School of Art + Art History + Design Director’s Letter

It is with a sense of relief and profound admiration that we introduce our graduate students in art, art history, and design, Class of 2021. These fifteen MA, MDes, MFA, and PhD recipients originally converged in Seattle from various global points of origin, eager and most likely somewhat apprehensive, to begin the unknown challenges and rewards of graduate school. Unimaginable challenges became the new normal for all of us in 2020, which makes the accomplishments of this graduating class even more special and affirming.

The all-consuming focus, introspection, and vulnerability of being a graduate student was abruptly interrupted by circumstances that were incomprehensible in their scale and anguish as a pandemic changed the way we lived and soon followed profound calls for racial equality and social justice. For several months, the grads were not allowed on campus and interactions with their peers and faculty were limited to virtual encounters. The in between times were missing and the camaraderie that is such an important component of the graduate experience just wasn’t the same on Zoom. Fortunately, we were able to have our graduate students return to their studios and offices by mid-summer, albeit with significant restrictions. Libraries were closed, access to equipment and tools was limited, and everyone needed to maintain their social distance bubble. 

Adaptation, resiliency, and self-care became daily mantras. The relentless pace of taking classes, participating in presentations and critiques, submitting papers, and sharing their knowledge and experience as colleagues and teachers, was exacerbated by working in virtual isolation. 

Despite the seemingly endless obstacles everyone encountered, it was inspirational to watch how these grads persevered and invented new ways of being in order to pursue their academic goals. Several of the grads noted how living through such times altered their perspective and process of working in ways that directly affected the work presented here.

I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary support and mentorship offered by our faculty and staff to provide the best educational environment possible so that these graduate students could complete their degrees. 

I am incredibly grateful that, despite it all, the Henry Art Gallery committed to exhibiting not only the work of the 2021 MDes and MFA graduates, but also their counterparts from the Class of 2020 whose exhibition was simply not possible a year ago. Thank you to Sylvia Wolf, Director; Shamim Momin, Director of Curatorial Affairs; and Katie Miller, Preparator and Public Program Manager.

I would also like to thank Heidi Biggs, Luther Konadu, Krista Schoening, Nicole Seisler, and Hagere Selam “shimby” Zegeye-Gebrehiwot for their insightful interviews and commentaries written about the work created by the grads in art and design.

I encourage you to peruse this online showcase and the 2020 Graduate Showcase, to explore how each graduate student transformed their passion and ideas into a unique body of research that reflects and addresses the opportunities, challenges, wonder, confusion, and joy of the world we all inhabit.

We applaud the fortitude and determination that enabled each of these students to earn their respective degree. As these artists, scholars, and designers navigate the next stage of their journey, they carry with them a sense of achievement and assurance that will serve them well in their future endeavors.

On behalf of the School of Art + Art History + Design, congratulations to the class of 2021!

Jamie Walker
Director, School of Art + Art History + Design
Wyckoff Milliman Endowed Chair in Art