Arts@BYU is a campaign that showcases what the arts mean to students and faculty members and how it impacts their lives through interviews. This campaign is meant to dig deeper into the personalities and motivations of our community and how BYU helps drive their artistic process.
We are always looking for people to feature on Arts@BYU. If you would like to share your story, please click the link below.
“Sometimes I forget that I’m an artist, though I’ve been one since I can remember. I realize throughout my day-to-day routine that I’m observing things in my path different than others might, or even different than myself a decade ago. I’ve learned while at BYU that making art can simply originate from a commonplace element. I see potential and I have an urge to do something with it; add to it, edit it, transform it. To borrow, say, a soap dispenser from its functional state and collaborate with its structure. After all, leaving the thing alone is what everyone else would do.” .
. “My current art practice involves taking snapshots of scenes that draw my attention. I then react to a photograph and start assembling formal connections with resources I have hoarded in my studio (construction materials, office supplies, old traffic signs, empty paint cans, PVC pipes). Basically, I’m re-purposing other people’s junk. In my undergrad I was taught how to paint with pigments and now I’m painting with all sorts of materials that complement each other in color, texture, pattern, size, and shape.” .
. “I have fun designing! I’ve learned to not overthink the creation process. Just start and anticipate an idea leading somewhere, anywhere.” -Marissa Albrecht
“In a TED Talk, Brené Brown mentioned the importance of ‘the person in the arena’—the one who gets bloodied, battered, and bruised, but comes back every day to fight anyways. I’ve been thinking about that so much; we have to make the choice every day to try, to fight, and often, to fail.”
. “I’ve met so many people who let themselves be bound by fear—I myself have been that person many times. People who are constantly holding themselves back from great things because it’s too terrifying to know what they want and go for it. I don’t want to be the ‘person with a cheap ticket,’ an onlooker to someone else’s struggles and successes. I want to be down there in that arena!”
. “So here’s a picture of me engaging in something I love—a play rehearsal. I’ve almost completed my BFA in Acting, a degree that some people might think is silly. But you know what? I want it. I love it. I choose it. Every day I get to go in that arena and be vulnerable in front of tons of people! How awesome is that? I hope we can all have the presence to recognize what we want, and the courage to go after it.” -Mikah Vaclaw, BFA Acting Major
For the design of the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin, BYU illustration professor Justin Kunz sought inspiration from the intersection of art, design and sports. .
His design features three players reaching for the ball in unison, reflecting how the sport of basketball has brought together diverse people around the world through a simple, universal and unifying athletic experience. “I hope it’s evident in my design that it’s both a celebration of the game and the people who play it. Because there are a lot of different people who play the game around the world,” Kunz said. “It’s not just about the hall of famers, the fact that it has such an incredible appeal around the world when it’s such a simple game. You just need a hoop and a ball. That’s what’s so cool about it to me.” #ArtsAtBYU
“Students would present me with ideas and my job was just to provoke them and persuade them to go a little bit further and maybe a little deeper in what the project did for them.”
Jeffrey Cornwall graduated from BYU in 2011 with a BA in art education. As a full-time art specialist, he’s been able to use art-making as a tool for exploring concepts students studied in their main classrooms.
Each week, he spends 30-60 minutes with groups of students in kindergarten through sixth grade, expanding their understanding of academic subjects through various artistic methods. The result? A collaboration between him and his students.
“Children have these really rich ideas, and most of the time they could come up with way better ideas than I could. I just tried to give them space to flourish.” Cornwall wasn’t trying to make future artists of his students but rather to encourage them to learn in meaningful new ways. #ArtsAtBYU
“There are few things that make me feel more alive than performing. Singing onstage allows me to express my authentic self better than just about anything else.” – Victoria Khalil, Music #ArtsAtBYU
Five years ago, Lauren Passey’s dad got a promotion at Swire Coca-Cola that relocated their family to Denver, Colorado. Anytime she would visit home, she’d use her dad’s corporate tickets to go to the Denver Zoo. It became a family tradition.
