Archive for '2017'

    Stories from Florence


    Florence Streets by Laine Renfro. 12 x 14, oil on canvas.

    There might not have been any gelato served, but the amorous sights and sounds of Florence, Italy, came to life at the 688 Sutter Gallery on the opening of the 2017 Study Abroad Exhibit. For more than 10 years, the summer study abroad program at Academy of Art University has been influencing the life and art of students.

    In the dimmed lighting of the gallery on the evening of Dec. 7, guests circulated around the art that was on display. The works included photography, fine art, printmaking and book arts. Attendees looked at scenes of bustling piazzas on a hot summer day, romantic gondola rides down a river, and the soothing pastels of the Tuscany countryside. Each piece told the story of the students’ unique experience spent at the birthplace of the Renaissance.

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    The Thell-Lenntorp Twins: A Great Team on and off the Tennis Court

    Twins @ ITA West Region Championship 2017

    Academy of Art University artist-athletes Alma Thell-Lenntorp and Klara Thell-Lenntorp.

    There’s no secret formula or strategy or regime to Alma and Klara Thell-Lenntorp’s success on the tennis court. Throw out all traditional norms of “hard work” and “discipline,” “practice” and “perseverance.” Their secret? Twin telekinesis.

    “Sometimes, it feels like we’re talking with the mind,” Alma – “The older one,” – jokes when we meet at a coffee shop near Academy of Art University’s 79 New Montgomery building. Klara – “The taller one,” – is in on the quirk, but just grins.

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    School of Acting’s ‘Six Degrees’ Captivates Audiences at Sutter Theatre


    (L-R) Jack Clendenen, Zaya Kolia, Renee Rogoff and Michael Houston (in chair). Photo by Bob Toy.

    Paul Poitier, the young black man at the center of playwright John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, is a likable scam artist who dons different identities to get what he wants. But is he any more of a fraud than the high society folks whose world he’s desperate to join? It’s one of the intriguing questions related to identity and status that audiences who caught Academy of Art University’s School of Acting’s polished rendition of this sharp, fast-paced satire were left to ponder.

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    Skilled Stylists Help JEM Grad’s Work Shine in Print

    Anyone who wears one of jeweler Azita Mireshghi’s bold statement pieces is bound to feel like a bit of a badass. Inspired by the mystery and beauty of nature, her designs emanate strength and power. Examples include a chunky red and black metal cuff that resembles molten lava and a delicate but fierce mesh necklace that looks like skin shed by a golden snake. Mireshghi usually works with brass, bronze and copper, often incorporating organic materials—such as horsehair—in her jewelry for added texture. Tribal ornaments and armor shapes also influence her designs.

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    Tea Time Animation Club Offers Support and Connections


    (L–R) Elham Sepehrjou, Allison Freeman, Ramsey Ann Naito (producer of The Boss Baby), Gaby Rojo, Fernando Penafiel, Leo Quert, and (in front) Tom McGrath (director of The Boss Baby) at a Tea Time event. Photo courtesy of Fernando Penafiel.

    The Tea Time Animation Club is an independent animation organization formed by Academy of Art University students and alumni. The club provides a pressure-free environment for students to work on their craft, provide feedback and network with other students. Additionally, the club brings big name animation professionals to speak on campus on a regular basis, most recently John Kahrs who directed Lyft’s latest commercial and Pixar animators Nick Rosario and Terry Song to talk about their work on the new animated feature hit, Coco.

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    Supporting Stories Through Music


    Academy of Art University School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media M.F.A. student Yi Liu. Photo courtesy of Yi Liu.

    When first meeting her, Yi Liu’s soft voice and shy demeanor are immediately noticeable, characteristics she is the first to admit about herself. It is through her musical scores on screen where her emotions and artistry really shine.

    “I’m not an articulate person. I’m a little shy,” she said.  “It feels good to create a melody. I can really connect my inner-emotions to express to the outside world.”

    Liu is discussing her newest project, Her Shoes, a Shanghai-based short film in which she was the sole film composer and sound designer. After graduating with a B.F.A. in music composition from Academy of Art University’s School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media (MUS) in 2015, she is now in the first year of her master’s program.

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    Designing for Deckers

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    Examples of Deckers Brands shoes on display. Photo by Alex Madison.

    Two School of Industrial Design (IND) students went from wearing Deckers Brands shoes, to helping design them. Laurel Ebert and Russ Donida haven’t even graduated from Academy of Art University, however they both have full-time jobs as 3-D designers at one of the top shoe companies in the world.

    Starting as interns last fall, the two students stepped into the world of Deckers Brands, which owns brands like UGG, Hoka One One and Teva. In one year, the students gained invaluable skills in the realm of virtual prototyping, a technique the shoe industry is catching onto, but something Deckers is at the forefront of.

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    Fashion Design Grad Talks Life at The North Face

    It’s been almost 20 years since Ray Bercilla graduated from the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University, and to come back to speak to students on Nov. 28 at the Northpoint building was a little surreal.

    Bercilla, a fashion design graduate, is a product developer at The North Face. He and his colleague, Senior Materials Developer Samantha Pinnock, tagged along with Director of Color Lisa Cram at The North Face’s parent company, VF Corporation (VFC), to visit the Academy. They gave a special presentation on color, textile chemistry and what it’s like to work for the outdoor company based in Alameda.

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    Building Conscious Urban Architecture


    Internationally renowned architect and owner of Neil M. Denari Architects, Neil Denari. Photo by Doron Serban.

    A big name in the world of architecture stopped by Academy of Art University on Nov. 14, but he didn’t start his lecture by talking about architecture. Neil Denari, internationally renowned architect and owner of Neil M. Denari Architects, kicked off the night speaking about The Ramones, modular synthesizers, along with horses and zebras.

    Denari dished out metaphors to introduce the main message behind his two-hour lecture—that sameness comes in many different forms and that architecture in the urban setting can have an unconventional dialogue with its surroundings.

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    Founder of Bionic Landscape Joins Fall Speaker Series


    Bionic Landscape Founder and Design Director Marcel Wilson. Photo by Nina Tabios.

    The San Francisco Bay Area is home to several of the world’s top architects, and the School of Landscape Architecture (LAN) at Academy of Art University is fortunate to know and work closely with so many of them. LAN Director Jeff McLane calls the city “ground zero for landscape architecture,” and over the past few weeks, students have heard a handful of top-notch designers speak at the department’s Fall Speaker Series, one of whom is recognized as “a leader of a new generation of architects.”

    Marcel Wilson is the founder and design director of Bionic Landscape, a landscape architecture planning and urban design firm based in San Francisco. Founded in 2009, Wilson said the firm works on a lot of “interesting, challenging projects.” His clients tend to be “ambitious” with difficult sites, places, programs and motives.

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    Rethinking Architecture


    School of Architecture Undergraduate Director Jennifer Asselstine, guest speaker Madeline Schwartzman and Graduate Director Mark Mückenheim. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Human-fungi hybridization, three-foot eyelashes and body robotics were among the many esoteric topics discussed at the premiere of the Fall Lecture Series for the School of Architecture (ARCH) on Oct. 5.

    Madeline Schwartzman showed over 400 stunning and obscure images to a packed audience in the atrium at 601 Brannan St., each introducing a new way of thinking about human’s relationship to architecture. The writer, filmmaker and architect from New York City spoke passionately to the audience about the importance of out-of-the-box thinking and always trying to see the world from a different point of view.

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    Tuesday Tunes Hosts MarlonB!


    School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media student Marlon Britton performs at a recent Tuesday Tunes. Photo by Nina Tabios.

    For the month of November’s first edition of Tuesday Tunes, (UKR) turned to one of Academy of Art University’s own to headline the weekly showcase.  

    Singer/songwriter Marlon Britton, who goes by “MarlonB!” on stage, is a student from the School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media and runs track and field for the Academy. Originally from Chicago, Britton has been writing songs since he was 10 years old but only started recording music at the age of 16. Now with 12 years of experience of making music, he said he’s ready to start sharing it with a greater audience.

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    Artful Teaching


    School of Art Education alumnus Ryan Kurada with his first grade class at University Elementary School at La Fiesta. Photo courtesy of Ryan Kurada.

    Sitting in his history of art education class at the Academy of Art University, Ryan Kurada was inspired by a philosophy that would shape his future as a teacher. Kurada graduated from the School of Art Education in Fall 2013 and has been a full-time teacher at University Elementary School at La Fiesta in Rohnert Park, California, for two years.

    It was at the Academy where he learned about an education philosophy that originated in Reggio Emilia, Italy. A philosophy that integrates art across the curriculum to teach all types of learners.

