By Abby Weingarten
As a testament to what happens when artistic potential leads to prosperous careers, Ringling College of Art and Design’s Alumni Honor Wall pays tribute to the work of multiple thriving graduates.
For four years, this on-campus installation in the Keating Center (designed by Jeff Bleitz, department head of Graphic Design) has honored alumni who have made their mark on the creative world. Ringling President Dr. Larry R. Thompson led the virtual ceremony for the 10 honorees of 2021 on January 22.
“The Alumni Honor Wall celebrates Ringling’s truly remarkable artists and designers,” said Susan Borozan, Ringling’s director of alumni relations and engagement. “Their accomplishments inspire not only current and prospective students, but also faculty, staff, and donors. Their achievements exemplify the value of an art and design education.”
The accomplishments of this year’s alumni are vast and varied.
Nada Khan (’18, Business of Art and Design) is a data-driven strategist for Heat + Deloitte Digital who was named one of the Association of National Advertisers’ Rising Marketing Stars in 2020.
Ashley Wilkins (’10, Interior Design) is the founder and creative director of Islyn Studio, and has more than a decade of experience working with clients such as Ace Hotel and Rockwell Group.
Sarah Johnson (’15, Motion Design) is the art director for Hello Sunshine who has spent years branding new companies and restaurants.
Ethan J. Berger (’15, Photography and Imaging) is the creative manager for Foot Locker North America. He produces content for Champs Sports stores in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Michelle Cowart (’96, Computer Animation) is a character animator for DreamWorks Animation who has contributed to such films as How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Trolls World Tour, and The Croods: A New Age.
Natasha Thornton (’14, Film) is a senior cinematographer for Innovative Education at the University of South Florida. Her work has garnered praise at numerous film festivals and has led to distribution with Amazon Prime.
Lesley Flanigan (’01, Fine Arts) is a sound artist, musician, and composer in New York City whose performances and recordings have been presented at venues and festivals internationally.
Jeremy Griffith (’11, Game Art) is a lead visual effects (VFX) artist for Cloud Chamber studios who started work on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 after graduating. He also gave two talks at the 2019 Game Developers Conference: “Grounding the Impossible: Pushing Creativity in VFX” and “The Dao of VFX Animation.”
Giselle Guerrero (’05, Graphic Design) is the vice president of creative for Impossible Foods, and has worked for various brands such as Apple, Nike, Google, JetBlue, and IKEA.
Francis Vallejo (’09, Illustration) is a freelance book illustrator and associate professor of illustration at The College for Creative Studies in Michigan. His books, Jazz Day and Anansi Boys, have appeared on many best-of lists, and he credits his time at Ringling to his proficiency as an instructor.
“I’m so thankful I was able to study under Professor George Pratt. He transformed how I viewed the world as an artist, and set the standard for how an illustration teacher should handle themselves in the classroom,” Vallejo said. “Now, as an instructor myself, I try to capture the brilliance of his classroom.”
Congratulations to each of the 2021 honorees!