conference

From left to right: Katie

From left to right: Sasha Bitzer, Katie Mikkelson, Jennifer Junker. San Francisco 2014.

In late March, School of Visual Arts students Sasha Bitzer, Jennifer Junker, and Katie Mikkelsen spent four days in San Francisco attending the Southern Graphics Council International Conference.  The conference provided myriad opportunities for exploring the diverse intersections between traditional and emerging technologies in printmaking, building connections with other artists in the national and international printmaking community, and exploring the print as a tool for social change.

Jennifer Junker reflects, “I attended the Southern Graphics conference because it was an opportunity to meet other printmakers and see other types of artworks and processes. There are many demonstrations, speakers, papers, exhibitions, etc. that go on throughout the conference so you can see and learn a lot of different things in a small period of time. ”  She adds, ” Overall, I feel as if SGCI is something any printmaker should go to at least once. You learn quite a few things, and see a lot of art, and meet other artists just like you.”


Sasha Bitzer showing her work at the Southern Graphics Conference International 2014.

One of the opportunities that Sasha Bitzer took advantage of was participating in the Student and Emerging Artist Open Portfolio Session.  The Open Portfolio Session allows students to showcase their work and creates opportunities for networking with other printmakers.  Collectors and curators also attend the Open Portfolio Session, which can open up very exciting connections for emerging artists.

SVA Printmaking Professor Patrick Vincent and Gallery Director Lauren Kinney also attended the conference.  Professor Vincent sees attending professional conferences as beneficial for both students and professors.  Vincent says, “For me as an instructor, working with these advanced students, it’s a way to give them ideas for their creative lives beyond college and possibilities for outside of the Fargo-Moorhead region (for those thinking about graduate schools). Or it’s a way to bring those new ideas back to the Fargo-Moorhead region.”

The 2015 Southern Graphics Council International Conference will take place in Knoxville, Tennessee, March 18-21.  For more information: SCGI 2015.




School of Visual Arts Offers Distinctive Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program


Catie Miller, works on exhibit, MSUM Roland Dille Center for the Arts, 2012.

The School of Visual Arts offers a unique portfolio development opportunity for students who have completed a BA or BFA from a studio art program. The Certificate in Studio Research is an intensive, one-year program of study designed to prepare students for professional work in the art world.  Students exiting the program have a cohesive body of work, which prepares them for myriad professional opportunities, including applying for graduate school, residencies, or grants; developing a strong web presence for freelance work; approaching galleries for exhibition opportunities; and more.

Some of the exciting success stories of previous students who completed extended study in the School of Visual Arts include Elise Parsley, Catie Miller, and Kaylyn Gerenz.  Elise Parsley graduated in 2011 with a portfolio in illustration; she has already secured a book contract with a major publisher (see story here).  Catie Miller, ceramics, graduated in 2013, and is currently working as an artist-in-residence at Red Star Studios (story); Kaylyn Gerenz completed study in sculpture in 2011, received a Career Development Grant in 2012, and is currently working as the Programming Associate and Registrar at the Rourke Museum in Moorhead, Minnesota (story).

To apply for the Certificate in Studio Research, applicants must have an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.75. and 3.0 in art.  Applicants must also present a portfolio of works and complete a written proposal.

For more information or to request application forms, contact Sherry Lee Short at shortsh@mnstate.edu.

Deadline for the 2014-2015 year is April 1, 2014.

2011 Illustration Grad Gets Book Deal from Major Publisher


Elise Parsley
(photo credit: Than Baardson)

Last November, Elise Parsley, a 2011 graduate from the School of Visual Arts, made a query to a literary agent.  He was impressed with her work and, within a day, he signed her up and sent out her work to a number of publishers.  By the end of the week, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers made her a contract offer, which she accepted.  Her book If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! will be published in 2015.

