No one these days disputes the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. And Washtenaw Community College certainly plays a key role in preparing students for today’s and tomorrow’s workforce in STEM-related fields. But, there are many who think STEM should have the letter ‘A’ inserted. The ‘A’ stands for the arts. It would be an understatement to say the arts at WCC are thriving. Here’s a look at what our students accomplished this past semester.
Shining on the silver screen
Students in WCC’s Digital Media Arts (DMA) department can do more than tell a story. They become the story.
Recently, WCC students scored multiple nominations and one win at the annual Michigan Regional Student Production Awards, which is sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. A distinct honor considering WCC was one of the few community colleges to be nominated.
Nominees were: Dalia Alsadi (Short Form – Nonfiction); Zachary Anderson (Animation/Graphics/ Special Effects); John F. Jennings “Red” and Mike McCullough (Music Video); Julie Russell (Short Form – Fiction); Andrea Van Heerde (Short Form – Nonfiction); and Matthew Wilken (Short Form – Nonfiction).
Jessica Brusher and Travis Reynolds won in the Commercial category.
“To have your hard work recognized, even by being nominated, is exhilarating,” Brusher said. “This entire experience has been extraordinary and I am incredibly grateful for it all.”
At last year’s production awards, four WCC students took home first place for Best Documentary, Best Commercial, Best Sports Feature, and Best Director categories.
“The work our students produce speaks for itself,” added Matt Zacharias, WCC DMA faculty member. “I’m blessed to work with so many talented students who are passionate about telling great, meaningful stories.”
The Awards were held at the Detroit Public Television studios in Wixom.
Art for art’s sake and critical review
The Morris Lawrence building at WCC has been transformed into many things over the decades, but every year in April, the building turns into an art gala for one night. Nearly every corner is adorned with the creative work of students in the Digital Media Arts (DMA) department—and this year was no exception.
At the DMA department’s annual year-end gala, students in photography, graphic design, 3D animation and digital video took center stage once again as they showcased their portfolios of work culminated from previous semesters.
“Going into the Gala, I had my doubts,” said WCC photography student Kaitlin McCormack. Her art project focused on drugs and other addictions.
“The reactions I received gave me the upmost confidence in my abilities as an artist and thinker. But, what I found most satisfying is knowing that a handful of people may have walked away questioning everything they thought they knew about addiction, and that was the root of my concept.”
Open to the public, prospective employers were present to offer constructive feedback, along with advice on how to successfully transition from the classroom into the workplace. Companies included the College of Creative Studies, Q LTD, Uproar Communications and Campbell Ewald.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to show the culmination of their studies at WCC and for them to receive feedback from industry professionals,” said Ingrid Ankerson, WCC DMA co-chair and faculty member.
“For the community, it’s a fun, festive evening of viewing films and enjoying photography and works of graphic design, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Approximately 70 students from WCC’s photography, graphic design, 3D animation and digital video programs graduated this year.
Poetry shifts the paradigm
Nearly a year in the making, a passion project between two student clubs at WCC came to fruition recently and is receiving a lot of positive attention.
Described by those involved as a “fairly complex project,” Paradigm Shift, a LGBTQIA+ themed anthology, was coproduced by the WCC Poetry Club and the WCC Out-Space Club, which provides a supportive environment for LGBTQIA+ members at the college.
“The collaboration between the two clubs was a natural fit,” said WCC English faculty member Tom Zimmerman, who is also the faculty advisor for the WCC Poetry Club and director at the WCC Writing Center. “We decided on an anthology because there’s a lot of ground to cover and we wanted it to be inclusive, while being as representative of as many voices within the LGBTQIA+ community as possible.”
Inside, readers will find personal poems and essays, original artwork, resources and a glossary of terms dealing with LGBTQIA+ issues.
Out-Space Club member Zach Baker noted that Paradigm Shift is not limited to only LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff.
“It’s for anyone who wants to better educate themselves on a subculture that’s often overlooked and misunderstood or someone who wants to become a better ally of the LGBTQIA+ com-munity,” Baker said. “The more people know, the more progress we can make as a society.”
Fine effort for WCC fine arts students
For several of WCC’s fine arts students, it was their first time competing in the annual Liberal Arts Networking for Development (LAND) Fine Arts competition in Grand Rapids recently. They left the event happy and proud, carrying off four awards.
WCC submitted 24 student fine art pieces ranging from drawing and painting to 2D and 3D design. Winners of the Dean’s Choice for LAND’s Artwork were: Aaron Diels in 3D Design, first place; Tatiana Kondrashova in Painting I, second place; and Michaela Burton in Drawing, third place.
Janice Self from 2D Design took home third place in the 2D Art category at the state level.
“This competition is about our students and getting them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone,” said Belinda McGuire, WCC Art faculty member. “This was our first year competing, so it was great for the students to see that their work and efforts are appreciated outside the college.
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of On the Record.