The world houses millions of creative endeavors—from paintings hanging in art museums to photographs on display in galleries, or billboards lining the highway and designs printed on Christmas packages. All these were produced by individuals who sought a life bursting with opportunities to express their creativity.
At the Mount, our Art and Design programs cultivate students’ unique abilities, instilling in them a skillset integral to their success in the field. Current student Nick Sjulin, recent graduate Sidney Trasser, and alumna Anne Schlomer reflect on their respective majors, and how their experiences translated into their future aspirations and/or current professions.
The Student: Designing a Successful Future
Nick Sjulin’s long-term goal is to own and operate a strategic design and development agency established by his mother. Currently, he is pursuing his undergraduate degree in graphic design, and to achieve a business perspective, he is supplementing his BFA with the Mount’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) 4+1 program, which will enable him to earn his master’s degree with one additional year of college. He says, “[It] will give me an incredible edge over many other people coming out of college and will also prepare me for running a business.”
While he continues working toward his degrees and future objectives, Sjulin has taken advantage of the opportunities presented through the Mount’s Art and Design programs. In his classes, he learns from experienced professors who have come directly from the field, and their knowledge has assisted in equipping him with the necessary skills for a career within graphic design.
During junior and senior year, graphic design majors work on a few projects that are tied to a real company and the process for completing the projects mimick design jobs in the professional world. Sjulin says, “This gives us real-world experience with a company while maintaining the low-stakes environment that a classroom provides.”
Outside the classroom, he has furthered his education through experiential learning. This past year, Sjulin co-oped with the Mount’s University Communications Department as a graphic designer, which he says “has allowed [him] to take a glimpse into the professional field of graphic design and has given [him] a great jump start.”
Sjulin also generates off-campus opportunities through freelance work, which implements his classroom learning and provides real-world experience. “I accept freelance jobs to start to get my name out there,” he says. “I’ve been doing this kind of work for the past 3-4 years now, and they are mainly small jobs, typically logo development or something with a quick turnaround time….It’s tough to do freelance on top of my co-op, but it allows me to build a name for myself.”
For artists, experience is an integral part of their education, as it enables them to build a portfolio, which is a visual representation of who they are as artists and designers. “In [the art] field, a portfolio is everything,” Sjulin explains. “We learn the most from experience, and if we have the portfolio to show it, a 4.0 GPA doesn’t seem too important.”
Through coursework, freelance, and co-op, Sjulin has been able to expand his portfolio and gain professional experience, two key factors for obtaining his goals. He expects to graduate in May 2019 with his BFA, and 2020 with his MBA.
The Recent Graduate: Making Connections
In May 2017, Sidney Trasser graduated with both a BFA in Graphic Design and a BFA with Concentraion in Photography. Despite designing and shooting for two thesis projects her senior year, this young woman also spent hours configuring her resume and portfolio and applying for as many job positions as she could, which ultimately resulted in her being hired before she had even graduated. But Trasser initiated her success years before she received multiple degrees and a full-time position. In fact, her success story began freshman year, with her foundational courses.
Trasser says, “It was through the foundational courses that a solid background in art was laid out for me that I could fall back on.” Four years later, she continues to implement those lessons into her work and notes how applicable her coursework continues to be. “It all has a purpose,” she shares. “None of my art courses were put on [the program curriculumn] without thorough thought.” Even her Figure Drawing course, which she admits she felt was irrelevant to her majors, was important in the end, as it helped her “think more and understand the composition” of her models for her photography senior thesis.
And not only were her courses relevant, but Trasser says they were taught by professors who challenged her. “I asked the most ‘why’ questions as I could before probably making my professors want to pull their hair out,” she says, “but they always gave me a ‘why’ or challenged me back. They saw in me the desire to be the best, to work the hardest, and to succeed the most, and they never stopped pushing me.” Even when she thought she had done her best, Trasser says her professors told her do it again.
