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Student Spotlight

Gabriella Rogers

Class of 2023


After visiting the School of Art & Design at IWU, I fell in love with how much freedom I would have to do all the things I love. I was also given a lot of help financially through scholarships from university alum and through doing a portfolio review through the School so that helped make my choice a lot more affordable.       

When I decided to be a double major in Studio Art and Psychology, I was concerned that one major would get less attention than the other, or maybe I would be less of an outstanding student to professors in one of the disciplines. But what I loved about IWU is that I never had that issue. I never felt like I was less valued in one major than the other. In both majors, I was able to excel and form close relationships with professors. Both of my advisors were lovely and helped me graduate on time. In addition, the faculty, especially at School of Art & Design knew me really well and were very understanding that I had two majors. Outside of class, I spent time chatting with art professors about my work and talking with Amy, our administrative assistant. I also had a lot of freedom within the School to take many classes in different mediums and I never was pressured to choose a specific path. This allowed me to explore and get to know myself as an artist and helped me better juggle having two very different majors. 

gabby1I shared a studio space in the School of Art & Design and spent many nights working late alongside other students. I was able to work a job with the gallery crew in the Merwin & Wakeley Galleries, which was a beneficial experience and helped me gain more skills working with other artists. I also had the opportunity to be vice president of a club on campus, which was a great way to get out of my dorm and make friends. My freshman-year roommate is currently my best friend and wasn't even an art or psych major. Because it is such a small campus, I was able to make friends not only in the art department but also in music, theater, psychology, education, and many more majors.

gabby2For my senior exhibition, I created a body of work that reflects who I am as an artist and my passions as a person. Growing Pains focuses on mental health in a broad sense and my own mental health journey. I received exhibition honors for my work in the senior exhibition. One of my pieces was selected as the Faculty Choice award. Another piece was purchased by the library and will be on display in the Ames Library. I was also awarded the Psi Chi Senior award through the Psychology department for my passion for mental health and psychology. With the support I received from the university and my professors, I graduated summa cum laude in both majors. 

gabby3My plan was always to combine both my majors and pursue work in art therapy. As of today, that is still the plan. However, after working and volunteering on IWU's campus and around the Bloomington area, I realized I also have a huge passion for social justice and advocacy. I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work to become a therapist with additional licensure in art therapy. IWU was the perfect fit for my goals and gave me the necessary tools and confidence to enter a Master's program following graduation.




Sperry ’22 Continues Her Mother’s Research

October 27, 2021

isabelBLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Inspired by her mother, Isabel Sperry ’22 used ceramic sculpting and sociological theory to engage in her project “Challenging Narrative Form and Prescriptive Messaging through Ceramic Storytelling.”

Sperry stated, “This research topic is close to my heart, as it is a continuation of the research my mom did for her dissertation in grad school. Being able to apply her area of study to my own methods — ceramics and English, primarily — and apply it to my project's special interest in mother-daughter relationships was very meaningful.”

In the summer of 2021, Sperry was named an Eckley Scholar. Through the Robert S. and Nell B. Eckley Summer Scholars and Artists Program, Sperry was given a stipend to pursue her project under faculty mentorship from Adjunct Assistant Professor of the School of Art Claire Hedden.

Sperry’s project is focused on ceramics as a form of storytelling in combination with sociological research on mother-daughter relationships. Through close readings of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales and sociological theory on literature and mother-daughter relationships, Sperry began to create small clay “sketches” to plan her final piece. Once the piece was completed, Sperry wrote the accompanying didactic texts.

“I finished the summer with a body of work exploring mother-daughter relationships, narrative form, and the power of imagery in the stories we tell our children. I did research on the sociology of motherhood, which influenced my view of autonomy in my pieces. But the most interesting findings were much more personal — and often rooted in my relationships with myself, my family, and the clay,” Sperry stated.

artworkFor Sperry, her project was an introspective one. “I recognized both a tension with and an appreciation for motherhood — and by extension my relationship with my own mother — that had been hard to physicalize before this project,” she said.

