An Insight into The Academy of Art University’s 2020 Spring Show

An art and design exhibition showcasing rich talent across numerous creative fields

Having already transferred all classes online to accommodate the COVID-19 lockdown, San Francisco’s Academy of Art University has also hosted its annual Spring Show online for the first time this year. Staff took measures to ensure that the university’s highly anticipated annual art and design exhibition went ahead despite the pandemic—and the result has been truly show-stopping. The exhibition features the best of the best student work from all 22 schools throughout the Academy and generates interest from a huge number of industry professionals.

The Spring Show is one of the Academy’s prime career-building opportunities, and over 1,000 industry leaders and recruiters attend every year. These professionals have been known to hire graduates on the spot, and previous students have gone on to work for Guess, Lexus, Monster, and Williams Sonoma, amongst other leading companies across countless industries. Presenting the Spring Show online this year has lifted geographical restrictions and enabled students from over 75 creative disciplines to connect with industry leaders around the world. Sharing student projects in an online virtual space has also made access easier than ever; industry professionals have access to graduate portfolios and résumés 24/7.

There is an enormous advantage to showcasing the work in a digital space,” says Jana Memel, Executive Director of the Schools of Entertainment. “The entertainment industry is global, [and] with the Spring Show online platform, anyone, at any time, anywhere can log on and view the work.”

Here are just a few examples from the 2,000 pieces of student work that are on show at the virtual 2020 Spring Show.

Lynn Lin, MA Jewelry & Metal Arts

Lynn’s artwork has been shortlisted for the Spring Show’s MA award and is deeply embedded in her observations and emotions. Each piece of her jewelry tells a personal story: while childhood memories influenced her recent series Fig and Fig Wasp—What Makes a Memory, her current project Growth, Identity is based on the relationship between parents and children. Lynn uses a blend of materials and techniques to convey figurative meanings and produce visual contrasts. She favors rigid metals, fragile wings, and fragmented shapes to represent divergences within her smooth, free-flowing frameworks.

Lynn received her BFA in marketing from the University of Liverpool (England) and worked in estate marketing before she began creating jewelry. In 2017, she moved to Beijing and took part in multiple jewelry workshops, such as 798 Art Zone and WenYi Art Studio. Then, in 2019, the Academy of Art University awarded Lynn a scholarship for an MA degree in Jewelry and Metal Arts. She has since participated in a host of exhibitions, including the Artist’s Vision exhibition, which is hosted by the Marin Society of Artists Gallery.

At the beginning, I was a little worried. I wasn’t sure how I could finish my final projects with the school studio closed, but I was surprised that we could still learn a lot [under lockdown],” says Lynn. “With classes online, we can watch recordings of each class over and over again. For people like me who haven’t accessed this software before, it’s really helped.”

View Lynn’s portfolio.

Nimisha Doongarwal, MFA Fine Art

Nimisha’s artwork represents immigrant identity based on cultural and colonial history. Her mixed-media creations blend fragments of paintings, photographs, fabrics, and digital prints to produce seamless yet multi-faceted finishes. Her collage style combines an eclectic range of media as she explores complex relationships between past and popular cultures. Nimisha enjoys intertwining British and Indian history in her creations, and each piece of artwork tells a unique story based on historical truths.

Nimisha completed her MA in Computer Science in 2007 before realizing her love for art. She is now completing her MFA in Fine Art at the Academy of Art University alongside her role as a software engineer.

My body of work consists of mixed media portraits through which I create a new abstract identity, which emphasizes the cultural and traditional overlap that people around the world went through over centuries. This overlap has made us all extremely similar, irrespective of varied physical appearances,” says Nimisha. “Through my art, I want to encourage people to embrace cultural diversity, reduce prejudice, and, in some cases, crime against groups based on color, race, religion, and appearance. My goal is to advocate awareness for social issues that immigrants and people of color around the world face. This is especially important given recent acts of racism.”

View Nimisha’s Artist Statement.

Carly Wolf, BFA Photography

Carly’s photography has won two Spring Show awards, “Best in Show: Portfolio” and “Series: Portfolio”. Carly’s California Coast series showcases the raw, natural beauty of coastlines from surreal birds-eye-view angles. From overhead, she picks out striking colors and transformative shapes that take viewers on a sublime journey as they explore familiar yet new landscapes.

We had almost 80 participants in our School of Photography Spring Show awards ceremony, which was attended by online and onsite students around the world,” says Adrienne Pao, Director of the School of Photography. “Our department truly came together this semester and the community spirit was felt far and wide.”

