Art Alumni Stories
Rachel Balter, 2019
Rachel Balter is a product designer/concept artist for 511 Capital in Chicago, a venture capital firm that focuses on individual experiences and products. She primarily works for a subsidiary company, Pirate Lab, a tabletop gaming company, creating and designing new and unique products that are both visually engaging and texture experimental. For example, creating a deck box that looks and feels like it is made out of werewolf fur. Experimentation and creativity are the two principles of Rachel’s job, which makes it exciting and limitless. “I get to travel a lot for my job, mostly to China two to three times a year as our other half of the company resides there. A job like this is such a cool experience and shows that you can do whatever with an art degree.” – Rachel Balter
Joslyn Schmutte, 2016
Nebraska native Joslyn Schmutte graduated from NWU in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in art and minors in marketing and business administration. Her passion for photography, design and storytelling has been enriched by her current role as communications director for the LUX Center for the Arts. “The LUX is a harmonious blend of my passion for the local community, art and art education … I am continually inspired and motivated by what this team seeks to accomplish here in Lincoln.” – Joslyn Schmutte. Joslyn also helps run Stella, a clothing collective and lifestyle shop in downtown Lincoln, Neb.
Alena Kinsey, 2016
Alena Kinsey is a chalkboard artist at Hy-Vee stores, drawing advertisements for produce, floral and general merchandising departments. She also works part-time as a screen printer at Little Mountain Print Shop, often designing and printing shirts for concerts, and occasionally as a freelance artist commissioned to make signage for weddings. “I am still working with textiles such as sewing my own clothes as well as costumes for Halloween, knitting and commissions." – Alena Kinsey
Jennifer Heywood, 2015
“I’m the Marketing Director for a medical group with offices around the country. I also own my own photography and design business, Jhey Photo & Design. Working in marketing, you need to be constantly creative, but also structured. You need to hit deadlines, while thinking of new and unique ways to reach your audience. As a business owner, you need to wear a variety of hats—human resources, accounting, photographer, website designer, social media manager, client relations and so many more. My education at NWU not only prepared me for that but taught me how to communicate effectively with clients, present my ideas and work with people who see the world differently.” – Jennifer Heywood
Megan Maslonka, 2015
Megan Maslonka made an enormous impact as Creative Lead at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo after graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan with a B.F.A. degree. She increased all social media followers by over 57% by creating a video presence and increasing genuine interactions. She also directed all visuals for a $25 million, nine-acre expansion of the zoo. She managed marketing materials, post-event surveys and signage on a limited budget for all events and educational programs ranging from 400 to 20,000 attendees. As a freelance designer, she does print advertisements, manuals, newsletters, direct mail marketing pieces and product labels for clients ranging from dentists to creators of Jamaican hot sauce. She now lives with her husband and a Goldendoodle named Mable in Fairview, Ore.
Tim Brawner, 2014
Tim Brawner attended Yale Norfolk in 2013, the summer before he graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan. Following graduation, he moved to New York and worked for Gladstone Gallery until 2018. Tim received his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Art in May 2020. His work has been shown in various collections including the Royal Academy of Art. Recent solo showings of his paintings include C.H.A.D. exhibition, ASHES/ASHES Gallery in New York City and the Union Pacific Gallery in London. He currently resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Gwendolyn Lopez, 2014
Gwendolyn Lopez recently joined the LUX center for art as their Education Director. She received her master’s degree in art history and museum studies from the University of Denver and has a bachelor’s degree in art from Nebraska Wesleyan University. Gwendolyn was previously a LUX Fellow and was the school program’s associate at the Arvada Center for the Arts in Colorado where she supervised and trained teachers, interns and volunteers for summer camps and field trips. While earning her degree in Denver, Gwendolyn also worked at the Denver Art Museum, as well as, the Clyfford Still Museum.
Drew Curtright, 2013
Drew Curtright was born and raised in the heartland, constantly surrounded by the creative spirit. Her father owns a production company that provides lighting, sound and set design for theater productions and other events. Her grandmother taught music at the University of Nebraska and her mother owned a women’s specialty clothing store. All of these influences were compounded by the fact that all members of her immediate family have tremendous respect for artists, including jewelry makers. “With all of this history, is it any wonder that jewelry making is my chosen profession?” – Drew Curtright www.drewcurtrightdesigns.com
Michael Larsen, 2011
Michael Larsen balances his time between doing preparatory work at institutions including the Sheldon Museum of Art, the Bemis Center and Nebraska Wesleyan’s Elder Gallery, as well as running a small electrical contracting business. He graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013 with an M.F.A. in ceramics and maintains a sculpture/installation practice that incorporates a variety of materials and operates in the fictional space between desire and utopia.
