A Spring Finale

Opportunities abound as industry and alumni view student work from all Academy departments


A student from the School of Graphic Design shows her work to an industry guest at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

Academy of Art University’s annual Spring Show serves as an epicenter of innovative design and talent, as all of its departments, from fine art and fashion to illustration and industrial design, put forth their students’ best work to be viewed by special industry guests as well as students’ families, friends and peers.

This year was no different as the 22 creative disciplines along with Academy President Dr. Elisa Stephens hosted a packed Opening Night at 2225 Jerrold. As guests mingled throughout the venue, departments held award ceremonies as a way to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary work and effort of their students.

Earlier in the day, students who made it into this year’s show had the opportunity to get some facetime with industry guests from companies such as LAIKA, Apple, HOK and Blizzard Entertainment during one-on-ones at their department booths or during portfolio review sessions. Additionally, the Academy welcomed back many alumni, who met with students and took part in the portfolio review sessions throughout the day. 

“The real advantage of Spring Show is that for one and probably the only time in [the students’] careers, the world comes to them,” said School of Illustration Director Chuck Pyle. “The rest of the time, it’s them going out to the world, chasing them down.”

The event is a tremendous networking opportunity, something that School of Interior Architecture & Design Executive Director Archana Meyer shared was something her department began grooming their students for on day one.


Chanoh Heo’s “Sfumato Ladies,” which was awarded 1st Place B.F.A. Abstract/Contemporary by the School of Fine Art. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

“At our orientations, we tell them that each of their teachers are industry professionals, so networking starts on the first day of class—in their first class, first year,” said Meyer. “It’s really just this ongoing skill set that we encourage them to facilitate and foster, culminating in this moment today—put it all out there, here it is.”

School of Advertising Director Andrea Pimentel touched on how advertising is a networking-based field and the importance of taking that first step in building relationships with industry at Spring Show is something that could potentially play a role in her students’ careers in the years to come.

“We hope [Spring Show] leads to immediate jobs for our students, but a lot of the connections they make today really materialize two, three, five years down the road,” she explained. “Everybody in advertising knows everybody at a certain point, and we’re kind of giving them a first step into that world.”

Each department had their own individual exhibition, providing guests with the opportunity to really take in each specific discipline and the student work being showcased. Academy Art U News was on the scene at Opening Night, where we spoke with Academy students and directors from every department, as well as industry guests, about all things Spring Show, highlighting the various projects being showcased and what it means to participate in the semester’s grand spring finale.

School of Acting


A Spring Show guest visits with School of Acting Executive Director Diane Baker (pictured right). Photo by Bob Toy.

The School of Acting’s (ACT) 2018 Spring Show was bustling with student performers and audience members alike. The showcase was partitioned into two sections to represent camera acting and stage acting. On one side was a living room set complete with a leather couch, patterned armchair and a coffee table to host live readings, and on the other side of the faux wall was a miniature theater. 

All day, audience members of students, guests and industry professionals visited the living room set to watch live reading performances of three original scripts produced by the School of Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media.

Second-year M.F.A. student Valerie Compton was one of the live readers and performed throughout the entire day. Compton is an accomplished student actress with roles in a total of three productions (Tigers Be Still, Cloud 9 and Clybourne Park) under her belt in this academic year alone. 

Jeremy Marquiz, another M.F.A. student, was also a member of the live reading cast. Spring Show marked the end of Marquiz’s first year in the graduate program. He said that the course that best prepared him was the voice workshop that trained him with a number of breathing techniques and tools to build his vocal muscles for the stage and screen.

Just on the other side of the faux living room wall was a viewing room for a reel of student performances. The reel included the best of ACT’s student work from both the undergraduate and graduate programs, with performances of scenes from published works, including reenacted scenes from modern classics such as When Harry Met Sally, Madame Butterfly and Proof.

A representative from the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Arts (SAG-AFTRA) Frank Simeone also attended the showcase to share information with students and graduates about upcoming opportunities in film and television coming to the Bay Area this summer.

School of Advertising

Students in the Academy’s School of Advertising created design samples based on real-life companies in order to prepare themselves for the working world.

Renee Sarmiento and Chi Do, two students in the department, teamed up on a variety of projects this year. Sarmiento, who graduated in May and was just hired by Ubisoft, a Bay Area-based gaming company, specializes in copywriting. Do, who also graduated this spring and is soon headed to Vietnam to establish herself as an advertiser in her home country, specializes in visual design. A handful of pieces Sarmiento and Do collaborated on were on display at Spring Show.


Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

“We met early on,” Sarmiento said. “She’s my advertising wife.”

As industry recruiters streamed in to the show, advertising students showed off their best work.

