Academy of Art University Students Emphasize Importance of Art in Tech-Driven World

Academy of Art University and San Francisco have come of age together and influenced each other by providing wellsprings of talent and mutual inspiration. Since 1929, Academy of Art University has grown to become the largest accredited private design and art school in the United States. It’s location in the Bay Area is not an accident. This community has long been impacted by writers, musicians, designers, and artists. Their influence continues to drive the local culture today.

In a world undergoing rapid transformation, driven by technology, art and design still maintain a prominent place. Creatives and audiences alike celebrate community and their view of the world through artistic expression that will become the historical artifacts of tomorrow. While learning their craft at Academy of Art University, students regularly engage their community, leaving a lasting impression through their creative contributions.

Affordable Housing from Academy of Art University

As a current project designer for affordable housing projects throughout the Bay Area, Academy of Art School of Architecture alumni Mary Telling is using her design skills to impact the community she loves by helping to create new affordable housing options for its residents. 2060 Folsom is a new affordable housing project with 127 apartment units located in the Mission District.

“Working in affordable housing in San Francisco has changed the way I think as a designer, because I’m thinking about the experience—how does the tenant feel when they’re walking into the space?” Telling said. “It’s not about me anymore. It’s about the community I serve.” This ambitious new housing for families will be located across from a brand new public park that is now under construction. The park will serve as a neighborhood gathering place to promote unity and help with beautification.

She is grateful for the skills and training she received at the university. “Academy of Art University was most impactful on my career,” she says. “The school [of Architecture] was extremely responsive and gave us the tools we need to be on the cutting edge of the profession. It provided me an amazing career path.”

Public Art

Public art in any community provides connections to the people within the neighborhoods, as well as topics for engagement and debate. San Francisco has one of the most well-known legacies of public art, stretching back throughout the city’s storied history. With the help of Craig Nelson, Executive Director of the School of Fine Arts, and instructor Carol Nunnelly, students from the school are contributing to San Francisco’s public art legacy.

Xiaolu Lin, Academy of Art University alumnus, created an award-winning art deco design for a mural that will grace the Samesun Hostel on Franklin Street, in the Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood. Academy students regularly install murals on Bay Area landmarks through a mural painting class. This mural will feature the Ferry Building, Japan Town, and other notable elements of San Francisco.

After renovations are completed, the Samesun Hostel will offer hotel rooms close to California Pacific Medical Center facilities. Academy of Art University students and faculty, as well as Samesun owners and community residents, hope the renovated property and the mural will contribute to a more vibrant neighborhood.

Art on the National Stage

Art can hang on buildings or walls- or even on people. That was Brandon Kee’s vision as a student at the Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion. Brandon is a 2016 BFA menswear design graduate who recently showcased his work to a national audience by participating in Season 16 of Project Runway, on the Lifetime channel. He finished as one of four top finalists. “He has a particular point of view that has even influenced other designers on the show,” said Project Runway judge Nina Garcia, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine. “That’s what you want from a designer, to inspire and be a trend setter.”

“Brandon can clearly design, cut a pattern, and construct,” said Simon Ungless, School of Fashion executive director. “He has a highly developed skill set and that came through in his quiet confidence [of] getting the job done.”

The show celebrated different body sizes with models from sizes 0 to 22, and Brandon’s designs won four challenges during the show. Co-hosts Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn made frequent claims that Brandon “always exceeded [their] expectations.” Of the judges, Garcia praised him for his “unique point of view” and Zac Posen, fashion designer and Brooks Brothers creative director, applauded Brandon’s sophisticated concepts and execution.

Art in Space

In a stunning demonstration of the far-reaching scope of art, Academy of Art University alum Forest Stearns (MFA Illustration 2010) has produced the largest art show in space. Inspired by the World War II practice of creating artwork on Army Air Corps bombers, Stearns approached the co-founder of Planet Labs with the idea of sending art into space. Planet Labs is a private company that designs and builds small ‘Dove’ type satellites that take pictures of the Earth from outer space. They recently purchased Google’s satellite business, Terra Bella.

Forest has now created artwork for Planet Labs for over four years, placing artwork on 95% of its satellites, about 500 pieces. He currently manages the artist-in-residence program at Planet Labs. “We’re creating a conversation among Silicon Valley artist-in-residence programs and other programs to facilitate artwork as value added to the company,” Stearns said.

Art to Make a Difference 

Art impacts people in many ways, and Academy of Art University School of Fine Arts grad Andrew Schoultz uses his creative talents to benefit others. Andrew recently exhibited 15 hand-painted skateboard decks at The Bricks Ybor in Tampa, Florida. All proceeds from his work will go to a local non-profit, Boards for Bros.

“I’ve been paying attention to what Boards for Bros. has been doing for a while. They go into underprivileged areas where there are skate parks, or they’ll set up a mini skate park for a weekend, and they give away boards and helmets to those who don’t have them. Right now, skateboarding is the new ‘hoop dreams.’ Some of the most talented kids are coming from underprivileged areas. Skateboarding can really save you, and I think there’s a lot of power and purpose in what they’re doing,” Schoultz said.

Andrew Schoultz has won international acclaim with linear/drawing-based work that is loosely based on comic books, graffiti, old clip art, and skateboard graphics. “I’ve been a skateboarder all my life, but as an artist I’ve emerged into doing things all over the world. Skateboarding has informed everything I’ve done to this point as an artist and a person,” he says.

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