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    All in the Details


    Costume renderings. Photo by Annelyn Ayran.

    It’s four days out from opening night and B.F.A. Costume Design student Shelby Lionella has a laundry list of alterations and decisions to make before the first technical, or in-costume, rehearsal. Altering dresses and pants, labeling shoes for the actors, organizing a quick-change protocol, meeting with the director and production team; the list goes on. But for this moment, her focus is on buttons.

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    Fashion Meets Augmented Reality


    School of Fashion graduate Aastha Shah takes part in a Project Runway AR 2.0 app test. Photo courtesy of Peggy Kuo.

    There’s never a shortage of interesting projects going on at Academy of Art University. In more recent years, the School of Game Development (GAM) has embraced concepts bridging the department’s ability to create interactive technology with other fields: Think landscape design, web design, communications and more. 

    Will Anielewicz, an Academy graduate advisor working primarily with the School of Animation & Visual Effects, is piloting a project that would marry fashion and augmented reality (AR) technology. Using graphic hardware, tracking markers are placed on garments so when viewed through an AR app on a mobile device or tablet, animations appear on top of the designs.

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    School of Fashion Alumnus Makes a Statement on 'Project Runway'

    Brandon Kee, 2016 B.F.A. menswear design graduate, spoke candidly with Academy Art U News about his Project Runway experience


    Brandon Kee stars in Project Runway season 16, airing on Lifetime. Photo by Barbara Nitke. Copyright 2017.

    Out of the 16 hopefuls on the 16th season of Lifetime series Project Runway, Brandon Kee was the quietest. Just a year removed from school, Kee, a 2016 B.F.A. menswear design alumnus from the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University, kept to himself and stayed above the drama of the show. Working with a “tunnel vision” focus, Kee’s designs dominated the catwalk and awed judges week after week. Kee didn’t need to use words to say anything – his clothes already said plenty for him.

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    Molding a Legacy

    Sculpture instructors and alumni are creating a street-level monument of famed social activist Norman Lear


    Schifrin works on getting Lear’s expression just right for the monument. Photo courtesy of Peter Schifrin.


    The values of Academy of Art University are not simply rooted in fostering artists who make art, but in artists who make a statement. There may not be a better person who emulates that value than legendary television producer and social activist Norman Lear. So what better sculptors than instructors and alumni from the School of Fine Art - Sculpture at the Academy to create the first Lear monument of its kind in the country.

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    Shaping the Future With Stories

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    Illustration by Eda Kaban.

    There’s not an adult who doesn’t remember a children’s book that vividly captured their imagination as a child and connected them to literature. A book whose illustrations brought that story to life. This is the role of a children’s book illustrator and this year, four connected to Academy of Art University’s School of Illustration (ILL) were honored for their excellence in the impactful art of visual storytelling. 

    “Children’s books shape the future of every young reader,” said Chuck Pyle, ILL director. “Our artists are very driven, smart and passionate storytellers whose work is being recognized as the best of the best.”

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    Creating a Positive Social Impact Through Design

    LAN student Nahal Sohbati shared her design process for Ridge Lane Park in an inspiring lecture


    School of Landscape Architecture graduate student Nahal Sohbati gives a presentation during her department’s 2017 Speaker Series. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Look out landscape architecture, here comes Nahal Sohbati. On the cusp of graduating this month with her master’s degree, Sohbati will soon take her industry by storm and bring with her the ideals she implemented in her award-winning Ridge Lane Park project. 

    Sohbati imparted her experience and ideologies on her fellow Academy of Art University students during the School of Landscape Architecture’s (LAN) Speaker Series on Nov. 2. 

    “We are incredibly proud of her work,” said Jeff McLane, LAN director, as he introduced Sohbati to a live and online audience at The Cannery. “It’s amazing to see student work that actually becomes real. I hope this inspires all of you to go out and create.”

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    Experiencing the Classics

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    The DeLorean DMC-12. Photo by Nina Tabios.

    For the 60th Annual San Francisco International Auto Show this holiday season, the Academy of Art University revealed some rare gems and classic favorites from its revered collection of old-school automobiles from Nov. 18–25.

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    Spotlight on School of Illustration Children's Book Instructors

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    Illustration by Julie Downing.

    Writing and illustrating picture books isn’t child’s play. The artists and authors who create them just make it look easy. Academy of Art University’s School of Illustration is fortunate to have a team of talented instructors specializing in children’s books. Whether they do double-duty as writers and illustrators, the artists who help bring an author’s words to life with beautiful images or just focus on writing, are all successful professionals. While their skill sets and backgrounds vary, they all share a love for teaching at the Academy. In fact, several of these instructors are School of Illustration alums, eager to pass along the knowledge they gained as students to those who are following in their footsteps. 

    “It takes pros to teach people to become passionate professionals,” said Chuck Pyle, director of the School of Illustration. “I count on hiring individuals who can communicate what they care about clearly and succinctly, and teach with passion and wisdom. These instructors ensure the next generation of children’s books artists and writers will be strong like them and prepared to reshape the world of children’s books. I love looking at their work—it inspires me.”

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    COM Alumni Share Their Industry Journeys


    (L-R) Elizabeth Sweeney (Class of 2016), Matt Cesca (Class of 2016), Mehak Khullar (Class of 2017), COM instructor John Scott and Devin London (Class of 2013). Photo by Bob Toy.

    John Scott made sure COM Careers was short and sweet. The School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) instructor at Academy of Art University acted as the mediator between the four alums he invited to share their stories and career tidbits to current students. 

    Graduates Devin London (2013), Mehak Khullar (2017), Elizabeth Sweeney and Matt Cesca (both 2016) sat on the stage at 79 New Montgomery theater and spoke candidly about their experiences going from Academy students to industry professionals.

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    Animation Fall Festival Brings a Variety of Talent to the Screen


    School of Animation & Visual Effects Graduate Director Tom Bertino and Freshman Studies Coordinator Shaun Featherstone. Photo by Bob Toy.

    As quickly as it arrived, another fall semester at the Academy of Art University is coming to a close. And just as it did in previous years, the School of Animation & Visual Effects (ANM) hosted its annual Animation Fall Festival on Nov. 14, and while this year’s event garnered the usual audience giggles, viewers got a little taste of the bizarre as well.

    For starters, ANM Graduate Director Tom Bertino brought back his “It Came From Bertino’s Basement,” which has been on hiatus for the past few festivals. An avid film collector since he was a preteen, Bertino said his home library is chock full of “strange or obscure or sort of peripheral” films that may “never get to see the light of day.”

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    School of Fashion Co-Presents Film on Iconic Italian Vogue Editor


    Following a screening of the documentary Franca: Chaos and Creation, the audience was treated to a post-film Q&A moderated by School of Fashion Executive Director Simon Ungless. Photo by Bob Toy.

    With her petite frame, big blue eyes and mane of wavy blonde hair, long-time Italian Vogue Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani possessed a delicate beauty until she died last year at age 66. The subject of the documentary Franca: Chaos and Creation—directed by her son, Francesco Carrozzini—may have looked fragile. But the woman who revolutionized fashion publishing during her 28-year tenure at the iconic magazine was no china doll. 

    On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion and the Italian Cultural Institute co-presented a screening of Franca: Chaos and Creation at the fittingly elegant Castro Theatre. The event kicked off the pre-opening of the recent New Italian Cinema festival.

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    IAD Students Create Innovative Installation for DIFFA Fundraiser


    Pictured (L-R): Michael Berge’, Moegi Hara and Hairi Chen. Photo by Bob Toy.

    On the evening of November 16, music pulsated and a strobe light bathed the walls of a spacious event room at the W Hotel San Francisco in a swirling sea of neon purple, blue and pink. The fun nightclub-like setting was the site of a fundraiser for an organization with a serious mission, the San Francisco chapter of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). Proceeds from the event support UCSF’s HIV Clinic Ward 86 at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

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    Exhibit Shines a Light on JEM's Bright Past, Present and Future


    Deanna Wardley poses next to her work on display at Past, Present, Future II. Photo by Bob Toy.

    On the evening of Nov. 2, suite 105 at Academy of Art University’s Cannery Galleries buzzed with School of Jewelry and Metal Arts (JEM) students, faculty and guests. They mingled and munched on snacks while perusing an array of wearable and decorative art during a reception that kicked off Past, Present, Future II, the second installment of an exhibition that debuted last year. The show continues the celebration of JEM’s rich history by showcasing exceptional work from current and former students. 