Andrew Mikhael’s Bose campaign won the department’s Best in Show award for a project that ADV Director Andrea Pimentel said was “well-crafted from beginning to end.” 

“One thing we really loved about that one is it’s kind of a more modern style of advertising where it’s not just about directly selling you on a product but it’s about building a connection with an audience,” she said. “We really liked the concept, research, thinking and the way it was tailored to a particular audience.” 

Mikhael’s campaign included a series of short documentaries about emerging artists, concert series and a website as a destination for customers to preview music.

“He really did the research to make Bose’s brand be about those who aren’t just interested in listening to music, but being ahead of trends; People who belong in a specific audience,” Pimentel said.

Mikhael said the Bose campaign wasn’t even an assignment for class, just something he felt strongly about putting together. He is currently an art directing intern at Mekanism, a Brooklyn marketing company, and said he walked around Spring Show gathering student business cards. 

“I’ve been at the school for four years and I think a lot of the other students are doing really well in their field and it’s great to see the potential for collaborations later,” he said. “You never know as an art director when you’re going to need to collaborate with different styles.”

School of Art History


The School of Art History decorated their Spring Show exhibition space with work the department’s students have studied and had a selection of thesis work available for guests to read over. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

The School of Art History’s (AHS) Spring Show display was a quaint corner in the Academy’s Jerrold building with many framed classic works, a reading area and a display reel of classic work.

In the reading area were a selection of theses from the undergraduate and graduate programs for attendees to leaf through. The thesis books were each substantial in length, ranging from 15 to a whopping 60 pages. The classic works selected for the wall display were the subjects of these and other student studies. “We had been trying to figure out how to represent the School of Art History because we don’t produce any art,” AHS Director Gabriela Sotomayor said. “So we thought, why not put up the works of art the students study?”


The School of Art History’s Alla Prima on display at Spring Show. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

Beside the sitting area was a display reel set on a flat screen TV. The reel featured narrators discussing a formal analysis on a wide variety of different classic pieces ranging from ancient pottery art to more modern paintings. In each clip, the narrator described the choices the artist made to compose the given subject and the effect that those choices have on the viewer. In one particular section of the reel, a narrator discussed the disproportionate figure of a clothed man on a piece of pottery and how the folds in the subject’s clothing communicated the disproportionate anatomy. Each of these analyses were constructed to be both educational but palatable for viewers not versed in the terminology of art criticism.

AHS is one of the few strictly academic disciplines taught at the Academy and, as such, represents a unique challenge to showcase in a live setting, but the thesis work and reel did just that.

School of Animation & Visual Effects


A student from the School of Animation & Visual Effects speaks with an industry guest at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

The Academy’s School of Animation & Visual Effects (ANM) is one of the most prestigious programs that the Academy offers and has one of the highest matriculation rates of students into the commercial art industry. At the backbone of this connection is Studio X, ANM’s in-house production pipeline that trains students to industry standard skill levels with work on commercial and independent films.

As such, ANM brings one of the largest groups of industry professionals to meet students and assess hire potential. Nickelodeon, Marvel, Industrial Light & Magic, Disney, Double Negative and CoSA VFX were present, to name but a few. Throughout the morning and afternoon, selected students were ushered upstairs to meet professionals for private interviews. Each year, a handful of students secure jobs right out of these interviews and those that do not receive valued feedback on their portfolio and demo reels. Many industry professionals that attend Spring Show may have even been hired from past Spring Shows.

As animation and visual effects are collaborative art forms, the Spring Show is an opportunity for the best of the best of ANM to be acknowledged for their skill in their respective areas. These categories include everything from 2-D animation tests to 3-D animation shorts to dynamics and particles to visual effects compositing.

Tzuhsuan “Jasmine” Li is a recent M.F.A. animation storyboarding graduate and won best storyboard at Spring Show for her second year in a row. Her short storyboard project, “The Challenger,” was an original storyboard set to part of Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” as part of her thesis project.

“Spring Show was my first time talking to industry people face to face. I might make mistakes and my portfolio might not be perfect but if you have a chance to get in touch with [industry] and they give you feedback, that’s a very good way to connect your trail to [get] you on the right track to follow your dream,” Li said.

School of Architecture


A student from the School of Architecture speaks with an industry guest at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

The School of Architecture (ARH) which recently had its National Architectural Accrediting Board assessment was in full swing at Spring Show featuring the best work from both the undergraduate and graduate students.