As part of her Illustration BFA Project, she created a series of eight postcards designed for the Denver Zoo, emphasizing their most popular animals. Last fall, she was lucky enough to present the project to the zoo’s Marketing Director and since then, they have commissioned her pieces, worked with her throughout the project, and are currently selling them in their gift shop. #ArtsAtBYU
Sarah Tippets has always had a fascination with the natural world, all things nerdy and video games. Her project, a video game called Avast Ye, is the fusion of her identity in the arts. In the game, a pirate ant called Captain Kate and her small crew must use each others’ strengths to overcome the dangerous environment and defeat hostile enemies, promising a swashbuckling adventure at every turn.
Sarah considers her pursuit of art a way to express what’s been an inspiration to her in her life. She has been encouraged by loving parents and inspired by teachers throughout her time at BYU, finding solace in the new form of expression within digital escapes. #ArtsAtBYU
“The longer I’ve danced, the more I’ve come to realize that ballet is art, not just athletics. I used to love just the athletic side of it. Now, I want to be like the great ballerinas who give so much of themselves through their movement.” – Alex Marshall, Dance Major #ArtsAtBYU
“People think you have to let go of your values to be an actor, but in reality the opposite is true. The more you commit to your beliefs, the stronger and more inspiring you become.” – Parker Waters, Music Dance Theatre Major #ArtsAtBYU
“I love films that teach you a little bit about what it means to be human, what it means to live in this world and what it means to dream… You can’t get by living in your own sphere. There’s a huge world out there.” – Connor Dean, Advertising #ArtsAtBYU
“Art is how I understand and communicate with the world. I never considered myself very gifted with words, so I picked up the camera as a mode of expressing my emotions and thoughts.” “Connecting with the past, thinking about the present and planning for the future all happen as I view and create art. I often gather inspiration from ancestral stories, social issues, my faith and relationships. Photography is my main medium, but I appreciate all art forms and am constantly finding ways to broaden my skill set.” “This project in particular, ‘Invisible Women,’ uses found photographs and postcards to relate a theme which I am very passionate about. ‘Invisible Women’ is meant to spark discussion about women and their role in society. Each image has been thoughtfully selected to represent how women are portrayed throughout history and the pivotal role they play, often behind the scenes.” “The woman depicted in each image has been carefully excised leaving a void for the viewer to contemplate the woman, her influence and the potential impact of her absence. Meant to honor the many influential women in history who were never given the proper platform to be recognized, this series touches on themes of feminism, humility, heritage, gratitude and progress.” “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had as a female artist to create art and find avenues such as Gallery 303 to display my work and share it with others. Art will always play an important role in my emotional and spiritual growth.”
-Sara Anderson, Photography
“Art for me is an expression of my emotions and passions, and the music of jazz is that expression for me. Everything about it makes me feel varying emotions, and to me, that’s what the human experience is all about.”
. “I enjoy learning, listening to, and performing Jazz. I play saxophone, clarinet, tuba and trombone. In addition to performing in BYU Jazz Ensemble, I perform in a small group with friends and as work as a TA for a Jazz professor. I have the opportunity to teach others about the history of Jazz.”
. “Despite music not being my major, it still plays an enormous part in my life and brings me great joy. I do my best to keep it just as much a part of me as is my other educational pursuits. Without the arts, I feel any of my other pursuits would have no meaning.” –
— Sam Hirst, Music Minor, BYU Jazz Ensemble
Catch Sam playing saxophone and clarinet in tonight’s Jazz Showcase at 7:30 p.m. in the de Jong Concert Hall.
After three days of composing in late April 2019, Christian Orme finished “Hymn to the Night” at about 3:30 a.m. The composition was inspired by the text of the famous poem written by the nineteenth-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. .
“The melody and subsequent harmonies that serve as the foundational underpinnings of the composition came rather quickly,” said Christian. “I wanted to evoke the beauty of Longellow’s words which personify the godly, peaceful and restorative presence that the night brings. As with all the music I compose and arrange, I seek to draw others closer to the divine by merging the various components of composition that I find most compelling and soul-expanding.”
His piece was submitted to the 2019 Brock Competition for Student Composers and won second runner-up. Congratulations, Christian! #ArtsAtBYU
“I remember collecting driftwood and making assemblages when I was really young. I literally dumped Elmer’s glue on bark and driftwood and stacked things on top of each other and arranged little pebbles and shells and moss.”
