Tag Archives: Minnesota State University Moorhead

SVA Launches New Drawing and Illustration Curriculum in Fall 2015

Oil pastel on paper, work by Professor of Drawing and Illustration, Jim Park.

Oil pastel on paper, work by Professor of Drawing and Illustration, Jim Park.


Chalk pastel on paper, work by Professor of Drawing and Illustration, Sherry Lee Short.

The School of Visual Arts is proud to announce its new Emphasis in Drawing and Illustration.  The new emphasis launches in the fall of 2015 and involves a coordinated set of courses designed to meet the needs of graduates entering the multi-faceted fields of contemporary drawing and illustration. The new emphasis will replace two current emphases, the Emphasis in Drawing and Emphasis in Illustration.

Two courses currently on the books will continued to be offered.  These are Introduction to Illustration and Digital Illustration.  All other courses are new, including several courses each designed to immerse students in the methods, concepts, and materials of a key drawing and/or illustration area.  The new courses are:

  • Introduction to Drawing Concepts and Methodologies
  • Sequential Art
  • Perceptual Art
  • Contemporary Drawing Concepts and Methodologies
  • Figure Drawing and Painting
  • Portfolio Development
Detail of work by Assistant Professor of Printmaking, Patrick Vincent, who will be teaching Sequential Art in the new curriculum.

Detail of work by Assistant Professor of Printmaking, Patrick Vincent, who will be teaching Sequential Art in the new curriculum.

In addition, students are required to take all the core requirements that are required of all students seeking a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in the School of Visual Arts.  These include 2D and 3D introductory courses, Basic Drawing, Foundation Design, art history courses, and Professional Practices.

Sketch by Trygve Olson, Instructor of Digital Illustration.

Sketch by Trygve Olson, Instructor of Digital Illustration.

The new drawing and illustration curriculum will be taught by a diverse faculty representing a range of drawing and illustration styles in their own professional work, including both traditional and digital media.

For more information on this exciting new curriculum, contact Sherry Lee Short, shorts@mnstate.edu.

Oil on metal, work by Professor of Painting, Zhimin Guan, who will be teaching Figure Drawing and Painting in the new Emphasis in Drawing and Illustration.

Oil on metal, work by Professor of Painting, Zhimin Guan, who will be teaching Figure Drawing and Painting in the new Emphasis in Drawing and Illustration.


School of Visual Arts Abuzz with Student Activities

There are myriad opportunities for students in the School of Visual Arts to engage with their art interests outside of class as well as through class activities that interact with the campus and greater art community.  Here are some of the activities taking place just this week!


Print and Ceramics Sale

Biannual Print and Ceramics Sale.  Twice a year, students in the Works on Paper Guild and the Ceramics Guild sell their work in the Roland Dille Center for the Arts.  This spring’s sale took place on Monday and Tuesday, and, as always, was a very popular and successful event.


Mini Madness

Mini Madness Juried Exhibition.  Students enrolled in Art 498 Exhibition design and carry out a number of exhibitions.  Mini Madness consists of artworks by faculty and students, each no larger than 3″ x 3″ x 3.”  Students in the class selected 32 works for the display from the large number entered.  Opening is tomorrow at 5 pm, outside the Critique Room (CA 172).

Annual Freshman Field Trip to the Twin Cities.  Each year, freshman rise bright and early for a full-day trip to Twin Cities museums and galleries.  Highlights of last week’s trip included the Hopper exhibition at the Walker Art Museum.

Caricature Drawing.  Students in Introduction to Illustration will be setting up in the student union tomorrow and drawing caricatures for members of the campus community.  Stop by and get your caricature drawn–free!

This is only a small sample of the ongoing creative energy in the School of Visual Arts.  Student groups include Dragons Den Comics, Painting Guild, Works on Paper Guild, Photo Guild, Ceramics Guild, and National Art Education Association MSUM Student Chapter.


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.



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

End-of-the-Semester Kudos to SVA Students

A number of majors in the School of Visual Arts had significant achievements this semester.  Hats off!


Ashley Strazzinski.

  • Ashley Strazzinski, who is graduating with an emphasis in Photography this fall, received a Work Scholar Internship at Aperture magazine in New York City.  She starts her internship in January.
  • Several students had their work selected by faculty to show at a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities alumni event in Saint Paul in December.  The students were:  Marissa Van Vleet, Katelyn Hanson, Shalene Cole, Kai Paulus, Brooke Stewart, Becca Larsen, Chai Vang, Yvonne Wegscheid, Katie Mikkelsen, Cara Allbee, and Jesse Suppa.
  • Bertha Vasquez (Sculpture), Takara Geck (Photography), Chantel Fugere (Illustration), Shannon Hokstad (Art History), and Linnea Fittererand (Art History) presented papers at the Red River Women’s Studies Conference in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on October 4. (For the full story, click here).
  • Jesse Suppa (Sculpture) is serving on the College of Arts, Media, and Communication Student Advisory Board to the Dean.
  • Courtney Johnson, who is graduating with an emphasis in Photography and a minor in Business Management this fall, had two pieces accepted into the national juried exhibition, Reflections of Autumn, in Romeo, Michigan. Her work, Red Sweep, received second place in the exhibition.
  • Meghann Hlibichuck (Painting) and Megan Brabec (Painting) participated in the Autumn Art Auction at the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks.  Their works were featured in the color catalog.
  • Sam Williams

    Samuel Williams.

    Samuel Williams (Illustration) is working as a freelance illustrator for Institute of Domestic Violence in the African American Community in Minneapolis.

  • Painting students Alex Nelson, Carly Lengstorf,  Meghann Hlibichuk, Megan Brobec, Katelyn Hanson, Megan Quiring, and Cara Allbee participated in 2013 Annual Area Invitational Show at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls.  Katelyn Hanson received Merit Award.