Student work was submitted in a variety of categories from public institution work to residential to commercial business. Malak Bellajdel is a recent B.F.A. graduate whose project designing the San Francisco State University Visitor Center was accepted into a PG&E sustainability competition for its net zero energy capacity, meaning the building produces more energy than it consumes. “Forty percent of the energy used in U.S. is from the buildings. We can do a lot more to fix that in our architecture. We have to cover the glass, so the people don’t bake, but also need circulation so we don’t need outdoor air conditioning,” Bellajdel said. “I see sustainability as what’s next. How are we going to leave the planet for our kids?” Bellajdel was also awarded the B. Arch Spring Show Award for her project and broader ARH work.

Maurits de Gans’ project, the Nomadic Work Campus, was a public institution that was fashioned for the Los Angeles River. “I looked at the Los Angeles River, but also how we live our lives these days. It’s very mechanically driven. What if we have buildings that are open to the public and private. They’re healthier and have an interactive work environment. My strength is seeing the connections between the public and private and serving both to the fullest,” de Gans said. “[Spring Show], for me, I love it. In school, I’ll be very encouraged by [my classmates’] work. I’ll help them or they’ll help me. It’s nice to see it all in person.”

School of Art Education

It was difficult to capture the work of School of Art Education (ARE) students at Spring Show, if only because their work is in the field making a difference in youth education, something not easily put on display. Unlike most standard educational programs, ARE teaching programs focus specifically on education in the arts, not the generalized practices of similar teaching programs. Additionally, ARE students are trained as both educators and practicing artists.

The ARE showcase displayed documentaries of four different master’s students and their respective capstone projects. Each student spearheaded a unique project from conception to implementation and was responsible for planning, assembling collaborators and pitching the projects to potential partners. “A lot of our students are pretty entrepreneurial and so they’re opening their own schools, and studios and launching startups connecting to the art education community,” ARE Associate Director Matt Sweeney said. “We feel like this video is something to show to whoever they are trying to connect with.”

Part of the ARE program is realizing the implementation of these capstone projects into the local community, usually in the Bay Area. If the works on display were any indication, the ARE students are succeeding in their efforts. Included among the documentaries of the capstone projects and the Academy students’ own artwork was artwork from the students in already implemented capstone programs. 

“Basically, our job is to train people how to get the future generations of students excited about art. I see it as more than teaching—I see us as ambassadors of art. They’re the ones who get to be innovative and create their own program and decide how they want art education to be brought out into the public,” ARE Director Marybeth Tereszkiewicz said. “It’s about making sure our students are loving being artists. It is the elders that pass down the culture and art and, to me, it’s a large part of what makes culture and what it means to have beauty and history.”

School of Communications & Media Technologies

051818_119 DJ Kenivah Bockari hopped on the turntables for a quick set during Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

During the 2017 Spring Show, the School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) were tucked away toward the middle of the 2225 Jerrold warehouse. But for the 2018 showcase, the Academy was right to place them next to the entrance to inject energy and excitement as guests poured into the building. 

Senior students replicated their Academy’s Got Talent showcase and stage production, bringing in hosts Beatriz Martinez, Tiffany Rika Russell and their AGT winner from last fall, Hannah Hsieh, to perform on the dulcimer. 

Hsieh played the songs that earned her the hearts of AGT judges and audiences (Celine Dion’s “My Heart Must Go On” and Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito”); (UKR) resident DJ Kenivah Bockari hopped onto the turntables to play hip-hop, Afrobeat and club tunes such as Lil Dicky’s “Freaky Friday,” J Balvin’s “Mi Gente” and Drake’s “Nice for What,” often leaving his station to dance in the crowd. School of Acting major and singer Janel McDowell also played a mini-set, performing original songs. 

Prior to the show, COM was all business. TVs lined the booth walls showing student reels and a computer station housed and organized their work into content type, whether it was storytelling, branding, motion graphics, web series, long form, reflection or news.

Students met with industry guests from Sirius XM, local television stations, CBS Interactive and independent production companies for ‘speed-dating’ type interviews to show their reels, resumes and connect with professionals. COM student and UKR Program Director Noah Rivers said his interviews that day were rather relaxed. For him, it was more about connecting with people: “My meetings were pretty calm, cool and collected; it was more about building a rapport.” 

“We only bring in a certain amount of industry professionals from all fields and we want to maximize their time. We have so many students that want to have that opportunity to pitch themselves and a lot of times, this is their first time with their resume, with their reel,” said COM Associate Director Steve Kotton. “That’s why we only do 10 minutes. It’s enough time for someone to see their reel and react to it. We’re planting seeds in the industry for them.” 

School of Fashion


The School of Fashion’s exhibition was a sight to behold with garments from the Graduation Fashion Show displayed on a set made of scaffolding alongside hanging textiles, digital portfolios, magazines and marketing campaigns. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

“Might as well go for drama, right?” said Nicole Ross, of the multi-level structure representing the School of Fashion (FSH) at the 2018 Spring Show. 