    “Jewelry has been part of the school for a long, long time,” said Charlene Modena, executive director of JEM. “We have this wonderful legacy and I wanted to honor that by bringing in work from the people who are part of it. Things have changed a lot in the world of art and technology, so we also wanted to show works made using lasers and 3-D printing. We teach traditional and new techniques but we’re always focused on contemporary outcomes.”

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    Behind 'Academy's Got Talent'

    Communication and trust are key to pulling off a successful school-wide talent show


    (L–R) Jacoby Barragan, Pre-Franz Dominick, Donte Burney, Gazmine Griffin and Lada Kondarakhina. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Academy of Art University’s student-produced and hosted Academy’s Got Talent has been showcasing the school’s wider scope of talented individuals, from singers and musicians to dancers and DJs. But for all the talent seen in front of the camera, there’s so much more behind the scenes. 

    It takes a well-oiled machine to put on a production of any magnitude. School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) Director Jan Yanehiro and Associate Director Steve Kotton know this all too well, which is why Academy’s Got Talent is run by the school’s COM 420 class: In-Depth Project: Studio Entertainment Series.

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    Creating 'Coco'

    He may not have shed any tears, but Daniel Arriaga was clearly emotional as he talked about his full-circle journey from a wide-eyed Academy of Art University student to now a senior director at Pixar Animation Studios. 

    “This is a real dream come true to be back here at my school,” Arriaga said. “To be able to stand here is really the moment I can say ‘I made it.’”

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    Humor and Poignancy Meld in School of Acting's Production of 'This'


    In the chair: Roman Reyes (Tom) and Tiffani Williams (Marrell). On the sofa: Carlos Carrillo (Jean Pierre); Zoe Foulks (Jane) and Mario Mazzetti (standing). Photo by Bob Toy.

    At first glance, the lives of the four smart, urbane college friends in Academy of Art University’s School of Acting’s recent production of This look as bright as the lights of New York City, the play’s setting. But as Melissa James Gibson’s Obie award-winning play unfolded at the 620 Sutter Street Theatre, the audience quickly grasped that wasn’t the case. Teetering on the brink of middle-age, none of the characters are thrilled with the view. The play brims with witty dialogue that drew lots of laughs from the audience. But the more serious notes of disappointment and regret that permeate This were equally compelling.

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    Photography Student Relishes Opportunity From Red Bull

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    Academy of Art University School of Photography student Chris Dirker shooting Red Bull's Heavy Water event. Photo courtesy of Red Bull.

    The world’s best paddle-boarders tackled the Pacific Ocean’s most-challenging waves for the second annual Red Bull Heavy Water event and Chris Dirker was on the frontlines documenting it. A School of Photography student at the Academy of Art University, Dirker was selected out of 20 submitted portfolios to shoot the race alongside Red Bull’s own professional photographers.

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    'Six Degrees' Explores Identity and Connections Between Strangers at Sutter Theatre

    Six Degrees of Separation, the 1990 hit play by John Guare, explores the idea that all people are more closely connected than we might imagine. Picture a long line of strangers at a concert or movie. According to the theory, if you were to walk down that line and count off no more than six people, you’d meet someone you were linked to in some way. Six Degrees also  examines identity and how we respond when someone we think is a certain type of person proves to be someone entirely different. Academy of Art University’s School of Acting (ACT) is currently performing a two-week run of Guare’s thought-provoking satire at Sutter Theatre.

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    The Brothers Franco Discuss the Making Of 'The Disaster Artist'


    Dave Franco and James Franco in The Disaster Artist. Photo by Justina Mintz. Courtesy of A24.

    James Franco’s new film, The Disaster Artist, opened in San Francisco on Fri, Dec. 1. Based on the book of the same name, Franco directed, produced and starred in the film, alongside his younger brother Dave Franco.

    The film follows the life of Hollywood outcast Tommy Wiseau (James) and disastrous production of his film The Room alongside his best friend Greg Sestero (Dave). Previously the brothers starred in a Funny or Die series, but this is their first time appearing on the big screen together.

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    Managing the Creation of Stories

    Film producer Chris Moore shares the story of his journey through Hollywood with MPTV students and staff


    Film producer Chris Moore, in conversation with MPTV Executive Director Jana Memel, speaks to students about his experiences in Hollywood on Oct. 30. Photo by Bob Toy.

    During his visit to the School of Motion Pictures & Television at the Academy of Art University (MPTV), producer Chris Moore hoped to deliver a heavy dose of reality to his audience. 

    Mostly made up of MPTV students and faculty, the Good Will Hunting and American Pie producer, who received a Best Picture Oscar nomination this past year for Manchester By The Sea, spoke at length with Executive Director Jana Memel about his impromptu beginnings in production and film.

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    Bringing the Community Together

    More than 400 pieces of art were on display at the annual fine art auction


    Guests take part in the live auction, emceed by Raul Castro, at this year's Faculty + Alumni Fine Art Auction. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Like every year, conversations at the 22nd Annual Faculty + Alumni Fine Art Auction flowed as easily as the wine. The afternoon sun poured into The Cannery plaza on Saturday, Nov. 4, as guests trickled into the gallery to admire over 400 pieces of art from abstract to contemporary realism. Beneath the laughs and everyday conversations, however, was an underlying emphasis on the importance of supporting the arts community and emerging artists.

    “The primary purpose of starting this 22 years ago was to raise money for our students,” said Craig Nelson, executive director of painting and printmaking for the School of Fine Art at Academy of Art University. With the support of Academy of Art University President Elisa Stephens, and the assistance of Serita Sangimino and Dana Sornstein, the auction has grown to its current stature.

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    Living One's Dream

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    Raffaela Lan Pellegrini. Photo by Roberto Palermo, professional photographer, Florence, Italy.

    Raffaela Lan Pellegrini completed her B.F.A. in painting with a double minor in etching and art history at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. This school was founded in 1784 as a result of a reformation of the former Accademia delle Arti Disegno, founded in 1563 by Cosimo I dei Medici. Pellegrini’s B.F.A. degree was followed by a year and a half specialization at the private international printmaking school Il Bisonte, also in Florence.

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    Success Follows Animation and Illustration Instructor Jeff Bedrick From the Classroom to the Film Festival Circuit


    A matte painting Jeff Bedrick completed for Shrek 2. Image courtesy of Jeff Bedrick.

    Multimedia artist and Academy of Art University instructor Jeff Bedrick’s creative talents are not confined to a single arena. Bedrick’s interdisciplinary success stems from his ability to utilize a fine arts background in support of his work in illustration, animation and motion graphics, and his commitment to creating and communicating current, engaging course content to students in both physical and digital classrooms.

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    Sergio Lima Opens Landscape Architecture's Fall 2017 Speaker Series


    Photo by Alex Madison.

    Tucked away on the third floor of The Cannery in Fisherman’s Wharf, students of the School of Landscape Architecture (LAN) at Academy of Art University got a first-hand look into the complexity of international landscape design and its significance to the people around it.

    Sergio Lima, a professional landscape architect and an instructor for the Academy’s LAN program, opened up about working on two major projects in Dubai at the first installment of the Fall 2017 Speaker Series on Oct. 12.

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    School of Acting’s 'This' explores friendships and infidelity

    The five young actors in Academy of Art University’s upcoming production of This, might not seem to have much in common with their older characters in the Obie award-winning play by Melissa James Gibson. This revolves around four long-time, seemingly successful friends—and one new acquaintance—on the cusp of middle age who are having some regrets about the paths they’ve followed. When two of the characters commit adultery, all of them must examine their friendships and their lives.

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    Five Questions With 'Lady Bird' Writer/Director Greta Gerwig


    Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig on the set of Lady Bird. Photo by Merie Wallace. Courtesy of A24.

    Greta Gerwig has found what she loves doing the most in her field of work: Directing. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever been,” Gerwig shared during the San Francisco stop of the press tour for Lady Bird, her solo directorial debut.

    The film, also written by Gerwig, follows a Sacramento-based high school senior Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who goes by the self-given name of Lady Bird, and is ready to fly the coop, so to speak, for college on the East Coast. Throughout the course of the school year, the headstrong Lady Bird deals with many of the things people go through as teenagers, from experiencing her first love to having a falling out with her best friend along with regular back and forth arguments with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), an overworked nurse. Powered by stand-out performances from Ronan and Metcalf, Lady Bird is a relatable coming-of-age film, that unfolds beautifully on-screen, dealing with the everyday frustrations and realizations of growing up.