Dan Leatherman, 2010
Dan Leatherman is a web designer currently living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has worked as a designer for several firms including Sandhills Global, RecordSetter and Barnum. In 2011, he became the founder of Permalight, a self-described “small, friendly design shop” that focuses on enabling others through design. “Clients are passionate about their vision —failure is not an option—and Permalight aims to contribute to the success of our joint endeavors." – Dan Leatherman. Dan also teaches Creative Computing at Parsons School of Design, New York City, in the Communication Design Department. www.permalightnyc.com
Allie Feezel, 2009
Allie Feezell graduated from NWU in 2009 and went directly to a graduate program at the University of Idaho. She spent most of her three years there working in installation using scraps and trash from their daily consumption. Allie taught two classes every semester as a graduate assistant including design, ceramics and art history. After receiving her M.F.A. in 2012, she became an adjunct painting instructor for both Midland University and Doane College. After two years of being an adjunct, she started a post-bac education program with Chadron State College so she could get her K-12 art teaching certificate. The last two years, she was teaching jewelry and sculpture at Topeka High School. “I am now the K-6 art teacher for three rural Wyoming schools including Pine Bluffs, Burns and Carpenter Elementary. An art degree at NWU was just the stepping stone for me." – Allie Feezel
Claire Tiwald, 2009
Claire Tiwald is a painter, illustrator, sculptor and comic book artist based out of Santa Rosa, Calif. With a second career as a wilderness guide, her deep connection to nature, both flora and fauna, are a driving force for her creativity. With her B.A. in art from NWU she teaches comic book, painting, drawing and other mediums at Nimbus Arts in St. Helen, Calif. Claire is a graphic designer for a music marketing company creating posters and other assets for bands and venues. She is also a contributing designer and artist in residence annually at Elhers Society, an art collective in Napa County that creates a high-art fashion show every year for charity. She also moonlights as a production coordinator and director for various arts related events, exhibitions, and festivals.
Aaron Joseph, 2009
Since 2010, Aaron Joseph has been a staff photographer and production assistant for a company called DQM in Brooklyn, New York. DQM has become New York’s premiere location for sneakers, menswear, and skate goods. It has also become a fully-fledged brand in its own right, sold in select locations around the world. Joseph hopes to use his “abilities to remain constantly progressive.”
Tim Scahill, 2005
"After four packed years of immersing myself in Art Club, lively debates in classes, and more late nights in the Lucas Hall working on deadlines than I can count, I graduated in 2005 with my B.F.A. in eDesign. A couple of years later, I was able to return to teach as a lab aid in Susan Horn’s web design and portfolio classes. Currently, I’m the digital marketing specialist at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore., where I get to do what I love! For example, I create websites, microsites, print/graphic design, social/national media photography, video production, drone pilot and even do a little illustration. I also have similar roles at Wild Rivers Coast Alliance and Dream Golf Resorts." – Tim Scahill
Catherine Greisen, 2003
Catherine Greisen graduated from NWU with an art degree in 2003, and now has an in-home studio where she creates many unique paper crafts, specializing in hand-bound leather journals. She uses soft earthy leathers, various local handmade papers, vintage buttons, and recycled maps to create these one-of-a-kind journals, perfect for any “journey.” Catherine also participates in the Lincoln Arts Festival (earning the 2012 Best of Nebraska Award), ARTitudes Inc. boutiques, many community art projects and several other art shows around the country. Her journals are sold and displayed at the Sheldon Museum Gift Shop, the Lux Gallery Gift shop and Guru Honey. Catherine also works at Trader Joe’s as a Sign Artist to help create fun and unique signage for the Lincoln store.
Shane Booth, 1999
Shane Booth was raised in Nebraska in a small farming community and graduated with a B.A. in art from NWU and an M.F.A. in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He has taught photography at Fayetteville State University for the past 10 years. His work has taken him from Ethiopia where he worked with HIV positive children to Sweden where he was a contestant on the Swedish reality TV show Allt for Sverige and was nominated for favorite TV star at the Gay Galan awards. He was hired by the Willa Cather Foundation to document former first lady Laura Bush’s visit to Catherland, and invited to Kuwait to teach photojournalism courses. Most recently Shane was contacted by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to work with LGBT groups, drug users and homeless persons to teach them how he used photography when dealing with his positive HIV status. His work has been exhibited nationally and he has won several artist grants that have allowed him to continue his photographic endeavors. Most of his photography deals with self-portraits and identity as well as landscapes. "I am currently documenting the town of Hildreth, Nebraska, where five generations of my family have lived.” – Shane Booth
Dana Zak Cotter, 1996
Dana Zak Cotter has owned her own freelance graphic design business, Dazcot Dezign, since 2002 and works on a wide variety of marketing projects for individuals and companies including logo design, brochures, postcards, packaging design, invitations, announcements, and holiday card templates. She also recently started designing and creating jewelry that she sells to a few surrounding retail shops as well as online.