Due to this mix of emotions, Sperry noted her appreciation for the aid of her mentor Claire Hedden.

“She provided a perspective that I could not as a mother. She was open and honest with me about her experiences, and my work is better for her part in it,” said Sperry.

Hedden also aided Sperry in the artistic process.

Sperry said, “She provided a foundation of technical knowledge that did not hinder my own artistic expression, but instead bolstered my ability to follow through with my vision.”

Through her ceramic work, Sperry was able to explore new techniques: using lusters, operating the kiln, and building large, self-supporting sculptures. She noted her greatest challenge was the nature of clay and working with a piece of this size for the first time.

Sperry stated, “I learned that clay has a mind of its own, which was frustrating at first, but led to a more meaningful and grounding experience overall.”

Sperry plans to expand upon her research by pursuing honors research in literature on the topic of autonomy, with a focus on mothers. In her Eckley project, Sperry focused on the daughter’s perspective and, therefore, hopes to round out her work by focusing on the literary aspects and mother’s perspective.

“My experience was above all, illuminating and affirming,” Sperry said. “As an English major, doing an extensive ceramics project was a little unexpected. In fall 2020, I took a class with Claire and fell deeply in love with clay as a medium of expression. Being able to complete this project showed me that I have the drive and passion to pursue art as a serious part of my life — whatever that ends up looking like.”



Student Designs Undergraduate Research Textbook Cover

Nov. 20, 2017

anna bui
Ania Bui '18 holds Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: Case Studies and Best Practices for which she designed the cover.

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Charged with designing an academic textbook cover, Ania Bui ’18 found inspiration beneath a soaring net hoisted in the air and illuminated by vibrant lights at the 2016 Adobe MAX Conference in San Diego, California.

Upon first seeing the massive sculpture created by conference speaker Janet Echelman, Bui and the three other Illinois Wesleyan students she was with took out their cell phones and cameras.

“We just started taking pictures,” Bui said. “You rarely get to see a sculpture so close. Plus, it was at night, so we saw the perfect contrast of the changing light projected on the net against the pitch black sky.”

A month prior, Bui – a computer science and art double major – had agreed to design the cover for Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: Case Studies and Best Practices , co-edited by Illinois Wesleyan Scholarly Communications Librarian Stephanie Davis-Kahl.


Nancy Qu

Class of 2017

I'm Here -- Tracing Myself Back into Existence (2017)

My recent works examine the state of living in the information age. Inspired by synchronous exchanges of information on social media and live stream apps, my sculpture Help Yourselves (painted papier-mâché pizza slice and mirrors) intends to capture a sense of co-existence in different physical spaces of contact. By borrowing the mirrors from Robert Smithson, I revisit the perception of the boundaries between fiction and reality and inspect its form of existence in the digital age. helpyourselvesThe mirror here also represents a reversibility of the gaze under ubiquitous online surveillance, while the piece of pizza embodies the sharing of the most banal things through social media. A virtual reality course here at IWU also inspired me to think about the perception of one’s self in the information age. Tilt Brush, a VR software we used in class, has a mirror tool that could show reflections, while it would never show one’s own image in the mirror, which departs from the common sense of a mirror. I attempted to trace myself back into the space to alleviate the absence of Self in a virtual reality environment.

For my design works, I spend time approaching feasible solutions without dismissing the tangible aspects of human perceptions. There always remains an emphasis on dynamic human actions even in the absence of the human image. I hope to evoke the memory or imagination of oneself doing specific things, so you can trace the evidences to a sense of intimacy. My photographs also reflect similar thinking processes. My favorite subjects are old places that still keep the traces of living and illuminate the flow of memories coming from our collective experiences.


CovidRunaway Fashion Show

runaway fashion

Sep. 29, 2020 -- Students in Foundation Art and Beginning 3D Design displayed their cardboard wearable designs to the tune of BeeGee's "Stayin Alive."

IWU's COVID   Runaway Fashion Show makes social distancing an art form as students show off their designs (Read full article).

Julie Johnson - Director of the Ames School of Art and Design

Department - School Of Art