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2020 Bachelor of Fine Arts Diploma Works Exhibition

May 6, 2020

Exhibit Dates: October 22 to November 24, 2020
Reception: Thursday, October 22, 7:00 p.m.

Finlandia University Gallery has rescheduled the gallery exhibition for the 2020 Bachelor of Fine Arts Diploma Works Exhibition for October, 2020.

Finlandia University’s International School of Art & Design (ISAD) celebrates its seniors this week as they complete their Diploma Works Exhibition artwork.  Graduates Annah Smiddy, Chelsea LaPalme, Denia Bent, Mindy Aho and Shannon Chouinard faced many challenges as they completed their culminating artwork for graduation during the global pandemic.  Rising to the unique challenges of this time, the seniors uprooted their studios, moved off campus, participated in virtual critiques and faced the economic and social stresses of having their senior year disrupted in unprecedented ways.  At this time, we are proud to share their accomplishments virtually.

2020 Bachelor of Fine Arts Diploma Works Exhibition will be featured from October 22 to November 24, 2020  at the Finlandia University Gallery. The Finlandia University Gallery is located in the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock. The reception for the graduates will take place at the gallery Thursday, October 22nd, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.  We look forward to celebrating the hard work, diligence, sisu, and creative products of our seniors when we can applaud them in person.

The artworks featured in the annual Diploma Works Exhibit represent the final body of student work for each graduating bachelor of fine arts (BFA) student. The works include intensive research projects, a series of individual artworks, and design prototypes. A variety of media is represented including painting, product design, graphic design and an art therapy project.

The 2020 International School of Art & Design graduating seniors are Mindy Aho (Intermedia), Denia Bent (Graphic Design) Shannon Chouinard (Graphic Design), Chelsea LaPalme (Art Therapy) and Annah Smiddy (Graphic Design).


Mindy Aho, Intermedia, “This is not a Fairytale.  This is not an enchanted forest.” Oil on Canvas, 2020

Mindy Aho addresses gender equality through the lens of history,  noting that change is constant and hopeful.  Her work mixes realism, fantasy, and symbolism to investigate cultural change through time. “The definition of equality across all genders is something that has evolved since women were granted the right to vote,” says Aho.  Aho used collage techniques in the pre-planning phase of her work, scanning, combining, and digitally altering images from fashion magazines. She used these collages to layout the compositions of her final paintings.

“Not only does art have the power to express ideas, any idea,” says Aho “but the techniques that an artist chooses to use can also affect the emotion and feelings that a painting or any piece of art can emit.”

Denia Bent, Graphic Design, “These Curls Are My Crown”, 2020

Denia Bent: “For my diploma works project, I am highlighting natural hair as the crown black women wear daily,” says Bent.  “Having natural hair shapes the way you move through the world, and how you are perceived on a social level. It is a political statement and a language that speaks volumes.”  Bent created a series of portraits of black women, with features representing not an individual person but the many women included in the discussion regarding natural hair. She approaches the project informed by history dating back to slavery, the standards of Western beauty, and the cultural forces of the workplace and society.

“What I want to achieve within my diploma works, is to leave people more educated and aware of natural hair than when they arrived, “ notes Bent.  “I am taking history and bringing more truth to light. I want people to realize that natural hair is not to be compared to straight hair. It is its own beautiful creation.”

Shannon Chouinard, Graphic Design, “Acceptance”, 2020

“What kind of social pressure has social media put on you toward your body image or self in general?” asked Shannon Chouinard in a survey she conducted about the effects of social media on people’s self-image and self-perception.  “Did you feel this pressure to look a certain way in order to be accepted toward society after or before social media became a thing?”  The results of this survey informed a series of graphic design posters addressing the role of the rise of Instagram’s popularity in the formative years of her survey participants.  Her work also looks at how advertising and celebrity culture have impacted how we see ourselves.

“Normalizing ones’ true body may better impact society, upcoming generations, mental health, acceptance all around, and reduce the amount of judgment in the world,” notes Chouinard.

Chelsea LaPalme art

Chelsea LaPalme, Art Therapy, “Sgraffito Egg”, 2020

Chelsea LaPalme is a graduate in Art Therapy and she conducted a study that evaluates two designed art programs focused on mental health, including increasing the sense of positivity and stress and anxiety reduction in veterans and caregiver populations. LaPalme enlisted five veterans to participate in an art program creating copper birdbaths.  She also created an art program for five caregivers, teaching them to make sgraffito eggs.

“This study could demonstrate how important the arts are for our mental health and how it can benefit individuals’ overall mental well-being,” says LaPalme. “This study could influence researchers to design other art programs and to experiment with which programs are beneficial for particular populations. The study overall supported previous research that art can be used as a tool to help treat mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.”

Annah Smiddy, Graphic Design, Custom Hockey Goalie Helmet, 2020

Annah Smiddy used her experience as a goalie on the Finlandia University women’s hockey team as an inspiration for a business called “Puck Head”.  Her business would use goalie masks to express the individuality of the players.  “When you picture a goalie mask what do you see?,” asks Smiddy. “For some, the first thought might be that it is for protection. But, to those truly in tune with all things hockey, the goalie mask is about more than protection, it’s a sign of individuality.”

“Puck Head is giving the goalies of the world their own personality on their helmets by custom design work,” says Smiddy. “The future of Puck Head is more than custom jobs on helmets, it would include cars and other types of jobs. ‘Puck Head’ would become the first in the world of helmets that shows that the goalie is more than just the last line of defense, but that they are the cornerstone of the team.”

“Finlandia University International School of Art and Design Bachelor of Fine Arts Diploma Works exhibition 2020” will be on display at the Finlandia University Gallery October 22-November 24, 2020.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. The Gallery is currently closed.  Notice will be published when regular hours resume, Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, or by appointment. Please call 906-487-7500 or email gallery@finlandia.edu for more information.

Learn more about this exhibit, other exhibits and the Finlandia University Gallery in general by visiting finlandia.edu/universitygallery

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