Easily the biggest and boldest display in the building, the scaffolding framework supported samples from the Academy of Art University’s largest department: Mannequins wearing garments from the spring and fall fashion show; computers with student portfolios; Plexiglas boxes guarding editorials, magazines and marketing campaigns; textiles hung from the bars and the SHOP657 pop-up carried samples from its concept store. 

Situated at the front of 2225 Jerrold, the two-story foundation was a sight to behold. Every facet of FSH was covered: Fashion design, textile design, knitwear, fashion journalism, marketing and more was presented for a cohesive and equal showing. 

Ross, a visual merchandising graduate, teamed up with fellow students Chih Han Chen and Jazmine Louis to conceptualize the Spring Show display. They said representation of all the departments was a big emphasis, even in their initial ideas. 

“Scaffolding works really well for budgeting purposes … We can hand it off to somebody else that can help us build so that we can push our focus to other minute details,” Ross said. “We both wanted a strong base but also a conversation piece on what fashion is in the development of that.” 

There’s some irony embedded in this decision: Scaffolding was also used in the Graduation Fashion Show as the runway, though not done in conjunction with the Spring Show display. 

“It really was a happy accident. We began spit-balling this idea of scaffolding at the beginning of the semester; We had no idea they were going to do that,” said Ross.

“When I brought in their concept to Simon [Ungless] to show progress, he literally said, ‘You’re kidding me right,’” said Fashion Merchandising Online Assistant Director Russell Clower. “Sometimes that wavelength just works out.” 

For FSH, it is usually the Graduation Fashion Show where the students can really strut their stuff. But Ross, Chen and Louis made it a point to bring the visual merchandising department to the front, figuratively and literally. 

“We’re a large department, we’ve never really had the opportunity to do something of this scale and magnitude before,” Ross said. “We’re an art school, might as well bring it big.” 

School of Fine Art


Spring Show guests interact with the work on display. Photo by Bob Toy.

The School of Fine Art’s Spring Show display could have been a museum exhibit. 

Paintings and sculptures took up the center aisles of the 2225 Jerrold warehouse and you never knew what you’d find; turn a corner and you may find yourself face-to-face with a Walter White drawing or a White Walker sculpture.  

Christina Yick, a third-year undergraduate student, showed off a sketch she did of a San Francisco intersection. Prior to taking a composition and painting class this year, Yick had never considered drawing a cityscape, she said. 

“I was interested in doing landscapes,” she said. “But my teacher showed me a lot of pieces with different styles, so I decided to give a cityscape a try.”

Craig Nelson, executive director of painting and printmaking for the School of Fine Art, said this year’s Spring Show boasted the widest variety of work the department had ever put on display. Fine art students, according to Nelson, are invited to experiment while studying at the Academy.

“We train them traditionally, but they explore and find what their hearts like,” he said.

The work diversified from still life realism to abstraction. Technique and composition were the key skills on display: Portraits exemplifying a mélange of faces and creeds; cityscapes exhibiting intense detail; color was prime as well, most noted in the flower paintings. 

M.F.A. graduate Najin Bae specializing in oil painting earned first place for her moody cluster of landscape and cityscape paintings. 

As a Nob Hill resident, she said the vast views of her apartment are “less chaotic and more contemplative.” 

“Being able to see these vast views, under different lighting, and weather conditions, I find myself inspired to recreate the mood I am feeling at that moment through painting,” she said.  “By using a dominant color with an accent of another instead of using local color, I can create an overall mood and leads the movement of viewer’s eyes for each painting.”

School of Game Development


Spring Show guests try out the games on display in the School of Game Development’s showcase. Photo by Bob Toy.

Sangbu Kim’s virtual reality puzzle game, Ball Factory, is one-of-a-kind. 

After strapping in with goggles, headphones and handheld controllers, players are immersed in a colorful, interactive world. The goal is simple: Collect the correct number of stars by rolling a ball over them. But the dynamic series of courses makes the game challenging and complex. 

Kim developed the concept and design for his game in a virtual reality class offered by the Academy’s School of Game Development (GAM). A sophomore at the school, Kim said he’s excited for what he’ll create in the years to come as an Academy student.

James Tong, a third-year student who also took the virtual reality course this year, created a shooter game for his final project. After he graduates next year, Tong hopes to secure a job doing what he does best: Designing games. He plans to work on projects that incorporate virtual or augmented reality technologies, he said.

The School of Game Development’s virtual reality class was a huge learning experience for Tong, he said. The resources available to students allowed him to explore game design in new and creative ways.

“There are a lot of new toys to play with,” he said. “You don’t get that in every class.”

One of GAM’s biggest virtual reality projects made its debut at this year’s Spring Show, the Norman Rockwell Museum VR Experience. 