Heidi Somsen grew up in British Columbia, where she played regularly in the ocean and gathered items from along the coast. Her innate interest in the earth and materiality drove Somsen to become an artist, but it wasn’t until she took her first foundations class at BYU that she recognized her love for 3D mediums. .
Reflecting on her creative process, Somsen said a new project always begins with the question, “what if?” She then follows through on that initial thought—asking questions, researching and working with clay— until an artwork begins to form. As she spends more and more time with the idea both in and out of her studio, she starts to understand the work better. #ArtsAtBYU
“I know a lot of people who have been making movies since they were toddlers. That wasn’t me.”
Jeffrey Hein, a filmmaker here at BYU, was most recently featured in the Final Cut Film Festival with his film “Passenger Seat”. While he was thrilled to begin work on the project, he quickly discovered the challenges of filmmaking.
“The most difficult aspect of making this film…was just having the drive to keep moving forward even when things seemed tough.” From managing the camera crew to working with the location at night, “Passenger Seat” proved to be a challenge worthy of his determined team.
“Despite any difficulties we experienced making this film, it was a hugely rewarding experience,” Jeffrey recounted from his experience. Filmmaking is woven into his identity, and he has some advice for other aspiring filmmakers. “Figure out what you, your crew and your actors need to do to make the film what it needs to be. Don’t be lazy and don’t give up on yourself. You can make your vision happen, but only if you’re willing to work for it.” #ArtsAtBYU
“The most rewarding part of theatre for me is falling into a new character — feeling their victories, their defeats, seeing things through their eyes and telling their story. It can be a fantastic exercise in empathy, realizing that everyone you talk to has their own story to tell.” – Ian Buckley, Acting #ArtsAtBYU
“I am really inspired by the dancers that I get to work with everyday. It’s unlike anything else to see artists being vulnerable and true to who they are.” – Ryan Hatch, Dance Major #ArtsAtBYU
“Makeup artistry is not only a form of expression, but a way to transform someone into something else. It is amazing to see people feel better about themselves or witness them become their character and know that I helped with that.” – Colleen Ackerman (@colleenaartistry), Theatre Arts Studies Major #ArtsAtBYU
Alexander Woods has been hailed as both a “showstopping” performer and a “deft and sensitive accompanist,” performing in the Helicon Symposium and BYU’s Deseret String Quartet. In his current position, he teaches violin—including violin literature and pedagogy—and chamber music.
“The subtitle of my lecture is the ‘violin as a seer stone.’ When I pick up my violin, I feel like I’m looking through this lens at the world, at emotion, at psychology, at religion, at spirituality.”
Alexander Woods’ Faith + Works lecture begins on Thursday, November 7, at 11 a.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall! #ArtsAtBYU
“When I came to BYU, I was an ex-graffiti artist from southern California. I felt like I had a distinct view of I wanted to channel into my work and my portfolio. My goal was to push the envelope and shake things up. When my BFA classmates advanced and I did not, I realized I had some big lessons to learn.”
Jared Benson is the current Executive Creative Director at Punchcut — a digital product design company that collaborates with clients and partners including Visa, LG, Fitbit and Toyota. His journey through the world of design took form here at BYU.
When he didn’t advance in the program, he made a shift. “My focus back then was singular to a career in design and I had no plan B, so I scrapped every project in my portfolio and worked day and night to demonstrate the mastery I had developed thus far. Thankfully it was enough to get me back into the program. Soon after, I was invited to work in a studio which served as a catalyst to greater learning and opportunity.”
This lesson Benson learned has guided him throughout his career. “Don’t let anything stand in the way of your passion, stay humble and always remember that good design rarely happens when the client is not happy.” Since then, Benson has established a competitive edge throughout ever-changing technologies. Not only have Benson’s talents led him to success in technology designs, but his efforts in Punchcut have also allowed the company to specialize in business transformation for a better future.