    Gerwig, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Frances Ha and was most recently on the big screen in 20th Century Women and Jackie, is already receiving well-deserved Oscar buzz for Lady Bird. Academy Art U News sat down with the actress, writer and director to find out more about her much-lauded film, including how the mother-daughter chemistry developed between Ronan and Metcalf and what she found to be the most rewarding aspect of making Lady Bird.

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    Celebrating the Art of Veterans

    The Veterans Art Exhibit brings a plethora of creativity to the Cannery Galleries


    Army Resting Place by Don Veverka, on display at the Veterans Art Exhibition at the Cannery Galleries. Photo by Bob Toy.

    October in San Francisco signifies Fleet Week. Though most heralded for the large Navy ships docked at the piers and the Blue Angels air shows, the Academy of Art University, in partnership with San Francisco Fleet Week Association (SFFWA), hosted the Veterans Art Exhibit at the Cannery Galleries, near Fisherman’s Wharf, to celebrate the veterans who have looked to art as their next calling. 

    This year’s exhibit was the fifth of its kind since the Academy and SFFWA partnered in 2010. According to Susan Toland, the association was looking for ways to connect with the San Francisco community when they reached out to the school seven years ago.

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    Helping Veterans Transition to Life on Campus


    (Back row, L–R) Undergraduate Admissions Administrator John Belardo, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Military Relations Lamar Johnson and Undergraduate Admissions Administrator Justin Hewelt. (Front row, L–R) Accessibility Representative with Military Specialization at the Academy Resource Center Stella Dacy and Undergraduate Admissions Administrator Rick Pellum. Photo by Bob Toy.

    The Academy of Art University is proud to embrace the country’s military population by helping those transitioning into aspiring artists and professionals. By being approved to accept benefits administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there are several options and services for prospective students—whether active duty, veterans, reserves or vocational rehabilitation—to consider when deciding if the Academy is the right place for them to pursue the next chapter in their lives.

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    Letter From the Editor: Salute to Service

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    Dr. Richard A. Stephens. Photo courtesy of the Stephens family.

    Dear Academy Art U News readers, 

    I hope you have been enjoying our Fall 2017 editions of Academy Art U News. For this November 2017 Volume 1 edition, you’ll notice that we’ve deviated from our usual sections and are featuring a group of individuals that have a specific commonality between them: They are all veterans.

    With Veterans Day just around the corner (Nov. 11), we here at Academy Art U News sought to highlight members of our Academy community that have served in the United States Armed Forces. Thank you to the Veterans Club for your assistance with this edition and to the students and alumni for allowing us to share your inspirational stories and Academy journeys.

    We would also like to acknowledge former Academy President and Chairman Emeritus Dr. Richard A. Stephens, who passed away earlier this year on June 6 at the age of 92. Dr. Stephens joined the United States Navy in the midst of World War II and served for three years. This special edition of Academy Art U News is dedicated to his memory.

    To members of Academy of Art University and to our readers who have served for our country: Thank you for your service.


    With gratitude & respect,

    Kirsten Coachman

    Editor, Academy Art U News

    Sarah Marschman Draws on Skills Gained in Air Force to Succeed in Animation

    A self-described know-it-all, Sarah Marschman thrived in her role as an analyst for the Air Force. She was responsible for sifting through, and making sense of, mounds of data. After determining which information was important and relevant, she presented her findings to large groups of military personnel.

    Now an Academy of Art University senior, majoring in animation and visual effects, Marschman relies on the skills she honed in the Air Force to help her succeed as a student. “A big part of my job in the Air Force was public speaking,” she explained. “I really had to know my focus and get that across. In class, we have to pitch and defend our work and explain why we’re doing some things the way we are, so it’s very similar.”

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    Army Lifestyle Suits Photography Student Garrick Morgenweck & His Family

    Icy Dawn

    An image from Garrick Morgenweck’s series Dustoff. An HH-60 MEDEVAC Blackhawk with C 3-10 GSAB sits ready to respond as the sun rises during a Lake Effect Storm Warning. Photo and caption by Garrick Morgenweck.

    Some might view devoting years of one’s life to military service as a sacrifice. But Garrick Morgenweck considers his lengthy Army career a boon for him and his family. Along with providing financial stability for his wife and three daughters, the military has given him the means to pursue personal dreams—such as studying photography—that likely wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

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    How Parts Combine to Make a Whole: M.F.A. Fashion Design Graduate Eden Slezin's Career Evolution

    So far, Eden Slezin’s work has taken him to the Middle East and the Pacific Rim region as an aviation intelligence officer for the United States Marine Corps, in which he served from 1998 to 2004, and to the floor of the Grand Canyon as an adventure excursion guide for Backcountry Found, the company he founded in 2005. Most recently, the new M.F.A. fashion design graduate’s winding career path brought him to New York City, where he presented his thesis collection at the Academy’s runway show in September at NYFW: The Shows. Navigating between seemingly disparate points in a real-life game of connect the dots has taught Slezin irreplaceable lessons about possibility and self discovery.

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    Photography Helps Ronni Mae Knepp Heal From PTSD

    For Ronni Mae Knepp, joining the military in 2004 fulfilled a lifelong goal to follow in the footsteps of the father she admired. She spent nine years in the Air Force, working as a communications intelligence analyst and rising to the rank of staff sergeant. 

    “I thrive on structure and like that chain of command the military provides,” Knepp said. “It’s very methodical, so you always know what’s going on. I also liked the camaraderie and knowing that we could depend on each other.”

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    Lorena King: The Value of Determination


    Lorena King on-air at Photo courtesy of Lorena King.

    The story of Lorena King’s 14-year journey to the graduation stage of the Academy of Art University is one of true resilience and determination. Directors and students wiped away tears as King, valedictorian, spoke poignantly at the Spring 2016 commencement ceremony about her experience as a first generation Mexican-American, her six years in the Army, and overcoming great adversity, propelled by her dream as an artist to attend the Academy.

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    Amos Maru: Motivated by Gratitude


    School of Interior Architecture & Design B.F.A. alumnus Amos Maru celebrates his graduation. Photo courtesy of Amos Maru.

    For every person who chooses to enlist in the military, their reasoning is not only personal, but deep, as they know it is a decision that will change their life forever. Amos Maru’s decision was not based on how it would benefit himself, but instead was based entirely on gratefulness. 

    “It was an opportunity for me to serve the country that gave so much to me,” said Maru, an alumnus of the Academy of Art University’s School of Interior Architecture & Design.

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    Nate Burrow: Making His Mark

    Tattoo shops are loud. It’s a mix of chatter, music blasting over speakers and maybe two to three—sometimes even four—tattoo machines going on all at once. When the tattoo artists have to communicate with each other, that just ups the volume even higher; shouting over all the activity is the only way to be heard. 

    And yet, tattoo shops are also, in their own sense, calming. There’s a laser-beam focus shared between artist and client—the artist focusing on his work, the client focusing on the pain. 

    Anyone with a tattoo knows the immense satisfaction when the session is over and they walk away with a permanent piece of body art. Nate Burrow knows this, as both his arms, back and chest are heavily tattooed. But as a tattoo artist, he said he finds just as much satisfaction in being on the giving end of tattooing.

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    Masters of Flight

    Roger Apolinar’s Dynamic Aerial Imagery course trains Communications & Media Technologies students in professional drone flying


    Students follow flight course instructions during Roger Apolinar’s Dynamic Aerial Imagery class. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Every Monday, Roger Apolinar instructs his teaching assistants to set up his students’ homework assignment at 2225 Jerrold warehouse. For this particular assignment, his students had to follow a simple, yet challenging course according to Apolinar’s instruction. His commands were simple: “Forward. Back. Left. Right. Hover. Yaw.” 

    Aside from the last two, Apolinar sounds as if he is giving driving instructions. But ‘hover’ and ‘yaw’ are designated aviation terms, applied only to airplanes, helicopters and, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since 2016, drones.

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    Capturing Real Life

    MPTV alumnus Dennis Bersales has built a career creating powerful imagery and videos


    Photo by Dennis Bersales.

    Dennis Bersales has a keen sense for the surreal, even in everyday life. A 2005 graduate from the School of Motion Pictures & Television at the Academy of Art University, Bersales has lent his eye to commercial fashion and industrial film projects, but his most fascinating works come in the form of still life captures, particularly of those set in his family’s origins, the Philippines. Often shot in stark black and white, Bersales’ work encapsulates a different side of life than what most are familiar with, including poverty and some of the more explicit sides of the country’s culture.

