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Spotlight on Illustration at NESAD

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The Annual Illustration Art Show at the New England School of Art and Design is currently on exhibit at the Suffolk University Gallery. The displayed work will decorate the college’s art school until April 9th, demonstrating the natural and honed talents of the students majoring in illustration. The reception and awards ceremony featuring distinguished guests was held April 4th on the second floor of 75 Arlington Street, the home of NESAD.

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Artwork by junior Nika Patterson, winner of the “Top Drawer” ribbon.

The artwork on display encompasses the variety of work done by the 22 illustration majors at NESAD. Guest speakers such as 3-D artist Chris Short and freelance illustrator John S. Dykes judged submitted student work, rating them on a scale from 1 to 5; pieces that received above a 3 are on exhibit. The subject matter presented ranges from idiom and narrative to mythology and poetry providing a complete view of the talent at NESAD.

“If a student shows interest, enthusiasm, integrity and effort, I believe they’re likely to find the patience and persistence that will inevitably lead to significant artistic development,” said Associate Professor of Illustration Lisa French. Her students’ expertise across oil, ink, watercolor and digital mediums demonstrates their refined, diverse abilities that can only be the result of that “significant artistic development.”

French considers events such as the Illustration Art Show reception, which featured guest commentators, essential to the growth of her students. “Part of my efforts to have such great visiting speakers, practicing illustrators who are very successful and enthusiastic about what they’re doing, is I need to enrich their experience here. We need to get a variety of opinions and perspectives for the students.”

Awards were presented at the reception for distinction in concept, drawing, composition and overall technique. The winners ranged in both year and style, one of which was a sophomore new to the program. Green ribbons were presented to each of the following artists and can be seen decorating the frames of their work in the Suffolk Gallery.

“Great Idea” – Same Jones – Senior

“Top Drawer” – Nika Patterson – Junior

“Big Picture” – Katie Halsing – Junior

“Phenom” – Anh My Ngo – Sophomore

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Artwork by illustration junior Alex Hochberg.

Despite producing practiced, original works of art, the illustration major was among one of the recent budget cuts at Suffolk University. NESAD will now host only three majors: fine arts, graphic design and interior design. Those already in the program will be grandfathered along to their graduation, however, new students will not be added to the department next year. This was the first and only year the illustration major boasted freshman, sophomore, junior and senior members.

“This was a new program, they didn’t even give it a chance to grow,” French laments. “We had a niche here in Boston that the other schools that have illustration would not have filled. We would have had a special place.” Even though the major was available for a short time it already had more enrolled freshman than the favored fine arts major.

Artwork by junior Katie Halsing, winner of the "Big Picture" ribbon.

Artwork by junior Katie Halsing, winner of the “Big Picture” ribbon.

French goes on to say “the whole university from the top down is concerned about financial issues. They seem to be evaluating how much they make and they are looking to cut and economize wherever they can. My program was vulnerable. When you have pressure on the whole, people do what they can to protect themselves.”

Students studying at NESAD are proud of their work but feel the leadership at Suffolk fails in recognizing not only their success, but in their inclusion into the university in general. NESAD junior Katie Halsing comments on the lack of interest by faculty in the other schools: “You don’t want to be here and do this if you don’t really love doing it. You’ll hate yourself sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make something great happen. The administration should identify that and start making more of an effort.”

Her peer Meg Callahan argues the large turnout at the Illustration Art Show was due to efforts by the illustration majors and their professors, with no advertising offered by the university. “The reason why there are so many people here is because we were talking to people. We would go to the main campus and tell people there that is an illustration show going on tonight at NESAD.” Student organizations situated on the “main campus” (Beacon Hill) can seek out professional promotion assistance with ease. NESAD members are limited by a skewed schedule and their distance from these offices.

Artwork by sophomore Anh My Ngo, winner of the "Phenom" ribbon.

Artwork by sophomore Anh My Ngo, winner of the “Phenom” ribbon.

The illustration majors were not without suggestions to remedy the downplaying of NESAD. Heather Callahan, also a junior at the school, recommends “making it seem like NESAD isn’t a completely separate school, like making events and advertising gallery shows at the main campus.” She is among many at NESAD that would like to see student exhibits on Beacon Hill. “With that artwork that would be hanging up we would credit the artist. It’s not a local artist, it’s a school-related artist.”

Student exhibitions like this are beginning to appear around campus, however, they mainly encompass fine art student’s work. “The people who have the power to do that didn’t care to show off graphic design or interior design or illustration,” French analyzed from the first display attempts. “Maybe they feel only fine art should be on the walls. I do feel if illustration had been more visible then it potentially could have helped to grow the program more.”

Greater student and faculty involvement is necessary if NESAD is going to continue to train dedicated, skilled students. “We want to make more of a community,” said Katie Halsing. “We don’t really have one connecting the art school to everyone else on the other side of campus.” If NESAD students are prepared to push for a larger presence on campus they may finally receive the recognition they deserve.

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