It was not only Parsley’s exceptional illustration and writing skills that impressed her agent.  “I was very impressed by how professionally Elise presented herself,”  he commented. “When I talked to her on the phone, she was so sweet and gracious, and it was clear that she already knows that she wants to make picture books for the rest of her life.  I knew on the spot that I wanted to represent her.”  The editor at Brown Books was impressed with the sophistication of her work:  “I assumed the book was created by someone who has studied and illustrated picture books for years,” she said. “It was the perfect formula of hilarity, heart, and expressive art. ”

ParsleyMagnoliaWhen Parsley enrolled in the art program at Minnesota State University she knew that she was interested in illustrating children’s books, but she was not certain she had the ability.  “I knew I wanted to give it a good try, but first I had to see if I was any good at drawing,” says Parsley.  “I really mean it when I say I didn’t know how to draw when I came to MSUM. I started from scratch.”  Reflecting on her professors’ contribution to her artistic development, she respectfully comments, “They really went out of their way to push me in terms of sequential and narrative work, and creating art that would speak to children. I owe a great deal to them.”

“Elise was an exceptional student,” says drawing professor Sherry Lee Short. “She was eager to learn, inquisitive, and always responsive to her professors’ critique.  I first had Elise as a student as a sophomore in life drawing classes.  Her ability to grow from project to project was exciting to see.  She had that perfect combination of innate talent and dedication to her work.”


“I always try to draw an image that makes me laugh, and then build a story around it. This time, I drew Magnolia in her classroom, with her teacher standing over her with a scowl on her face and a paper airplane in her hair. The alligator Magnolia brought to school is tattling on her, saying that Magnolia did it. From there, I figured that I’d better have a reason for this alligator being in the classroom in the first place, and I wrote the whole story.
Elise Parsley

Parsley concurs that learning to critique and think about one’s work was a key element in her growth as an artist. “The ability to thoughtfully critique was one of the best things I gained from my years at MSUM.  I learned to collaborate with others, ask questions and offer prompts to spur my fellow writers/artists along,” says Parsley.  Indeed, she continues to actively seek out critical feedback on her work.  “The give-and-take that a critique group offers, not to mention the community aspect, is crucial to my work now.  I thrive on feedback and revision, and meet with other kidlit creators multiple times each month to critique our work.  Now I also have the opportunity to receive feedback from my editor and art director at Little, Brown, so I’m in constant dialogue about both my writing and illustrations.”  She adds humorously, “If I hadn’t learned how to critique, I know I’d take everything too personally and probably cry a lot.  And no one wants to see that.”

Parsley also prepared for her career in illustration by achieving a minor in creative writing.  Before she graduated, she also created her website, business cards, letterhead, and other promotional materials in the Professional Practices course.

In addition to her upcoming book, Parsley also has illustrative work coming out in the March/April issue of theSociety of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Bulletin.  She also teaches piano.  Parsley’s commitment to children, community, and creativity is evident in all that she does.  Says Parsley, “Currently I’m an author/illustrator by day, and a circuit-riding piano teacher by night. I don’t plan to continue teaching forever, but right now it’s a fun, flexible job that allows me to spend time with children.”

But children’s book illustration is where her heart is:  “Picture books are a whole genre of art made especially for children and the adults that spend time with them.  It’s art that a child can own, understand, and learn from.  Children are a great audience, and I knew I wanted to create images for them.”


Art history and drawing student returns from Oxford after studying abroad

Kathryn Jacobson, a School of Visual Arts major with double emphases in art history and drawing, spent the fall semester studying abroad at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford, England.  Her experience contributed to and expanded her education in many ways.


Kathryn Jacobson at the Musee de Cluny in Paris
while studying abroad, Fall 2013.

Jacobson observes, “I encountered pieces of work in person that added an entirely different dimension to the way I study art and history. The program I enrolled in had a heavy focus on study, including hands-on experience in working in an incredible library system and being able to observe close up many manuscripts and Cathedrals. The level of expectation for students in the program was very high.”  This rigorous educational setting was complemented by the intimacy of the program: “The real blessing was the friendships I made, both professional and casual. The Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies was a very close-knit program of around twenty students and about five permanent staff members.  Despite the hard work we managed to have a lot of fun exploring England.”

Studying abroad at Oxford provided Jacobson with many opportunities to directly experience art and architecture that she would have otherwise only studied in books.  Jacobson comments, “The ability of being a short bus ride away from London, a ferry ride to Dublin, and a train to Paris was a remarkable gift.  I encountered pieces of work in person that added an entirely different dimension to the way I study art and history…Quick access to the Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, and the National Gallery was a great advantage to my work.”

After graduating from MSUM, Jacobson plans to attend graduate school and seek an art history degree that incorporates cross-disciplinary research and interaction between art historians and artists.  Her semester in Oxford has been a catalyst for being successful in achieving those goals.  For Jacobson, her Oxford experience “pushed me to be a better scholar and a better person and I plan to take that momentum and honesty into my studies here at MSUM.”