The project took multiple semesters to complete, with over 20 students from GAM as well as the Schools of Illustration, Animation and Web Design & New Media collaborating on the sponsored project. 

“The Norman Rockwell project was about creating new content for a very traditional art museum,” said GAM Technical Lead Phil Kauffold, who oversaw the build. “The museum felt they had to bring in young people to create for like-minded individuals.” 

Following the project’s completion, it will be sent off to the New York Historical Society and tour throughout the U.S. for 2018. It is expected to land in Normandy, France on June 6, 2019, the 75th anniversary of D-Day. 

“It’s been interesting to design a unique experience for a broad range of people,” Kauffold said. “We’re actually very excited to help people gain a deeper understanding of Rockwell’s work and impact in American history.”

School of Graphic Design


Students from the School of Graphic Design met with industry guests throughout the day to talk about their work and present their portfolios. Photo by Bob Toy.

The School of Graphic Design’s (GR) showcase bustled with graduating students at the top of their class and the industry professionals who traveled both locally and from across the country to review the work of the next generation of designers. GR’s showcase was set in three rows of desks with two students to a desk, where industry professionals waded through swaths of spectators from portfolio to portfolio interviewing the recent graduates right on the spot.

The Academy’s GR program is one of the university’s most revered programs for its premium instruction and constant curricula updating to adhere to industry standard. As such, GR has one of the widest alumni networks with alumni returning as industry each year to survey talent.

Many students studied or worked for years before entering the Academy. Recent M.F.A. graduate Krishnapriya Dutta Gupta worked as an advertising art director for years before joining the program.

“I have attended Spring Shows before, but as a visitor. They’ve always been very aspirational. I’ve always wanted to be here with my work. I was so nervous, I didn’t get any sleep last night,” said Dutta Gupta. “You’ll be meeting a lot of people and they’ll be reviewing your work. You have a lot of expectations on yourself, but it’s good in the sense that it’s reassuring to get positive feedback from the industry.”

Another recent M.F.A. graduate, Fannie Ko, had an emotional moment. Her graphic design instructor at her native San Diego Community College that originally recommended her for the program was present at Spring Show as industry. “I feel like it’s not just coming here, but the whole process that leads up to it. It’s exciting because [industry] can see through my project and what I was thinking. They can tell me what my strengths are,” Ko said. “Everything brought us to this point. At City College, somebody believed in me and said, ‘Hey you have an opportunity to go up to Academy of Art.’”

School of Illustration


An industry guest peruses a student's portfolio at the School of Illustration's booth at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

In many cases, illustration is the first medium that budding visual artists discover. The limits of the medium scale proportionately to the imagination of the person holding the pen, pencil, crayon or stylus. The School of Illustration (ILL) Spring Show showcase was a testament to this diversity of discipline displaying pieces spanning genres of fantasy, children’s books, comic book art and many more. Industry in attendance ranged from professionals from the film industry, video game industry, illustration representatives and many more.

Ann Bloor is a recent B.F.A. graduate from ILL and a former tattoo artist. She is now seeking to take her skills and adapt them for a newfound interest in digital media. “I’m moving into a new media direction, because print’s fantastic—it will always be around—but I always enjoy the interactivity of user experience. I’m fascinated by the way people are using more illustration in the graphics on their website and creating more liveliness in their user experience,” Bloor said. “I feel that I’ve been exposed to enough people through Spring Show, although this whole journey of job hunting and whatnot is just starting. This is great to get exposure.”

Michael Estrada is another recent B.F.A. graduate, who is taking his freelance work in the opposite direction from Ann Bloor and entering the world of body art. “This is my second year I’ve been to Spring Show. I graduated last week. It hasn’t really hit me yet. Even though this is kind of the end, it’s kind of the beginning as well because we’re showing off our work, being exposed, meeting people,” Estrada said. “I’m interested in going into tattooing as well. There was a tattoo class here that I did. I think it’s really cool to be able to design with the flow of the body.”

ILL’s showcase offered an opportunity for students of diverse aspirations to show off their work in the equally diverse medium.

School of Industrial Design


A student from the School of Industrial Design shares his work with Spring Show guests. Photo by Bob Toy.

Every year, the School of Industrial Design sections off its Spring Show display by its four key product categories: Shoe design, furniture (and other household products), toys and games and of course, cars. 

Concept boards displayed the various projects developed by senior students this year: Designs for Honda, Maserati and Infiniti were featured, alongside a campaign for vintage vehicle upholstery restoration. Student ideations of new versions of Jenga, toddler toys and branded cardboard airplanes were set up for viewing only, along with a self-watering plant system and ergonomic climbing harness for advanced strength development. 