David Alles, 1996
David Alles, currently living in Lincoln, Neb., has worked as a self-employed visual artist since 1994. However, his life also revolves around his family, running their organic farm and martial arts. Alles is also highly active in the community, participating in community service projects that often include fundraising for those in need. “In general, my work tends to flow with the freedom of a child's scribble. Expressive gestural lines are counter balanced by vibrant colors and rhythmic textures, combined with a wide variety of varying styles and thoughts, in the spirit of the expressionists, within each composition.” – David Alles www.davidalles.com
Chris Smithberg, 1995
After eight years of working in the field of architecture, Chris Smithberg left to work in a cabinet shop where he designed and fabricated modern furniture. Six years ago Smithberg decided to start a photography business which specializes in sports photography. He played on sports teams, at both the high school and college levels, that received little, if any coverage, and he knew that there was a need for athletes to have quality images of their experiences. With his background in art and design and also a strong desire to provide for others what was not available for him, he decided to launch double6photography. Chris continues to be actively photographing NWU football games.
Jessica (LuLu) Smith, 1995
Jessica, or Lulu, Smith is a jewelry artist whose work is defined by the exploration of color. Lulu’s interest in jewelry and color was jumpstarted by watching her mother hand-dye wool to make rugs when she was a child. She vividly remembers her mother talking to her about the importance of color in people’s lives, an importance that has come to define her jewelry. She completed her B.F.A. in 1995 with a double emphasis in painting and ceramics, not realizing that jewelry was her calling. Not long after college, though, her love of color and jewelry led to the formation of Lulu Smith Studio. Lulu Smith jewelry is currently sold at galleries, e-sites, museum stores and boutiques such as Guild.com, Walker Art Center, the International Metalsmith Exhibition Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Craft.
Tad Lauritzen Wright, 1994
Tad Lauritzen Wright currently lives in Memphis, Tenn. where he received a Masters of Fine Art from Memphis College of Art in 2002. The majority of Tad’s time is spent in the studio working on his current body of work, but he also works as a teacher at Flicker Street Studio where he teaches a class called Creative Collage. “My work is a response to pop culture, art history, and basic techniques in art. I attempt to address the familiar while expanding conceptual meaning in the work.” – Tad Lauritzen Wright
Lonna Keller, 1994
The jewelry and body adornments of award-winning artist, Lonna Keller, have been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and abroad. Major collections of Keller’s work are held by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and private collectors, John and Louise Rauh. She has also been included in Hanging Around: MAD Necklaces, an exhibition by the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, N.Y. Keller received a B.F.A. in metalsmithing and a B.S. in sociology/anthropology in 1994 from Nebraska Wesleyan University. She then went on to complete an M.F.A. in metalsmithing in 1998 at the University of Iowa.
Liz Vercruysse, 1993
Liz Vercruysse’s work may be best described as a funky, organic meld of seed pod inspired forms and botanically inspired texture. Her award-winning clay work is exhibited both locally and nationally, most notably at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, the Joslyn Art Museum, the Museum of Nebraska Art and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago. Her work resides in numerous public and private collections and has also been published in Ceramics Monthly, American Craft and Niche magazine. On top of her nationally recognized work, Vercruysse also cofounded Big Table Studios in March 2003. Big Table Studios is committed to creating functional and sculptural wood fired ceramics using local materials.
Alisa Fox, 1989
Alisa Fox has worked in many distinct roles in the art world, from graphic designer to teacher, but her passion for the arts revolves around making books and paper. She is a papermaker with experience in all aspects of creating specialty papers and structures. She has 10 years of experience in lithography, etching, monoprint, relief and letterpress. A recent project that Alisa completed was the Bicentennial Archive Book to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Natural Academy of Sciences for Drexel University. Alisa lives and works in Philadelphia as a freelance artist and is an office assistant for Claflin Associates.
Nancy Fairbanks, 1984
Nancy Fairbanks is a professional potter/sculptor in Grand Island, Nebraska. She has been making a living exhibiting at art festivals across the Midwest and selling her work in galleries and stores. She is currently an artist in residence for the Nebraska Arts Council, which keeps her on the road several weeks during the winter months. She spends time in several different schools teaching various forms of pottery and sculpture.
Betty Press, 1964
Betty Press is best known for her photographs taken in Africa where she lived and worked as a freelance photojournalist from 1987 to 1995. Her photographs beautifully capture a culture and forge an emotional connection between subject and viewer. Now living in Mississippi, Press teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi, but she still travels widely outside of the United States for her photography. Her photographs have been published in many major publications as well as selected for inclusion in many juried exhibitions nationwide. After graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan, Press audited a year of photography at the School of Art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor while her husband was a journalism fellow with the Knight Wallace Fellowship for Journalists.