Students interested in studying abroad should discuss opportunities with their advisors and seek information at the Study Abroad office located in Bridges 250 or the Study Abroad website at http://web.mnstate.edu/studyabroad.

Two sculpture grads begin their professional careers at the Rourke Museum


Rourke Art Museum. File source: Wikimedia Commons

Kaylyn Gerenz (BFA) and Alan Ochocki (BA) both received their undergraduate degrees with emphases in sculpture from the School of Visual Arts in 2011.  Both currently hold key positions at the Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Gerenz began her work as Programming Associate and Registrar early in 2013.  Her responsibilities include developing ancillary programs, including tours and educational materials for all age groups, and being responsible for tracking and managing the Rourke’s permanent collection of approximately 4,000 artworks.  In addition, she also aided in the development of the consignment program for both local and regional artists and is the coordinator for the Rourke’s new Art Rental Program.

Ochocki has worked as the Rourke’s Exhibition Coordinator for two years.  As the Rourke’s primary liaison with artists, he works with artists to develop fully realized exhibits. He coordinates all aspects of exhibitions, collaborating with communications and educational staff on materials and outreach, and oversees the physical organization and installation of exhibitions.

Neither of us had envisioned working at a museum full time after we graduated, but are happy to find ourselves doing it. This unexpected experience has contributed to our studio life in various ways, whether through exposure to new artists or exploring new methods or theories to investigate. We both agree that although we ourselves are not creating art for our full-time job, it’s an amazing opportunity to just be working with art. It has also led us to be cognizant of what careers we look forward to in the future and the varying paths this job has created for us professionally.

–Alan Ochocki and Kaylyn Gerenz

When asked how a degree in sculpture prepared them for work at the Rourke, they commented that their education prepared them in myriad ways.  They observed, “At the Rourke, we draw from our art department critique experiences in studio and exercise talking openly and honestly with one another. We have become very comfortable with discussing individual ideals and thoughts when it comes to exhibitions, installation, and nearly everything else we are involved in together–this trust we now have started at MSUM in the sculpture department.”

However, it is not only their past experience in sculpture classes that they tap into for their current job skills.  They also see experiences from their freshman foundations year as key:  “We also are constantly drawing from our foundations classes and basic design principles, especially when analyzing art and spaces that will contain art.”  As museum specialists, they also tap into the knowledge they gained in art history courses, “especially with the last exhibition we installed: woodcuts and engraving from our permanent collections, emphasizing the transition and evolution of the woodcut through art history–it was a great help to know background information on this medium when considering pieces and installing the work.”

Ochocki and Gerenz also continue to be active in their studio work and professional development.  Because “I came to the realization that I have to be flexible and I can’t carve stones in my apartment,” Ochocki has been focusing on research and drawing.  He is also looking forward to exploring wood engravings and relief.  To support her studio work, Gerenz received a Lake Regional Arts Council Career Development Award 2012.  In 2013, she helped co-found KMAC Studios, a space for emerging artists in Fargo, North Dakota, and has ” been working in more community-driven and interactive projects collaboratively with studios mates and local artists.”  Her most-recent project is a collaborative installation piece with MSUM alumnus Ben Rheault, which is currently exhibited at the Plains Art Museum as part of the My Generation, Let’s Take it Over: Emerging Artists of Fargo-Moorhead.

Kaylyn Gerenz, discussing the Department of Art & Design while a student in 2011

2013 Ceramics Grad Receives Residency, Featured in National Magazine

One hundred percent of School of Visual Arts students who graduated in the past five years with a BFA in Studio Arts with an emphasis in Ceramics are working in their field.  This week, the SVA blog highlights one of those graduates, Catie Miller.

Catie Miller.

Catie Miller.

Miller graduated in the spring of 2013.  In addition to her studio art degree, she also received a BS in Art Education. The day after graduation, Miller was on the road to Kansas CIty, where she had secured an artist residency at Red Star Studios.

Red Star Studios is located in a new, state-of-the-art facility.  It includes a gallery, the Lawrence Lithography Workshop, a ceramic studio, and a ceramic supply company called Crane Yard Clay. MIller comments, “It is huge, new, and very beautiful with lots of windows overlooking Kansas City skyscrapers!”  In addition, there is a second teaching studio located half a mile away.