    Bersales took that imagery to another level by using it to backdrop a number of music videos for death metal bands Death Cross and Retox. His most recent one was for a Death Cross song called “Obedience School,” where the visuals are centered around the centuries-old Philippine sport of sabong, or cockfighting, which is a fully legal billion-dollar industry. The video was appealed and removed by YouTube due to the subject matter, but Bersales stands by his storytelling and depictions of life through his lens. 

    Academy of Art U News spoke to Bersales on his work and what drives him to create and share such powerful imagery.

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    Standing out From the Crowd

    Academy alumni team wins an Emmy for their work on Gotham


    Academy of Art University alumna Ryan Bauer (center left) with her mother, Linda, and alumnus Alex Gitler (center right) with his wife, Galit. Photo courtesy of Alex Gitler.

    While the “Lead Actor, Comedy” or “Best Drama Series” awards highlight the ceremony and broadcast, the Emmy Awards recognize excellence in all facets of television, even the aspects that often go unnoticed by TV fans. Visual effects, sound editing, etc., are all integral elements of storytelling, but many VFX artists especially, including Academy of Art University alumna Ryan Bauer, tout a general hallmark: “Good visual effects are often when you don’t know they are visual effects.”

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    Reclaiming City Spaces

    LAN students reveal their “last cloud” concept as part of global PARK(ing) Day event


    PARK(ing) Day students’ “last cloud” concept installed in front of the Cannery. Photo by Nina Tabios.

    If it were up to Katerin Luquetta, she would never drive a car. But she understands we live in a world where practicality takes precedence, and thus, cars will forever be a main source of transportation.

    But in an effort to get people to rethink the impact our vehicles have on the planet, students from the Academy of Art University’s School of Landscape Architecture (LAN) partake in PARK(ing) Day, a global event where metered parking spots are converted into public spaces.

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    A 'Lovely' World of Inclusivity


    An image from Jess Hong’s children’s book, Lovely. Image courtesy of Jess Hong.

    For many of us, our first introduction to art and storytelling is through children’s books. Most of them featured favorite characters, taught us the alphabet and how to count to 10. Others were nursery rhymes our parents used to lull us to sleep. Some of the most memorable books were the ones that conveyed basic, but important, life lessons: How to get along with each other, learning to share and appreciating what you have. 

    Jess Hong, a graduate of the School of Illustration at Academy of Art University, recently debuted her own children’s book, Lovely. The New York Times’ Sunday Review included Lovely among its preview of picture books inspiring empathy and with good reason: The picture book explores a world of differences—big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly—all to say that every single person is, indeed, lovely. Academy Art U News spoke with Hong on her inspiration for Lovely and how she discovered her art through the Academy.

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    Behind-The-Scenes Talent

    Three Academy School of Communications & Media Technologies graduates join instructor Matty Staudt at iHeartMedia


    (L–R) Academy of Art University School of Communications & Media Technolgies alumni Casey Franco, Zayana de Awis and Ricardo Ayar. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

    When Matty Staudt invites you to take a tour of iHeartMedia, you don’t say no to the opportunity. In a similar vein, Staudt received a different kind of offer, one he also couldn’t turn down but that required a shift in schedule and responsibilities. 

    Earlier this year, iHeartMedia, a leading media company with the largest audience reach in the United States, put an offer on the table where he would be in charge of the seven stations it owns and operates in the San Francisco Bay Area, including spearheading its podcasting initiative. Of course, he said yes.

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    San Francisco Goes Wild for Shawn Mendes


    Shawn Mendes performs live at WiLD 94.9’s exclusive One Night with Shawn Mendes event in San Francisco presented by XFINITY. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

    On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco was filled with loud shrieks and cheers of enthusiastic radio contest winners. The cause for all of the excitement: An exclusive concert with burgeoning pop artist Shawn Mendes. Presented by XFINITY, WiLD 94.9’s One Night with Shawn Mendes was a special win-your-way-in event, and if the screams before the show were any indication, Mendes’s fans were ready for a night of live music.

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    Brett Amory Debuts New Art in Bi-Coastal Exhibitions

    Earlier this month, artist and Academy of Art University graduate Brett Amory unveiled two new collections in simultaneous exhibitions on the West and East Coasts. It’s Wonderful Your Demons Came Today kicked off with a reception at Jonathan Levine Gallery in Jersey City, New Jersey, on Sept. 8 and will be on display through Oct. 7. His second exhibition, This Too Shall Pass, opened at San Francisco gallery The Luggage Store on Sept. 15 and will run until Oct. 21.

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    From the Field to the Stage

    Alumnus Frank Cole’s passion for connecting people has led him from soccer to an acting career


    Academy of Art University Schools of Communications & Media Technologies and Acting alumnus Frank Cole. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Frank Cole’s mother always told him he was born kicking. The School of Communications & Media Technologies and School of Acting alumnus from Academy of Art University said he and his siblings grew up performing in talent shows and musicals, but he always believed soccer was going to be his center stage.

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    Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Actress Andrea Riseborough Discuss 'Battle of the Sexes'


    (From L-R): Natalie Morales, Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Kaitlyn Christian, Fidan Manashirova and Mickey Summer on the set of BATTLE OF THE SEXES. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

    In 1973, Billie Jean King, a 29-year-old American former World No. 1 professional women’s tennis champion, had the world betting against her in an exhibition match against Bobby Riggs, another former World No. 1 tennis champion. Yet, Riggs was 55-years-old and past his prime. He also was a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, touting beliefs that “women belong in the kitchen and the bedroom” and not on the tennis court.

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    Kate and Laura Mulleavy Discuss "Natural Evolution" From Fashion to Film


    Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock. Photo courtesy of A24.

    Famed fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy don’t believe in confining their creative voice to one medium. Trading in the mannequins in which they lay out their Rodarte designs, the Mulleavy sisters have turned to film to channel their “creative instinct,” manifesting in their debut film, Woodshock, starring Kirsten Dunst.

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    Getting Real With Stop Motion

    Interest grows in the School of Animation & Visual Effects’ program that has use of one of the largest university stop motion labs in the country


    The imaginative vision of stop motion students of the Academy of Art University can’t just be drawn with paper and pencil or digitally designed, it must be physically created. World after world, down to the tiny hairs on a character’s head to the cracks on a sidewalk must be created from scratch. 

    “Stop motion is something real. It’s not just drawn, you can touch it,” said recent stop motion graduate Tada Kongjonrak. “We are building small worlds. It’s so cool.”

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    When Art Meets Science

    Art history alumna Kim Selvaggi shares how her Academy experience is helping her in the scientific world of archaeological conservation


    School of Art History alumna Kim Selvaggi pictured near the London Tower Bridge in London, England. Photo courtesy of Kim Selvaggi.

    Many students attend the Academy of Art University because they want to create art, but those enrolled in the School of Art History (AHS) choose to study art within its cultural context. Art history students learn how to analyze and become critics of historical pieces of work from all over the globe, with an emphasis on gaining a deep knowledge of what these relics mean within a cultural and global timeline.

    Most AHS students move on to become researchers and curators in galleries or museums, but recent alumna Kim Selvaggi took her studies in a more scientifically-based direction. Shortly after graduation, she was accepted into the University of College London’s Master of Science in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums in England, where she pursued art preservation.

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    Meet Your Campus Hosts: Donald Shields

    Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Campus Host Donald Shields has been working at Academy of Art University for seven years. “As a Campus Host, my job is to ensure that all people and properties are safe,” said Shields. “I’m extra vigilant and observe everyone that enters and exits the premises. As a front line host, we are also problem solvers and always troubleshoot any issues that arise.”

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    Illustration Alumna Opens New Surrealist Painting Exhibition in the Big Easy

    When we first wrote about Anne Faith Nicholls, School of Illustration alumna from the Academy of Art University, she was coming off of a successful exhibit called Neosurreal, displayed at the San Francisco Martin Lawrence Galleries location in 2015. We recently caught up with Nicholls again as she opens a new show at the Martin Lawrence Galleries in New Orleans this month, where she explores the Big Easy’s art, culture and history through her surrealist paintings. 

    Nicholls’ work is stark with symbolism that touches upon one’s subconscious, and how it relays to ideas of identity, truth, power and especially, feminism. We were eager to know more about how Nicholls’ ideas meshed against the rich heritage and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana in her art, so we spoke with Seattle-raised painter on her creative thought process, what parts of New Orleans inspired the paintings and where she finds continuous inspiration, both in the United States and outside of it.

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    Changing the Game

    In response to a growing demand within the gaming industry, the School of Game Development is introducing a dedicated UX/UI track

    Pieces of art, in general, want to be seen and noticed. In terms of UX/UI in the video game world, however, going unnoticed is a good thing. 