Surrounded by faculty who genuinely cared about her success, Trasser found that she flourished, and says, “I was hired before graduation, and I strongly believe it was the program and support of professors…that helped me get there.” Those same professors also enabled her to branch out into the community and make connections. Not being originally from Cincinnati, Trasser felt she was in the dark when it came to networking with the designers and artists of the city, but through her professors, she was introduced to some of the most successful ones around. “My professors didn’t have to extend these connections with me,” she says, “but they did, and it speaks volumes to the value they have for their students.”
Currently, Trasser is a Junior Level Graphic Designer at Solution Design in Indian Hill. In addition to her full-time career, she does freelance life photography and graphic design, as well as producing a YouTube channel, called SOS Studios, with two fellow Mount graduates. She was also nominated for an exhibition with The Carnegie, a multidisiplinary arts venue in Northern Kentucky. Titled Studio Open 2, the exhibition features recently graduated artists from across the region and will last from Dec. 1, 2017 through Feb. 4, 2018. Her work can be viewed from her online portfolio.
The Alumna: Translating Curiosity into a Career
Since graduating in 1994 with a Fine Arts degree and an Art History minor, Mount alumna Anne Schlomer has been working in the field for nearly 25 years. She attributes her success, in part, to her time at the Mount. While a student, she took advantage of co-oping opportunities, and worked at both a gallery in downtown Cincinnati as well as the Mount’s own Studio San Giuseppe. Currently a member of an arts organization that holds an annual juried exhibition, Schlomer says, “Everything that I learned during those co-op experiences, I have been able to utilize while helping organize and hang our show every year.”
After graduating from the Mount, Schlomer moved to New York City, where she attended graduate school at the New York Academy of Art. “[It] was a rigorous two-year program focused on the academic study of the human figure,” she says. “[But] during my time at the Mount, we had numerous opportunities to work with live models.” Because her interest has tended to focus on the human figure, Schlomer’s undergraduate education provided a foundation for her continued study, and success, in New York.
In fact, her courses at the Mount allowed her to explore many of her artistic interests, such as the human figure, while still learning the basics. “In a creative field such as the visual arts,” she says, “having that sense of exploration embedded in my learning has helped me further my own work, espcially as it changes and I explore different approaches to making art.”
As mentioned by both Sjulin and Trasser, Schlomer notes how the personalized attention of the professors contributed greatly to her success in the program. “They took the time to get to know me, to know my work, and then they managed to push me further,” she says. “It was invaluable.”
Currently, Schlomer resides in New York City, where she works full-time for a financial firm designing computer graphics. She is a member of the Board of the Hudson Valley Art Association and an advisor for an up-and-coming arts organization in Northern Manhattan. Additionally, she continues to create new artwork and exhibits on a regular basis. Visit her website to see more of Schlomer’s work.
The Arts: Choosing Creativity
In mid-November, Mount alumna and co-owner of design firm Sanger & Eby, Lisa Sanger spoke at the recognition ceremony for Selections 2017, the Mount’s biennial art exhibition that showcases works created by area high school students.
As a guest speaker, Sanger shared her own story of success, and encouraged the students being honored to pursue their creativity. “Creative people,” she said, “stimulate innovation, strengthen America’s competitiveness, and play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy.” She noted, too, how important making connections are, as well as fostering a curiosity for life.
The realm of the arts provides limitless opportunities for these attributes to flourish, as the stories of Nick Sjulin, Sidney Trasser, and Anne Schlomer can testify. Each has worked tirelessly toward achieving their goals and utilized the resources and opportunities the Mount offers. In Sanger’s speech, she said, “[H]ow you embrace change and innovate for the future determines your success. It is here [that] you will draw upon your creativity, education, and experiences.”
Top photo (left to right): Interstate Foods (Anne Schlomer); Dejection, Someone Scratch My Brain (Sidney Trasser); and Hop To It (Nick Sjulin)