The big attraction for the day was presentations from the NASA-sponsored class, helmed by instructor Shizunori Kobara. According to Kobara, the Academy has had a longstanding eight-year relationship with the space program and every year, they sponsor a class so students can figure out how to address the outstanding problems they face with astronauts’ space travel. 

“They give us a topic, feedback and students are able to take on real projects and concerns,” Kobara said. 

This semester, the focus was on habitation or travel to Mars. According to Kobara, NASA’s prompt involved solving the most basic human problems astronauts meet in space: People haven’t traveled farther than the moon, what does it mean to travel six months (16 months, roundtrip) in a little capsule with specific constraints regarding resources energy, water and food. 

“Astronauts are constantly asked to do a job that’s essentially a submarine, very challenging for regular people,” Kobara elaborated. “Engineers, doctors, scientists, artists, people who want to be part of the exploration, we have to humanize and make space travel much more livable and that’s where design comes in.” 

Three groups presented concepts on gathering data (Mars Swarm Robotics), occupancy (HAB) and mental health (Avoiding Mars Madness). Jon Johannesson, an industrial design graduate, was part of the Avoiding Mars Madness team, where they developed products to alleviate the mental strain derived from isolation, confinement and unnatural lighting. 

“Our system of products were designed to stimulate the astronaut’s mind, body and soul,” he explained, whose designs featured a wood element for “Earth-familiarity”: “Our focus was to make [space] more comfortable and with NASA’s feedback, we hoped our ideas shed light on how to make that possible."

School of Interior Architecture & Design


A student from the School of Interior Architecture & Design presents their work to a Spring Show industry guest.Photo by Bob Toy.

This year, students in the School of Interior Architecture & Design (IAD) focused on two modern design concepts: Sustainability and inclusivity.

Eco-friendly design is a top priority throughout the industry, according to IAD Director Kathleen Valkuchak.

“We used to have a separate studio for sustainable design,” she said. “Now we expect it in all of our projects.” 

Inclusive design, Valkuchak said, falls along the same lines. Designers in today’s world are creating spaces that can be used by anybody, including elderly, disabled and young people.

“If you can design for the fringes of society, everybody benefits,” explained Valkuchak.

Alexandra Chausse, a fourth-year IAD student, displayed her design for an assisted living facility at this year’s Spring Show. 

Her design incorporated images of the human brain, which she said inspired her as she worked on the project. 

Chausse is currently working as a freelance designer for Restoration Hardware, where she is asked to work on a variety of different projects.

Annie Hsiao, who graduated this year from IAD, displayed the design she drew up for a modern home at the Spring Show. 

Hsiao incorporated solar- and wind-power into her design in order to emphasize sustainability.

School of Jewelry & Metal Arts


Guests view the various School of Jewelry & Metal Arts pieces on display at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.


The School of Jewelry & Metal Arts (JEM) at the Academy of Art University treated their work like art pieces in a museum. Carefully arranging them within Plexiglas boxes or mounted on makeshift booth walls, guests were able to get up close and personal to admire the detail and high-level technique to craft such elegant and dynamic pieces. 

There were traditional accessories such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and headbands; some made of brass or silver adorned with stones and gems, others with more obscure and curious characteristics such as caterpillars, antlers or "Magic Books." Korrine Lewis, an online M.A. JEM student, submitted a treehouse piece: Made of colored acrylic complete with bushels of green leaves, a clear square house and a couple of small figurines playing golf, the entire artifact had to measure at least six-inches diagonally. 

Where some metal and jewelry pieces possessed a traditional or medieval look with use of heavy metals such as brass, some students produced a modern look with use of 3-D printing, enamel, something called knit wire, or felt that was cut, shaped into flowers and layered for a vibrant, theatrical chest piece. One necklace was made from recycled bullets. The use of mixed medium, or using two or more different materials, was abundant, often incorporating muted wood with shiny metals. 

Headpieces were common—crowns and masks were abundant. B.F.A. student Zhuluan “Lam” Liang’s crown was decorated with flower buds and leaves; Zhongfang “Aka” Zhang’s award-winning Grow Mask extended along the side of the wearer’s face into large marbled gems for a futuristic look. 

Francesca MacKie, JEM instructor and tutor, said Spring Show for the department is a way to show off the diverse skills within the metal arts. Large or small, conceptualizing and bringing the idea to fruition requires a precise hand and delicate touch. 

“Often, there’s this preconceived notion of what jewelry makers and metal artists do,” MacKie said. “But we always want to show all the things it can be, not just the cliché.”

School of Landscape Architecture


Spring Show guests view a School of Landscape Architecture video at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

The School of Landscape Architecture (LAN) put its best, and most diverse, foot forward when it came to the 2018 Spring Show. 