    UX/UI, which stands for “user experience” and “user interface,” is the newest track in the works for the School of Game Development at Academy of Art University. Gaming students have the opportunity to study coursework focusing on one of the gaming industry’s most in-demand positions, according to Gregory Eichholzer, lead UX/UI instructor and former associate art director for RockYou games.

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    COM Instructor Toan Lam Spreads Inspiration Through the Alchemy of Storytelling


    School of Communications & Media Technologies instructor Toan Lam. Photo credit:

    Toan Lam’s message remains the same, no matter the audience. He could be talking to viewers of the inspirational videos posted on his multimedia platform, podcast listeners, crowds gathered to hear him speak or a classroom full of Academy students. Lam guides them all toward the same goal: Be better. Do better. Discover your superhero power, and use it to serve others.

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    NYFW: The Shows - Meet the Designers

    Meet the School of Fashion student designers heading to NYFW: The Shows, whose talent and inspiration lead to unique solo and collaborative collections.


    (L–R) B.F.A. womenswear student Carlos Rodriguez and M.F.A. fashion design student Dina Marie Lam. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Collaboration: Lam and Rodriguez with support from Oliver-Palanca

    Dina Marie Lam, M.F.A. fashion design, was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Inspired by the myriad of emotions surrounding her aunt’s recent passing, Lam wanted to convey a feeling of transition in her collection. She selected soft and luxurious materials to evoke warmth and comfort. Additionally, she was inspired by those who demand the best in fabric, function and form. Lam stated, “The collection is simply for the dope and opinionated girls.” Lam was honored with the BCBG Max Azria Super Intern (2017) recognition, presented annually to one outstanding intern across the entire company, and was selected for the CFDA Fashion Future Graduate Showcase (2017).

    Carlos Rodriguez, B.F.A. womenswear, was born in Mexico City, Mexico and grew up inClarksburg, California. He was asked to collaborate with Lam to create the embroidery details for her collection. Here, Rodriguez uses a mixture of traditional hand and machine embroidery techniques to enhance the contemporary feel of the garments. Recently, Rodriguez interned at tech-fashion start-up Savitude.

    Rheanna Oliver-Palanca, M.F.A. fashion design, was born and raised in Kennebunk, Maine. She created knitwear for the collection that mimics Lam’s own prints and Rodriguez’s embroidery. The knitwear is made of wool blends to enhance the sense of warmth and comfort that Lam’s collection was inspired by. Oliver-Palanca was selected for the CFDA Fashion Future Graduate Digital Showcase (2017).

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    School of Fashion Alums Amy Bond & Brandon Kee Cast on ‘Project Runway’


    The cast of designers for Project Runway season 16.

    Sixteen new contestants look to make their designs work as they grace the catwalk during the 16th season of Lifetime’s Emmy-nominated series Project Runway, which premiered on Thursday, Aug. 17. Not only is the show celebrating their “super, sweet 16,” it is also celebrating body diversity throughout the season, featuring size-inclusive models (size 0-22).

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    Survival in the Underbelly

    Academy Art U News sat down with directors Ben and Josh Safdie and actor Robert Pattinson to discuss their latest film, Good Time


    Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie. Photo courtesy of A24.

    In new movie Good Time, Constantine “Connie” Nikas occupies an underbelly of New York City where the reward always outweighs the risk. There’s no such thing as hindsight for the Queens thoroughbred, and when a get-rich-quick scheme goes awry, Connie (played by Robert Pattinson) must break his developmentally-disabled brother Nick out of jail by maneuvering through a night of petty crimes involving the borough’s forgotten – and sometimes seedy – characters.

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    Lady Dione: Creating Luxury Through Mixed Patterns & Materials

    Lady Dione Bevel’s high-quality cut-and-sew garments have won her celebrity fans, including neo-soul singer Erykah Badu


    Photo credit:

    All artists seek validation in one form or another, and for Lady Dione Bevel, hers came via a New York Times story from November 2016.

    She wasn’t the centerpiece for the feature, however, nor was her name mentioned anywhere in its text.

    Bevel’s stamp on the piece sat front and center in the lead photo: Neo-soul singer Erykah Badu, the article’s subject, sitting in a chair as she gets her hair braided. The golden kimono she’s wrapped in is of Bevel’s brand, Lady Dione. Badu purchased the garment from Bevel just days before the shoot at her concert in Santa Ana, California.

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    Emilio Villalba Creates Contemporary Portraits Inspired by the Old Masters

    Prolific, inventive and disciplined, Academy of Art University M.F.A. painting alumnus Emilio Villalba combines Old Masters influences with contemporary interpretation to power a thriving career. His distinctive, captivating work was most recently showcased in a solo exhibition titled I Don't See, on display at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco through August 5.

    The exhibition’s 22 paintings evoke vulnerability and duality. Fragmented forms and faceless torsos appear against a backdrop of black. Instead of acting as an empty void, the blackness imparts a textural depth that suggests complexity. Collectively, the works make up a varied, yet cohesive, whole. Some portraits appear blurred, or seem to dissolve, while others show sharper features, prompting the observer to think about what comes into focus when, and why.

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    Growing Positive Experiences


    Garden Project “Earth Stewards” begin working onsite at a farm located on the San Francisco County Jail San Bruno Complex grounds during the kick-off event. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Most people’s first jobs either land in the retail or restaurant category, but for 17-year-old Xaire Patrick, her first paying gig is working on a farm on the San Francisco County Jail San Bruno Complex grounds in San Mateo County. 

    For the past three years, Patrick has been employed by the Garden Project, a young adult summer program that provides environmentally-based job training and life skills programming. Patrick said with the money she earned throughout her time there, she was able to go on school trips to Italy and Cuba in the past two years.  

    “Eventually you have to abide by the rules of society—in order to live, you have to work, so it’s like I’m making a living,” she explained at the Garden Project kick-off on July 5. “It’s a chance for me to do for myself and be able to afford the things I want; things my mom would say ‘no’ to, but also be like, ‘If you had your own money, then you can buy it.’” 

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    Mary Scott & Phil Hamlett Named "Educators to Watch" by GDUSA


    (L–R) School of Graphic Design Director Phil Hamlett and Director Emeritus Mary Scott. Photo by Sean McGuire (B.F.A., ’06).

    Every year, Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) honors and recognizes influential creatives, both professionals and students, with its perennial “People to Watch” and “Students to Watch” lists. What was missing, however, was the recognition of the middle-person standing between student and professional designers: Teachers. 

    This year, GDUSA published its first ever “Educators to Watch” list acknowledging “design education and educators have more influence than ever on the fast-changing shape of design, media and culture.” Mentioned at the top of the list is the Academy of Art University’s own School of Graphic Design Director Emeritus Mary Scott and Director Phil Hamlett. 

    “What really got me is when I read the (GDUSA) graph and they called us ‘legends,’” Scott said in her office overseeing the Financial District in San Francisco. 

    With nearly 50 years of design experience between the two of them, both Scott and Hamlett have respective—legendary, if you will—portfolios as designers and educators. 

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    Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe Receives Honorary Doctorate From Academy of Art


    “Giant Judge & Hammers,” (31 1/2” x 81” sheet size) by Gerald Scarfe. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Art Exchange LLC,

    In the language of political cartoons, Gerald Scarfe’s voice is among the loudest. There aren’t too many artists who have dedicated their careers to parodying politicians and global figures, but Scarfe made his living off of ruffling feathers and eschewing public opinion. 

    “I was encouraged to attack politicians and society around me,” he said at the Academy of Art University’s 79 New Montgomery theater on July 6. “That became my way of life for a long time.” 

    The Academy presented Scarfe with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his decades-long work for English and American publications such as Punch, Private Eye, The Sunday Times, Time magazine and The New Yorker. His unapologetic, sometimes ostentatious comics depicted how Scarfe viewed the world around him, especially of those in power.

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    Advertising Grad's Branded Content Racks up Awards


    Stills from Joey Iamartino-Larson’s “Glory and Reason.” Images courtesy of Joey Iamartino-Larson.

    Skipping his Academy of Art University classes to spend four days at sea on a fishing boat paid off in a big way for recent School of Advertising graduate Joey Iamartino-Larson. Specializing in making short, documentary-style branded content films, Larson used the footage he captured of San Francisco fisherman John Miller and his crew to create two compelling pieces that have reeled in a slew of awards. He won in three categories—Documentary, Branded Content and Commercial—at this year’s NXT UP Fest. In addition, he took home a “Best in Show” prize at the Spring Show for “Glory and Reason,” his branded content piece for The North Face. “Glory and Reason” also earned him a Gold National Student Addy.