Jared Benson will present “Lessons Learned from a Creative Career” on Thursday, October 17 at 11 a.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall as part of the University’s Alumni Achievement Awards during Homecoming 2019. #ArtsAtBYU #BYUHomecoming #BYUCFAC
Caitlin Tanner has always been drawn to the artistic, but until she came to BYU she never saw it as a possibility for her career.
“Growing up just a few blocks away from campus, I often explored the MOA and HFAC art exhibits with my mom. I grew an appreciation and love of art this way. I always felt inspired afterward to be my own artist and held high respect for the work BYU faculty and students produced. Now that I get to work in classes with some of these faculty as a student at BYU, I have been introduced into mediums I was unfamiliar with like printmaking and graphic design, which have propelled me to discover my own artistic voice and develop technical skills.”
“I guess there’s kinda this general view that art is really vague, hard to understand, and that people make up meanings for their work that don’t really exist. A lot of people seem to feel like they just don’t “get” art. I can only speak for my own work, but I’d like people to know that I don’t create art just to look good on Instagram or seem like I’m so smart that you can’t tell what my work is about. Really, I make art because I find certain things interesting, like how light plays on a face or how colored pencil can looks like paint. I don’t have a definite meaning for every piece.” #ArtsAtBYU
Ashley Beck was never your typical student; she always wanted to do things differently than instructed. Wanting to help students who didn’t fit the mold, Beck eventually gained the opportunity to teach art in Title I public schools in the District of Columbia, where she has stayed since completing her student teaching in 2013. .
Beck’s first full-time job after graduation was at an alternative high school for teenagers who had been expelled or who had severe behavioral issues. From there, she transferred to another Title I school, where she currently works. “The biggest thing I had to learn was to really get to know my students. I definitely came in with a lot of biases I didn’t know I had. I had to really get to know each student individually. As a student growing up, I would definitely push back against boundaries. I worked really well when I was given a lot of creative freedom.” .
Beck’s identity with the arts has inspired countless individuals to do better and unlock their own potential. She hopes to expand and diversify her skill set in order to better serve the most underserved students. “I would really like to become an expert in student learning and development, or in policy and research for public schools, so I feel like underserved students are getting really quality instruction.” #ArtsAtBYU
“It’s incredible to see so many hearts touched by my music, and solidifies my testimony that music has divine power. Music is meant for all and is meant to be shared with all. Never hesitate to use music as a way to connect with others.” – Raya Esplin, Music #ArtsAtBYU
All along his artistic journey, David Habben has been trying new things — new media, new subjects and new styles. Amid all that variety, he says his message is consistent: “There is a world of ideas and experiences around each of us and inside us that is worth exploring.”
With his very first authored and illustrated children’s book, “Mr Sherman’s Cloud,” Habben hopes to bring wisdom in a format that allows him to express his own experience. “I’m very much like Mr. Sherman. More often than not, I’m struggling to keep a positive perspective, but I realize that I’m not alone in that — I wanted to use this book to speak to that part of everyone.” #ArtsAtBYU
Tiffany Pliler’s project is named “Domus,” which means home in Latin. Her project explores the spaces we inhabit most of our day and asks us how that affects our identity. “Studying design has taught me so much about truth. Truth about the gospel, truth about the world and truth about myself. I will forever be grateful for that.” #ArtsAtBYU
Emmie Brower’s (@emusc) graphic design capstone project aimed to diffuse tension on a topic that’s been taken a little too seriously: confrontation.
“We all are scared of confrontation in one way or another. Most of us avoid confrontation. The Avoidance Collection by Conflict Corp. is a fictional satirical concept store that I create to highlight different behavioral aspects of conflict avoidance.”
Taking inspiration from many artists such as Jean Michel Basquiat and Gerrit Rietveld, Emmie Brower is drawn to quirky and imperfect drawings, paintings, sculptures and graphics. This is the unique approach that she takes to graphic design.
To Emmie, graphic design isn’t just about throwing together a logo. It’s about creating a system that will help solve visual problems while creating new material. “Brand recognition is a really powerful marketing tool. You want to be able to recognize a brand in an instant.”
“I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I want to make beautiful things all the time. I want people to look at what I make and say, ’That’s beautiful Jake.’” -Jake Peterson, Advertising #ArtsAtBYU