Design students exhibit their creativity

Ingrid Skjong

With a creative flair and a sense of humor to match, Sara Mielke likes to do things a little differently. And the piece she included in the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel’s ongoing senior exhibit is no exception.
Mielke, a clothing design senior, contributed “Booby Trapped,” a mesh bustier studded with washers, wires and riveted metal, to the exhibition. The work’s title is intended to be humorous, but she was at first unsure if the idea would fly with faculty.
“I was waiting for an instructor to veto it,” she said, laughing.
Mielke is one of about 40 senior design students displaying their creative talents in the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel’s third annual Senior Show, “D3 — Opening Eyes, Expanding Minds.” Located in the Paul Whitney Larson Gallery on the St. Paul Campus, the exhibit opened May 20 and encompasses work from interior, graphic and clothing design students.
“Most colleges have a show to celebrate the work of their graduating seniors,” said Brad Hokanson, who initiated the idea for the show three years ago. “We need to show what we do.”
Carefully drawn plans depicting kid-friendly retail shops, promotional posters for the Humane Society and graphic prints done in a variety of mediums line the gallery’s walls. Preparation for the exhibit began early spring quarter with a committee of students from each of the three majors.
The committee helped arrange the exhibit and send reception invitations to guests including design industry professionals.
“It’s a way of their work being seen with the possibility of them being hired,” said Barbara Martinson, the exhibit’s faculty coordinator and assistant design communication professor.
The displayed works were chosen through various processes determined by the represented departments. Clothing design seniors, who held their annual runway show earlier this month, chose one design from their collections to exhibit.
Mielke’s display was an offshoot of a garment she had designed in her original clothing line. Although her gallery piece is not wearable, it is reminiscent of her industrial-looking designs that incorporate nuts, bolts, riveted metal and wire.
“I wanted to do something I could have a lot of fun with,” Mielke said.
Her decision to use hardware stemmed from a desire to distance herself from materials she had already worked with and to simply have fun. Creativity overtook practicality, she added.
Interior and graphic design ideas were chosen by faculty juries. Graphic design students submitted their ideas to a panel comprised of a design professional, faculty member and alums, Martinson said.
Design communication major Amy Grozik helped organize the jury and had two promotional designs for the Animal Humane Society of Hennepin County included in the exhibit. Students researched a nonprofit organization of their choice. Then they designed posters, brochures and other promotional material for them. Grozik said she expects to use these skills in her future career.
The students received feedback on what made their projects stand out as well as how they could be improved. The critiques were important since the works will fill the students’ initial professional portfolios.
“It’s their senior work and that’s the body of work they’ll be taking for job interviews,” Martinson said.
Although interior design major Melissa Zeman graduated winter quarter and is already employed at a St. Paul architecture firm, her proposal to save a downtown landmark is a major part of her portfolio.
Zeman would like to renovate downtown St. Paul’s Armstrong Quinlan House, a decrepit, 118-year-old building that was once a nursing home. Now it stands abandoned and crumbling.
Zeman’s detailed drawings at the exhibit show the home, which is on the National Register of Historic Houses, transformed into a restaurant and bar called “Last House Standing.” She is working with the state through the Department of Administratio, and said the building rescue would work nicely with the recent St. Paul riverfront renovations.
Saving the building from condemnation is the ultimate goal, but Zeman conceded she would really like to jumpstart St. Paul’s nightlife and bring in a younger crowd.
“It’s partly for me so I can go party,” she said.
The senior exhibit runs through June 5, when the department will hold an open house that will further showcase student talent. Although much of the exhibited work will no doubt launch future careers, Mielke likes to keep creativity and humor in her work.
“The whole idea was to put something kind of weird together,” she said.