Carly is a freelance fine art photographer based in San Francisco who enjoys capturing shots both on the ground and in the sky. She has just graduated from the Academy of Art University with her BFA in Photography and is now focusing her freelance projects on hidden beauty spots and the serenity that we can draw from nature.

When I’m flying, I look for the different lines and compositions, and I wait for the waves to come in so that when the wave gets to just the right place, I snap and take the shot,” says Carly. “The photos are from a different perspective, showing something that we don’t see every day. A lot of the time, when I’m out shooting with my hand-held camera, I wish I could photograph from a different point of view or angle—I just need to get a little bit higher.”

View Carly’s California Coast Collection.

Donald Bianchi, BFA Motion Pictures and Television

Donald likes to experiment with stop motion and double-exposure in-camera effects to create captivating short films. His latest short narrative Shutter won the Spring Show award for the Best Director Award (Under 12 Minutes). Shutter is the story of a stalker, told through the lens of an obsessive photographer as he follows his victim, desperate to find out what he is carrying in his bag. Donald created the nostalgic suspense film using VHS-C tapes.

Having now completed his BFA with the Academy of Art University, Donald is looking to transition fully into the motion picture and television landscape.

Training at AAU was like being a recruit in boot camp and the kid in a candy store, all at once,” says Donald. “Passionate, nurturing, but demanding teachers instilled in me a professional work ethic, and rewarded me with professional actors, professional soundstages, vaults of props and set pieces to play with. They gave me the confidence to collaborate with equally passionate, headstrong artists and to take charge by helming projects from idea to execution. I feel prepared and excited to enter the industry, armed with confidence, humility, enthusiasm, imagination, and projects itching to find their way to the screen.”

View Donald’s Résumé.

Hedvig Rausing, BFA Graphic Design

Hedvig integrates branding, typography, and art direction into her design strategies, producing graphics for a range of media, from books and leaflets to bottle labels and posters. As a creative problem-solver, Hedvig uses creative storytelling techniques to inform each of her pieces. In particular, Hedvig produced her imagined art exhibit Gimme More using bold colors and loaded graphic elements to convey important messages about greed and consumerism in modern society.

Hedvig produces designs for Landor (San Francisco) and Jung Relations (Stockholm). Having already completed two degrees in Politics and Strategic Communication, she then honed her graphic design skills on the Academy of Art University’s BFA Graphic Design program. Her work has been featured in multiple exhibitions and she has won multiple design awards.

I aim for intelligent creative solutions with an emphasis on storytelling and strategy,” says Hedvig. “I strongly believe in the power of visual communication to create social change through engagement and concept-driven design.”

View Hedvig’s Portfolio.

Andrew Schlecht, MFA Industrial Design

Andrew’s Tooth Bike Saddles is one of the many projects on display in this year’s Spring Show. His goal was to design a product that could make use of the 290-million tires that are discarded in America every year. Shaped like piranha teeth, Andrew’s bike saddle design is inspired by the Black Piranha, which attacks rubber trees in rainforests. He has even created an app ordering system in which buyers can customize the saddles for body type, riding style, and aesthetics.

Having already completed an undergraduate degree in Sustainable Product Design and Innovation, Andrew is now finishing his MFA in Industrial Design with the Academy of Arts University.

I worked at a leading Life Science company in Boston as a 3D CAD designer,” Andrew says. “After two years, I realized that I love ideating, designing, and creating new concepts and consumer products, so I decided to pursue an advanced degree at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.”

View Andrew’s Tooth Bike Saddles.

A Showcase of Artistic Talent

From architectural plans and visual developments to fully produced video games and automotive models, the Academy of Art University’s showcase is both rich and wide-spanning.

Departments involved in the Spring Show include the Schools of Advertising, Animation & Visual Effects, Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Art Education, Communications and Media Technologies, Entertainment, Fashion, Fine Art, Game Development, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interior Architecture and Design, Industrial Design, Jewelry and Metal Arts, Music Production and Sound Design, Photography, Visual Development, and Web Design and New Media. The exhibition is bursting with portfolios and projects across all disciplines for enthusiasts and industry professionals to peruse.

Read more about Academy of Art University’s school of design.


Article Editor

Pamela is a television journalist, humor writer and novelist. Her first novel, Allegedly, was released in 2015 by St. Martin’s Press. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She and her husband, Daniel, have a 3-year-old son, Carter.

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