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    Establishing a Culture of Excellence


    A model poses for the Drawaholics Anonymous Crew during a recent session. Photo by Bob Toy.

    The Drawaholics Anonymous Crew, a new drawing community at Academy of Art University, is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who wants to join must first sign a contract stating they will adhere to a culture of excellence and put their absolute best foot forward. In order to advance from a temporary to permanent member, they must complete 2,500 drawings: 1,000 heads, 500 legs, 500 arms, 250 hands and 250 feet within one year of signing. 

     “It’s serious business to me,” said Michael Buffington, concept art lead for the School of Game Development and originator of the community. “Many students underestimate what it takes to make it in the industry.”

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    Film Review: 'Landline' - Life in the '90s

    Landline is non-judgmental in its portrayal of infidelity, family dynamics and relationships


    (L–R) Abby Quinn, Edie Falco, and Jenny Slate in Landline, an Amazon Studios release. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

    Set in 1995, during the days of payphones, mixed tapes and floppy disks, the aptly named Landline is packed with nostalgia, offbeat comedy and drama. Co-written by Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm, and directed by Robespierre, the film stars Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn as sisters in the middle of a fractious family headed by Edie Falco and John Turturro. Lies threaten to tear the family apart as parents and children wrestle with their own secrets, while an undercurrent of familial bond ties them together.

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    One-On-One With Writer-Director David Lowery


    Photo by Bret Curry. Courtesy of A24.

    Currently playing in San Francisco, A Ghost Story is the latest feature film from acclaimed writer-director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon). The film follows a white-sheeted ghost, C (Casey Affleck), who returns to his home, seeking to comfort his wife, M (Rooney Mara), following his death. As time passes, C continues to haunt the residence he once shared with his beloved, while new occupants come and go. Shot in 1:33:1 aspect ratio, this intimate portrait of love and grief speaks to the importance of connection, while bringing up life’s big questions to the audience.

    Academy Art U News sat down with Lowery during his recent visit to San Francisco, where the director spoke about a variety of topics regarding the film, including the decision behind reuniting his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints co-stars Affleck and Mara, how the director’s own existential fears influenced the film, and what advice he has for Academy students pursuing filmmaking.

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    Director Dave McCary & 'Saturday Night Live’s' Kyle Mooney Talk ‘Brigsby Bear’


    Kyle Mooney as James. @ Brigsby Bear Movie, LLC. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

    “Can anyone do it?” – Of all the questions James, protagonist of feel-good comedy Brigsby Bear, has of the new reality he inhabits, this one is perhaps his most illuminating.

    After finding out his parents (played by Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) stole him from the hospital as an infant, James (played by the film’s writer and Saturday Night Live cast member Kyle Mooney) is thrust into a strange, new family and struggles to adjust to modern-day norms and social cues. What seems to be the bridge between his world and theirs, however, is an affection for art and the idea that yes, anyone can pursue it.

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    Spring Show 2017: A Big Surprise for JEM Award Winners

    SS17 Award Winners Faculty.jpg

    JEM Spring Show Award winners and faculty. Photo courtesy of Justin Atangan.

    This year marked a first for the School of Jewelry & Metal Arts’ annual Spring Show Awards. Held on Tuesday, May 16, students and faculty eagerly gathered in the 410 Bush conference room for an intimate ceremony.

    Unbeknownst to the students, the department had a special surprise up its sleeve to honor the exceptional work of the winners. Faculty, along with JEM Club officers, had been invited months prior to participate in creating one-of-a-kind trophies that best represented the techniques taught in their respective classes. Covering the scope of JEM’s curriculum, these techniques ranged from wax working to casting and laser cutting to enameling.

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    School of Graphic Design Leadership Changes


    (L-R) Phil Hamlett and Mary Scott. Photo by Sean McGuire (B.F.A., 2006).

    Academy of Art University announces the transition of Mary Scott, who has served as Director for the School of Graphic Design for 17 years. In her new role as Director Emeritus, Mary will serve as senior advisor to the school, provide portfolio design guidance to students and work closely with her successor, Phil Hamlett, to ensure a seamless transition of leadership.  

    Phil Hamlett has been promoted to Director of the School of Graphic Design. He began his career at the Academy as Graduate Director and, during his 13 years of service, established a strong industry affiliation for the school.  His professional associations have provided wonderful opportunities for our alumni at many companies known throughout the world.

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    Pre-College Art Experience to Hold Final Project Exhibition on July 29

    Come visit the Art Experience Final Exhibition on Saturday, July 29. The event is for students, family, friends and Academy staff to view the final projects from the Summer 2017 Art Experience students. The exhbition will run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at The Cannery.

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    Meet the Academic Steering Committee

    Statement of Purpose

     The Academic Steering Committee will identify what is needed to ensure that the Academy constantly remains at the forefront in preparing students to develop portfolios that are relevant to meet the needs of the global marketplace: 

    1. Contribute ideas for Academy-wide curriculum initiatives and improvements.
    2. Identify innovative curricular and cross-departmental opportunities.
    3. Engage in future thinking on the curriculum. (i.e. Where are we going to be in the next five years?)
    4. Serve as a think tank on the intersection of art and technology and identify emerging technologies and trends to enable the Academy to stay ahead of the curve.

    The Academic Steering Committee will hear issues dealing with department and curriculum concerns as well as brilliant new ideas for the University. Feel free to contact any member listed below or e-mail us at:

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    A Study of Happiness


    Portraits courtesy of Selena Davant (pictured center, photo by @ColorfulKierra). You can view more portraits at @smileaday on Instagram.

    Anyone that has survived a bad breakup before knows that when you feel like you hit rock bottom, the only direction to go is up. For Selena Davant, a freelance creative and an Academy of Art University M.F.A. advertising alumna, her heartache gave birth to “Smile A Day,” an Instagram project where she photographs individuals and asks them what makes them happy. 

    “My friends and family kept telling me to turn the breakup into a positive one,” she explained. “I wasn’t sure how to at first, so I started doing the little things: Listening to more positive music and being more present in the moment.” 

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    The Academy Hosts 2017 Red Bull Doodle Art Global Final


    Photo by Bob Toy.

    Although more than 30 languages were spoken on Saturday, June 24, at the 2017 Red Bull Doodle Art Global Final hosted in the Atelier Gallery at Academy of Art University, the universal language of art was evidently stronger than words. For the final stage of the 2017 Red Bull Doodle Art Contest, 47 global finalists from 43 countries flew thousands of miles to compete one last time for the winning title. But this time, their doodles were in virtual reality. 

    “The Academy has always been on the cutting edge of the most advanced technology as a way to express and push boundaries of art,” said James Egan, one of the judges of the contest and executive director of Immersive Technology and Short Term Programming at the Academy. “To me, it’s a natural partnership with Red Bull to bring this first international virtual reality doodle contest to the heart of the most important technology companies in the world.”

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    Academy Instructor's BART Caricatures Attract Fans


    A collection of Hamilton Cline's BART caricatures. Image courtesy of Hamilton Cline.

    Most people go to amusement parks for the thrilling rides and to escape reality. But for caricaturist and Academy of Art University instructor Hamilton Cline, they were where he learned the skills that would help him become a successful artist.  

    “I started doing caricatures in Missouri at World of Fun and then moved to Minnesota and worked at a park called Valleyfair,” he said. “I was taught by the best caricature artists in the business.”

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    Academy Student Receives Scholarship From AAUW


    (L–R ) Cathy Corcoran, Michelle Dong and Peg Jackson. Photo courtesy of Cathy Corcoran.

    The American Association of University Women (AAUW) San Francisco Branch Silver Jubilee Scholarship Committee recently awarded a $2,000 scholarship to Academy of Art University B.F.A. photography student Michelle Dong. Each year, the scholarship fund provides awards to college-going women in the Bay Area. 

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    Educational Empowerment


    (L–R) Spring 2017 Five Keys graduates Tiaria Breaux and Melina Meridji received full scholarships to Academy of Art University where they both plan to study art education. Photo by Bob Toy.

    As an accredited art institution, the Academy of Art University recognizes how education can empower not just individuals, but whole communities. In the school’s continuous effort to give back to the city of San Francisco, the Academy presented two full scholarships to Spring 2017 graduates of the Five Keys Schools and Programs, a charter school whose goal is to offer opportunities to disadvantaged individuals through education. 

    The recipients—Melina Meridji and Tiaira Breaux—both expressed in their essay applications that they wanted to become art teachers, much to the joy of Marybeth Tereszkiewicz, director of the School of Art Education (ARE) & Teaching Credential Program in the Visual Arts at the Academy. 

