Student's M.F.A. Project Explores Her Cuban Roots

    Abigail Gomez MSV Art in the Halls

    M.F.A. painting graduate Abigail Gomez. Photo courtesy of Abigail Gomez.

    Long before diplomatic relations between America and Cuba were restored last year making travel to the island easier, artist Abigail Gomez yearned to go there. Her great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Cuba. And although Gomez never got to meet him, she’s always been fascinated with the country and her Cuban heritage.

    “Cuba was beyond intriguing to me,” explained the 2015 Academy graduate who earned her M.F.A. in painting online. “I’m a third-generation Cuban, and the language and traditions weren’t passed down to me. It was necessary for me to experience Cuba and discover it so I could know more about my roots and who I am as an artist and a Latino American citizen.” 

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    An Intensive Architectural Expedition Through Europe

    School of Architecture students see a staggering 100 buildings on two-week study abroad trip

    Students in Ruhr Museum Essen Germany

    Students on the longest free hanging escalator in Europe at the Ruhr Museum by Dutch architecture firm and Pritzker Prize winner OMA - Rem Koolhaas. (L–R) Yubo Shen, Chao Chen, Vincent Meade, Liu Chunyao, Misch Alvarez, Nick Manderscheid (AIB), Fikret Cihan Asena, Reid Schultz. Courtesy of Mark Mueckenheim.

    For graduate student Michelee Alvarez, the significance of last summer’s study abroad trip to Europe became clear during a walk through a wheat field on the very first day. “We get off the bus and we’re in the middle of a wheat field, all the wheat is dry and it’s quiet,” she recalled.

    After landing in Frankfurt, overnighting in Bonn and traveling by bus to a tiny German village, Alvarez found herself on a path leading to the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel. The tiny structure designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor marked the first stop on the School of Architecture’s tour of Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Led by Graduate Director Mark Mueckenheim, a group of eight students visited 100 buildings in two weeks. 

    “It transformed I think from just an academic tour to where we really felt like we were on a pilgrimage,” said Alvarez. “Walking through the wheat field you hear the buzz of the insects around you ... it was idyllic.”

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    Study Abroad: Italian Odyssey


    Graduate students at the Ara Pacis in Rome. Courtesy of Susan Ogilvie.

    We always hear of a “once in a lifetime trip,” and I am now amongst the fortunate to have traveled in May and June of 2015 with Academy of Art University instructors David Riffert, Steven Williams and Kevin Forman and 19 other Academy students to beautiful Italy. 

    I had considered such a journey beyond my reach in so many ways, considering what I imagined to be a very expensive trip; too much time away and personally exhausting. But with encouragement, I decided to go and loved every moment.

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    Academy Student Starts Photography and Filmmaking Company

    Jonathen E. Davis began his seven-year stint in the Navy as a mass communication specialist. The job leveraged the photography he’d learned in high school and taught him a new skill, videography. Gradually, he built a strong portfolio that helped him land a position with a Combat Camera unit, an elite group of military journalists. As a combat cameraman, Davis accompanied Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and other special forces to document a variety of military operations around the world. He covered disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, both of which occurred in 2010. 

    Davis was the first photographer to find oil on land after the BP disaster, a discovery that became a big national news story. His photos of the spill appeared in major publications such as The New York Times and National Geographic. Davis’ videos and pictures were also featured on Fox News and NBC.

    After leaving the Navy, he missed the fast pace and camaraderie of being a combat cameraman. 


    Jonathen E. Davis.

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    An Image That Inspires Action

    MPTV student Jonathen E. Davis reflects on the Nepal earthquake


    Photo by Jonathen E. Davis.

    Under the Nepali sun, the earth quaked and trembled with the ferocity of a 7.8 earthquake. Buildings shuddered, then collapsed, and frightened people ran to the safety of open fields. When the earth stopped shaking, more than 8,000 were dead and piles of rubble were all that remained of some villages. The next day, more than half a world away, my phone rang while I was running errands with my wife and less than 12 hours later, I was boarding a flight to Kathmandu, my carry-on bag full of camera gear.

    An image, as the cliché goes, is worth a thousand words. But in a catastrophic event, an image can inspire action. As a veteran combat photographer and now a visual journalist, I’ve seen the power an image can have on the public. Photos of an oil slick on the beach led to outrage and a demand for corporate responsibility. Images of Haitian children living among the destroyed remnants of their homes led to the outpouring of financial support after the earthquake. After leaving the military, I joined the veteran-driven disaster relief organization Team Rubicon and deployed to tornado stricken Moore, Okla., to document and volunteer in the cleanup effort.


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    Italian Design Escape


    Courtesy of Brittany Harris.

    Brittany Harris showed up the first day of the semester smiling and tired, she just returned from Italy after three months in Bassano del Grappa, a small town close to Venice, where she ventured for an internship with ALU.

    We asked questions: How was it? What did you do? What did you learn? Where did you go? Where is Bassano del Grappa? Of course the first thing she mentioned was the food, something amazing, unforgettable, but what about design and working in a country so far from home?

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