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Artists Celebrate Graduation With an Exhibit

Program Readies Students for Work

Kristen Richards with artwork
Kristen Richards ’11 is considering graduate school after completing her undergraduate art degree at UMass Lowell.

By Julia Gavin

Years of dreaming, sketching and creating paid off for 12 graduating students as they displayed their thesis projects at the fall 2011 “BFA: Art and Design Studios” exhibit in the University and Dugan Galleries at UMass Lowell. The exhibit runs through Dec. 29.

“Finishing the projects in time for my critique was tough, but it was all worth it,” said design student Sarah Baker of completing her undergraduate work.

Baker has spent her final semester at UMass Lowell learning new technologies, balancing projects and designing several websites to complete the graphic design program. She may have been “a little ambitious” in designing three websites for the Omni Parker House, but the experience has prepared her for life after graduation. The program’s graduating students, half of whom earned honors, gained skills and experience vital for success in the creative world.

“I learned that I can do more than I thought I could,” said Baker, who plans to send her designs to the Omni Parker House for feedback while building a portfolio website. “I know that I can graduate from UMass Lowell and become a professional designer in web or print and be successful.”

Kristen Richards, who created sculptures out of detailed charcoal drawings on delicate newsprint for the exhibit, also gained confidence in her abilities during the thesis process.

“It feels great to be done with the project and I have a sense of accomplishment,” said Richards. “I was a little nervous going into the critique, but there will be many more critics to come and this was good practice presenting my work.”

Derek Cash, a longtime skateboarder, appreciated advice about his digital illustrations, which are intended for boards and skate gear. 

“We talked about my project several weeks ago when I was planning to do skateboard graphics with a street feel,” said Cash of his earlier designs. “My friend suggested just making the full graphics so I wouldn’t be limited by the shape of the boards and I’m glad I agreed. My friends are already asking me to design graphics for their boards.”

Cash displayed his artwork next to a video of his design process, showing how he created the complex images in a computer program. He said that people often don’t understand the many hours that go into creating a digital composition.

Creating the Future

With their undergraduate careers complete, many of the students have shifted their focus to what lies ahead. Several already have a good idea of what they want to do for work, including Richards who already has a job lead. After completing an internship, she was offered a position at a group home for adults with disabilities.

“I’m interested in outsider — non-artist — art, so the program is a good fit.  I like getting to know the people, their approach and style, and it feels good at the end of the day to know they’re happy because of art,” said Richards, who may pursue a master’s degree in art therapy.

Prof. Stephen Mishol said that more art students in recent years are pursuing  master’s degrees while working as professional artists.

“Our students are forward-thinking,” said Mishol, who noted that many recent graduates are staying local and becoming involved in the Greater Boston arts scene. “To succeed, they need to take the long view of their careers and this program gives them a good environment to focus on their work and develop as artists.”