There was a little bit of everything on display in the LAN booth at 2225 Jerrold: Everything from online students’ work to a Polk Street renovation from a sustainable design class to an M.F.A. thesis in Colma (near Daly City) dealing with hydrology and stormwater management, to a large public open park plaza beneath the 101 freeway. 

Dan “Diana” Liao, the M.A. LAN student who designed the 101 freeway park plaza design, said her concept wanted to “combine nature, art and people.” Similarly, LAN Administrator Kathryn Baldwin said the goal with many of these projects was to “show how people connect with their city and nature.” 

“Landscape architecture is a very democratic process,” Baldwin said. “The idea is to connect people with the planet, to get people to interact with nature again.” 

One particular project came full circle with its appearance at Spring Show. The Emeryville Bayshore Trail conceptual design is a result from the Regional Planning & Design Studio class (LAN 400), where students worked to solve large scale and complex issues and produce solutions for more livable cities, towns and communities. 

According to LAN Director Jeff McLane, this class came about when Jac Asher, Emeryville mayor and former School of Fine Art - Sculpture instructor, approached McLane at the 2017 Spring Show with a problem: Several cyclists were being hit by cars due to the way the Emeryville bike path is routed connecting to the Bay Trail. Planners were unable to come up with a solution, and Asher asked if students were open to exploring how to fix it. 

“Students are not constrained by the same rules and regulations as professional planners,” McLane explained. “They were hoping students could come up with outside-the-box solutions.”

Of the three students in the class, B.F.A. LAN student Chau Ngo’s design was selected for Spring Show.  Though she was unavailable for interview, McLane commented that her work is a nod to the caliber of skill and thought within the Regional Planning class.

“We try to do as many projects out in the world as we can, but to have one where students are able to come to solutions that professionals for whatever reason couldn’t, to have that become filtered into their thinking was really exciting,” McLane said. 

School of Motion Pictures & Television and Writing for Film, TV & Digital Media

Still buzzing from the success of its second annual NXT Up Fest, the Schools of Motion Pictures & Television (MPT) and Writing for Film, TV & Digital Media (WRI) sprung into the 2018 Spring Show with an armful of student thesis films, documentaries, music videos and a new behind-the-scenes B-roll video to put on display.

Movie posters were mounted behind monitors playing the NXT Up Fest nominees, including the show-sweeping Esperanza (directed by Kai-Hsiang Chang, M.F.A. MPT student) and award-winning short, Salvation. To give some due shine to WRI students, the department printed select pull-quotes from scripts onto poster board, accompanied by graphics for a much more colorful and expressive take. 

“There’s tons of great work coming out of the writing department and I thought this was a very creative way of letting other people see what we do,” said WRI Associate Director Stuart Thomas. 

Getting to view student films was a treat for guests, but the real draw for students was the opportunity to speak with some real film industry heavyweights, including Peter Heller (Dreamland, Brown Sugar), Barbara Fisher (Lifetime, Hallmark Channel) and Mary Lou Bellis (NCIS: New Orleans, The Game, Girlfriends). MPT Director Randy Levinson shared that the group has worked on over 100 movies collectively and offers a diverse set of perspectives of the industry, from the film to studio executive level. 

“The whole goal of this is to do two things,” Levinson said. “One, help strategize for when you leave school, how to get into the business. Two, they’re also talking about the particular work students are doing, what they might want to be doing, ways to get better.” 

Yuan Tian, a directing major, whose NXT Up-nominated thesis, “Somebody New,” was playing in the MPT booth, said interacting with industry professionals reassured the butterfly feeling of leaving school and entering the workforce. Being able to sit face-to-face with movie and television veterans such as Fisher, Heller and Bellis and have a conversation, Tian said, “I’m feeling like a professional.” 

She beamed. “I hope they are seeing a young graduate student who is really passionate about working in the [film] industry, one that they might want to work with one day.” 

School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media

The School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media (MUS) holds the honor of being the only auditory discipline instructed at the Academy and, as such, featured one of the most unique Spring Show exhibitions of the entire event.

The best student work of both the undergraduate and graduate programs were available for listening on the many display screens. Selected work included a soundtrack of a fighter jet pilot video game, eerie echoing audio for art film shorts and many more. 

Recent M.F.A. graduate Brendan Wolf is just one of the many MUS students that embodies the unique creative nature of the department. Wolf is a trained jazz pianist pursuing video game design and he created a customized curriculum at the Academy to fit these passions. “I’m not a visual artist. Instead of going in for a pure design programming track, I wanted to be, frankly, a little more creative and use my talent and do something in that realm,” said Wolf. “I went into the music department with the intention of learning to make games.”  