Miller is one of five “foundation residents” at Red Star Studios.  The foundation residency is specifically for recent graduates who are pursuing professional opportunities.  A “career residency” is also offered to an artist with at least five years of experience.  The residency is unpaid, but includes free firings and a semi-private studio space.  Once a week, each resident monitors the studio for 6 hours.  Residents’ responsibilities include helping studio members, loading/unloading kilns, cleaning, mixing glazes, and weekly 1 1/2 hour meetings.

Catie Miller

Catie Miller assisting a girl trying out wheel throwing in the Red Star Studios booth at the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City.

In addition, Miller is working closely with the educational programming at Red Star. “I developed the programing for three weeks of summer art camp.  This fall I am teaching kid and parent/kid classes.  We also have a program called Make-Mobile.  This mobile classroom allows us to go to schools and do clay projects with students.”

When not teaching at Red Star Studios, Miller substitute teaches in Kansas.  She prepared in advance of graduation to secure a Kansas teaching license and can substitute teach from Kindergarten to 12th grade.  “I sub in a variety of classrooms, but have made some connections with art teachers. I get a lot of repeat requests from the same teachers, making the challenge of subbing easier.”

"Hoard Cups," earthenware with colored slips, 2012.

Ceramics by Catie Miller: “Hoard Cups,” earthenware with colored slips, 2012.

Catie Miller has also received national recognition for her undergraduate work at Minnesota State University Moorhead.  Shortly after graduating, she was selected as one of five students chosen for an undergraduate showcase in Ceramic Monthly magazine.  The magazine’s editors wrote of the featured students: “Inquisitive research, creative solutions, an interest in craftsmanship and technique–the works by the students chosen for this year’s showcase demonstrate all of these traits. Pretty impressive, not to mention way beyond the work many of us here on the staff of Ceramics Monthly were making as an undergraduate student.”

Art Education professor, Brad Bachmeier, attributes Miller’s success “to her curiosity, intelligence, willingess to take risks and fail, but more than anything an insatiable work ethic.”  Ceramics professor, Kelli SInner, concurs:  “She understood that to be a successful artist you have to do more than just make good artwork.  She was a skilled ceramic artist, but also developed her writing skills, used social media for networking, and took advantage of opportunities to sell her work and get her name out into the public arena.”

To view Catie Miller’s work see her website and Etsy page.

Alumnus Profile: Andrew Maus, Executive Director of MN Marine Art Museum

Andy Maus. Photo credit: James A. Bowey.

Andy Maus.
Photo credit: James A. Bowey.

Andrew Maus received his B.A. in Studio Art with emphases in painting and drawing from MSUM’s School of Visual Arts in 2002.  Following, he pursued a graduate degree in Public Administration, which he received in 2011.  Maus now works as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.  Located in Winona, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum exhibits myriad historical and contemporary exhibitions as well as hosts educational experiences for thousands of people each year. The Museum’s exhibitions and programs are inspired by one of the highest quality collections of art in the country.

Maus began his career in museum-related work while he was an undergraduate through work as a gallery attendant at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota.  Maus recalls that what impressed him was “how great it is to connect the public with art.  It became fulfilling to work for something bigger than myself and I felt fortunate to work in the arts.”  A few years after receiving his undergraduate degree, Maus became the museum’s Curator of Public Programming and eventually the Director of Education. Additionally, he served in the capacity of Interim Curator.  At this point, he had gathered all the experiences needed to assume the Executive Director position at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

Maus recalls his undergraduate years in the School of Visual Arts as key to his eventual success.  “The biggest thing that the Art Department facilitated in me was the ability to question EVERYTHING.  As an artist, creating work became more about visual innovation than anything else.  And classes in Art History and Aesthetics were exciting because looking at art became an intellectual exercise in striving for understanding other people, and understanding the decision-making processes behind creation. These abilities and awareness are inherent leadership traits, and I would not be who I am today if it were not for the MSUM Art Department.”

Maus advises students who are interested in museum management to get an undergraduate art degree and a more pragmatic graduate degree that relates to their specific interest in museum work. Degree areas they might consider include administration, museum studies, education, art history, or even an MBA.  “Also,” he adds, “be prepared to start at an entry-level position and work harder than you think you will!”