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    Joy of the Optical: Stuart Davis at the de Young


    "Stuart Davis: In Full Swing" exhibit will be up at the de Young Museum through Aug. 6. Photo courtesy of the de Young Museum.

    Before the Campbell Soup tote bags and Hello Kitty fashions took over the gift shops, there were early pop art pioneers who paved the way for the genre’s commercial success today. Juxtapose hard-edged geometric shapes and bold enigmatic graphics with pop-culture references and you’d get Stuart Davis. A master of modernist strokes, this jazz-influenced visionary represented one of the most vibrant eras in American culture. The seminal exhibition of the proto-pop art artist has made its way to the West Coast. “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing” is on display through Aug. 6 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

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    New Leadership Changes for School of Interior Architecture & Design

    Dear Academy of Art University Community,

    I would like to announce the resignation of Grover Dear, executive director of the School of Interior Architecture & Design. Grover brought to the department a wealth of industry expertise and international perspective which enriched the student experience. The university is grateful for Grover’s contributions and wish him continued success in his future endeavors.

    I am happy to announce that Archana Myer has been promoted to the role of executive director and will continue to provide leadership to the IAD team. Archana has spent the past few years as the Department Director and focused on dynamically revamping curriculum. Her efforts to maintain the highest level of professional accreditation were proven effective as the department had unprecedented success in their CIDA visit this spring. We appreciate Archana’s hard work and look forward to her continued success.

    Kathleen “Katie” Valkuchak has transitioned out of the Associate Director position and will be the new Department Director. Katie has been a core part of the IAD team for the past seven years and has had exceptional success in strengthening IAD studio culture. Her commitment to the students and partnerships with faculty have contributed substantially to the success of the department.

    Please join me in congratulating both Archana and Katie to their new roles within the School of Interior Architecture & Design.  We look forward to the continuation of dynamic leadership.


    Thank you, 

    Elisa Stephens, President

    Remembering Dr. Richard A. Stephens


    Dr. Richard A. Stephens with one of the many cars featured at the Academy’s Automobile Museum—the Talbot Lago T150-C Coupe.

    Academy of Art University suffered a great loss this past month with the passing of our beloved Chairman Emeritus Dr. Richard A. Stephens on June 6 at the age of 92.

    Dr. Stephens was born in San Francisco in 1925 to Richard S. Stephens and Clara Stephens. He travelled with his parents to Paris, where his father studied art at the Académie Julian. In 1929, the Stephens’ returned to the city, where Richard and Clara founded Académie of Advertising Art, which would later become what we know today as Academy of Art University.

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    Landscape Architecture Alumnus Garners Attention for Use of Drones

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    By using drones, Arneson gained different vantage points for his designs. Image courtesy of Eric Arneson.

    No magical panacea can wipe out the challenges of a highly technical and creative field such as landscape architecture, but alumnus Eric Arneson’s work shows it’s possible to come close. By applying one tool throughout all phases of the design process, Arneson alleviated a wide range of complicating factors common in his field. Site access, digital image quality, data collection and audience engagement all benefited from this multifaceted problem-solver. Rather than some rare product, the key tool was an item likely to be found on the wish list of your gadget-obsessed friend. It was a drone.

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    The City of Oakland Celebrates Their Warriors


    The 2017 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors pose with the Larry O’Brien trophy at the parade rally. Photo by Nina Tabios.

    The champagne showers turned into ticker tape showers at the Golden State Warriors 2017 Championship Parade on June 13 in downtown Oakland. The parade route began on Broadway at 11th Street, and followed a route that led them to Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, where the rally was held. 

    Around 1.5 million fans attended the parade, some arriving as early as five a.m. to claim a good spot along the parade route. As the players and their families floated down the streets of Oakland on double-decker buses, the crowd of blue and gold roared, congratulating the team on their second title in three years.

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    Online Students Converge at Summer Expo


    School of Fashion Drawing Coordinator Jim Yang instructs Frank Martinez during a Summer Expo workshop. Photo by Bob Toy.

    Since 2002, the Academy of Art University has provided its vast art degree programs to students across the world through its comprehensive online education courses. According to Melinda Mettler, director of Online Student Relations, about 70 percent of Academy students enrolled for the Spring 2017 semester were in the online program. 

    “People keep talking about how online education is the school of the future, when actually, the future is already here,” she said.

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    Five Keys Branding Project a Winner for Client and Students


    Graphic design student Celina Oh shares her team’s rebrand campaign project to Five Keys representatives. Photo by Bob Toy.

    On a recent afternoon, you could feel the nervous energy bubbling in room 520 at 79 New Montgomery. Fifteen Academy of Art University School of  Graphic Design students were busy making final preparations for the presentations they were about to give to some very special guests. 

    Those guests included Steve Good and Sunny Schwartz, executives from Five Keys, an organization that provides prison inmates with the education and other resources they need to change their lives once they re-enter society. The students worked with Five Keys throughout the semester to create a new brand identity for their client in a class taught by School of Graphic Design Associate Director Tom McNulty. Representatives from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, which founded Five Keys’ original charter school in 2003, also attended the big event along with Academy President Dr. Elisa Stephens and School of Graphic Design Director Emeritus Mary Scott.

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    'Offsprung' Finds Film Festival Success


    “Offsprung” director Rain Zheng and producer Shiyi Gu. Photo courtesy of Shiyi Gu.

    One precursor to consider when diving into art is to “not take anything too personal.” But for Shiyi Gu, graduate student from the School of Motion Pictures & Television at the Academy of Art University and producer of Offsprung, hearing mixed reviews about it almost prevented her from submitting the project into film festivals. And if she let that get the best of her, it would have never won the Best Student Film award from the Women’s Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles this spring, or been awarded the Silver Medal from the WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival.  

    “We didn’t want to give up,” she said. “Patricia Pawlak (former film distribution, marketing and film festival participation instructor) supported me very well and gave us good advice, which encouraged me to send it to the different film festivals just to give it a shot. Many of the crew and actors worked very hard for it so I tried for them.”

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    Screen Acting Achievement Awards Honors Students and Faculty


    Acting student JLynn Femiano and School of Acting instructor Karen Hirst. Photo by Bob Toy.

    On May 26, Sutter Street Theatre buzzed with excitement as the Academy’s School of Acting kicked off its first annual Screen Acting Achievement Awards. The ceremony honored this spring’s graduating acting students and also paid tribute to eight young actors for their exceptional film work. Four School of Acting faculty members—Sarah Kliban, Clark Houston Lewis, Wes Sneeringer and Boris Zubov—were also honored for their contributions to the students and the department. 

    The event capped off a film festival held in the theatre earlier that week. The festival included several screenings of the many diverse movie scenes created throughout the year that gave all Academy acting students a chance to showcase skills. 

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    Positive Mindset Helps COM Instructor Fulfill Dreams and Inspire Others


    School of Communications & Media Technologies instructor Toan Lam interviews “Hamilton” cast member Ari Asfar, who plays Eliza Hamilton in the Chicago production of the hit Broadway musical. Photo courtesy of Toan Lam.

    When Toan Lam told people he was going to get tickets to the musical sensation “Hamilton,”—without paying scalpers a fortune—they often looked skeptical. After all, the Broadway hit has been selling out in record time at theatres across the country. But that didn’t deter Lam. 

    “I believe that manifesting trust and action equals traction,” said Lam, who teaches COM 103 and 303 classes at Academy of Art University. “I didn’t know how I would get a ticket, but I knew it was going to happen.” 

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    Moving to Baby's Beat

    Writer/director Edgar Wright and actor Ansel Elgort discuss the musically infused, high-octane heist film, Baby Driver

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    Ansel Elgort and director Edgar Wright on the set of TriStar Pictures’ Baby Driver.

    To quote the film’s opening song “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: “Ladies and gentlemen, right now I got to tell you about the fabulous, most groovy” film of the summer—Baby Driver. Written and directed by Edgar Wright (of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy), Baby Driver is a thrilling action movie that’s uniquely in step with the music being listened to by talented getaway driver, aka “young Mozart in a go-cart,” Baby, played by actor Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars).

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    Doodling the Whimsical

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    2017 Red Bull Doodle Art Contest Region Finalist Sheilla Witanto. Photo courtesy of Sheilla Witanto.

    Sheilla Witanto lives in a world where dragons blow bubbles as astronauts float in space and a train chugs along in the background. At least this is one of the world’s bouncing around inside Witanto’s head that was translated into an illustration that won her the title of Region Finalist of the 2017 Red Bull Doodle Art contest.

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