One of the games on display in his reel is a minotaur-themed labyrinth crawling game called Minos. In it, Wolf employed his knowledge of sound design and audio cues to create in-game tension as the titular monster approaches the player. The game received excellence in music scoring at the Academy’s annual NXT Up Fest.

Wolf is currently interning at Strawberry Hill Music, a sound design studio for video games, through a connection he made at the 2017 Spring Show. “Spring Show is great industry exposure and it’s really inspirational. It’s one thing to be a student here, but when you come to the show, you see the best of the best,” Brendan Wolf said. “You see someone’s complete heart poured into something and it creates something amazing.”

School of Photography


Guests view digital photography work at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

The Academy’s School of Photography (PH) showed off its motion projects this year for the first time at Spring Show. 

According to PH Director Adrienne Pao, photographers in today’s world need to have the skills to create video content.

“It’s a big part of our program now,” shared Pao.

Student Ally Legato, who graduated this year from the department’s graduate program, rekindled a passion for shooting video during her time at the Academy.

Legato planned to study photography with hopes of doing commercial shooting. But during her time in the graduate program, she switched gears. 

“I noticed I connected so much more with motion,” she said. “I express myself so much better through video.” 

Legato was awarded Best in Show at Spring Show for her films Stream and Wav—short videos which she described as abstract and surrealist. 

Analia Gutierrez, who moved to San Francisco from Argentina to study photography at the Academy, had work on display at this year’s show.

Gutierrez’s final project was a series of photographs of women’s faces shot through windows. She said that she would stand outside a business or home with her lens fixed on a woman. She would wait until the woman looked at her before snapping the shot, effectively capturing the gazes of her subjects.

School of Visual Development

Visual development artists specialize in designing characters, props and scenes for narrative driven work. The School of Visual Development (VIS) showcased its students’ best pieces throughout its program in each category. Commercial film, art and video game studios are increasingly recognizing the value of well-designed characters and set pieces in creating a strong final product. Visual development artists are key for this.

The VIS Spring Show roster featured industry professionals from game studios such as King Games and Blaze Studios, as well as large corporate film enterprises such as Marvel and Disney.

Michael Sanchez, a recent VIS B.F.A. graduate just beginning to break into the industry, secured an interview with Marvel through Spring Show. “I’m starting to get more into video games, characters and vehicles. Primarily I want to do video games, but I’m open to everything. Spring Show is just a good opportunity to get out there. Sometimes it can be so hard to get a hold of anybody and get interest. Here you can just have someone pass by and look at your work and say, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you,’” said Sanchez. “It’s a great opportunity. It’s also awesome looking at a lot of stuff from visual development and I’m drawing inspiration for what I should be working on for my next projects, especially the key paintings.”

Yamel Figueroa is another recent VIS graduate who exhibited her work at Spring Show. “It’s my first time submitting and coming to Spring Show. I talked to two Disney people,” she said. “It’s a lot like CTN (Creative Talent Network) Animation Expo. You get to talk to your [instructors] and they get to see your work as a professional. You get some feedback on your portfolio and talk to people who’ve made it.”


Simo by School of Visual Development student Ray Lei. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

School of Web Design & New Media


Guests interact with School of Web Design & New Media’s plant wall at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

Spring Show is an opportunity for departments to showcase the best of student work in their respective disciplines. In the case of the School of Web Design & New Media (WNM), this tends to mean not only the best work in a design sense, but also the most cutting edge projects in terms of execution. 

One of the major projects on display was an interactive plant wall. The wall featured a large handful of planters fixed to a wall with succulents and other small flora, each equipped with a censor to detect light, humidity or soil moisture. Each planter was connected to a microcontroller via conductive paint that reveals the measurements of each variable and short animations when touched.

“We see that as the next generation of user interfaces and experiences. Everywhere you go there will be a combination of physical and digital interfaces. The conductive paint is interesting because it’s another way of just getting physical interaction,” WNM Director Ryan Medeiros said. “We’re really used to pressing buttons, but a button could be almost anything—a strip of fabric on your clothes, an earring, tap the side of your glasses. The conductive paint is an example of that.” 

Another popular WNM project was B.F.A. student Katie Noborikawa’s student survey. Participants stand in front of the project’s Microsoft Connect camera which projects a cursor onto one of three monitors. Participants than walk within the camera’s range to select answers to each survey question. At the end of the survey, the participant’s answers are animated and grouped with all previous answers in on screen buckets.  

“I found many different things interesting about this project. I enjoy coding. It’s kind of like a puzzle. You try to fit different things together and it doesn’t fit and you try another thing,” Noborikawa said. “This had 100 iterations so that it could turn out like this.”