As many Studio Art students and faculty were walking into Horvitz Seminar Room on Nov. 8, Professor Emeritus of Art Barry Gunderson asked Adam Lucas ’06 and Allison O’Flinn ’07, “Are you employed?”
“Yes,” both replied ecstatically. Careers in design post-Kenyon have figured prominently in the 2018-19 Mesaros Visiting Artist Series, which sponsored the two professionals’ visit to campus. Each artist gave a brief presentation on their chosen educational and career path. Although Lucas and O’Flinn described separate experiences, both of their lectures showed how the Kenyon Studio Art minor can elevate a hobby into a design career.
Lucas opened with his idea-driven approach, “from content, to idea, to work,” where, as the artist continued, “ideas are found and not invented.” His major in English at Kenyon inspired him to combine his passion for writing with his passion for visual art. After receiving his M.F.A. at the Rhode Island School of Art and Design (RISD), he and friend Andrew McClair created AALL (short for their names and referred to as “All Press”), a literary-art magazine where typography and design lead for new ways of collaboration between various creative sectors.
After graduation, Lucas and McClair moved to New York to start their independent graphic design studio, LeClair Lucas, where the two “worked in close collaboration with artists, projects and cultural institutions to produce [visual] identities, publications” and were later invited to art direct the architecture and design publication Metropolis.
Lucas then discussed his experience teaching at RISD, the Pratt Institute, the School of Visual Arts and the Maryland Institute of Art. At the Maryland Institute, he came up with a pop-up project idea for his course on visual narratives. The students had to come up with an idea that was not commodifiable, but beneficial to society. This project idea helped earn him a position at the Kansas City Art Institute, where he is now on the tenure track. Lucas concluded by describing his return to photography, inspired by his undergrad projects for Gunderson and Professor of Art Marcella Hackbardt.
After Lucas’ presentation, O’Flinn started her lecture by describing her “unorthodox” journey towards discovering her passion for design. After graduating from Kenyon with a B.A. in American Studies, she spent four years working for the National League of Women Voters. She reminisced about how this experience influenced her later work.
“[Working with the National League of Women Voters] taught me how to create content for myself … learn about social systems and how you use social systems to work into my process,” O’Flinn said.
Wanting to return to visual art, O’Flinn decided to pursue her M.F.A. in Visual Communication Design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Her M.F.A thesis tackles coping with a rare neurological movement disorder that causes her to experience twitching, among other symptoms.
“Performing and contorting my body in everyday life speaks to the larger issue of women and feminism experiencing the idea of otherness,” O’Flinn said. She showed a video to demonstrate feats she is unable to do in real life, such as holding two water glasses at the same time.
O’Flinn was scouted by Kindle Communications after she started posting her artwork on social media, and she now works as a senior designer there. O’Flinn is also employed as a lecturer at SAIC.
“As an art major, I feel like my work is constantly pulling me in so many directions. It was really cool to see that both of these artists take successful liberties without having to commit to one distinct style at a time,” Sarah Sklar ’19 said. “Knowing that they are Kenyon alums, who learned from some of the professors who have taught me, gave me insight into where their work came from and where my own work could potentially go.”
Lucas’ and O’Flinn’s lectures marked the second-to-last installment of the Mesaros Visiting Artist Series for the fall semester. The series, which is financed by the Mesaros Art Fund, will bring Paul Kahn ’71 to campus on Dec. 3. The Department of Studio Art uses the series to curate various artists to lecture about their artistic practices. The lectures are meant to benefit students studying studio arts by showing them where their education can lead.