3D Design, Theater Students receive award at Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair

University of Iowa 3D design and theater students teamed up this fall to develop an installation which was showcased in Chicago and won the top award in their category.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

University of Iowa graduate students specializing in 3D design and theater earned the top award for their installation in the CONNECT category at the 2019 Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair this fall.

UI Program Head of 3D Design Monica Correia, faculty adviser for the UI fair installation as acting head of 3D design, said that the idea for the UI submission originated in May with the project’s student lead Huda Al-Aithan’s concept for seating, lighting, and staging based on hummingbirds, their color, and the way they weave their nests.

The installation allowed 3D design and theater students to collaborate and experience working with different art forms than their own, said UI Director of Theatre Bryon Winn. Winn served as a faculty adviser for the project this year as the director of theatre arts. He said the project is a unique opportunity for students from both programs to support each other’s work.

“There’s similar goals in theater lighting and 3D design classes. Collaboration between and the cross-pollination of artists [starts] in classrooms,” Winn said. “That interaction in between those two different groups of students is furthered by [Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair] and projects like it has been really successful and I think the students are better for it.”

Correia said she has applied to the fair as an opportunity to showcase the hard work of students for years. This year was the third win for Iowa at the prestigious, nationally recognized event, she added.

“Every year [the Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair] is held in Chicago and it calls for design schools to propose an installment, an environment, that has seating and lighting that showcases [graduate] students’ art work,” she said. “We’ve been applying and we’ve been selected for the exhibition five times alongside other schools.”

Winn said this competition has allowed for the UI to gain better name recognition when it comes to their design programs, and it also allows graduate students to compete with design-specific schools. Al-Aithan is one of the students who witnessed this first hand.

A third-year MFA student in 3D design, Al-Aithan said this installation was her second time fulfilling a leadership role in the project. There were nine graduate students involved in the project, and Al-Aithan said that winning an award at the fair gets her work and the UI name out there for aspiring artists to see.

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“This award puts us on the map of design schools in the country,” Al-Aithan said. “It validates our work, our program and the strength of the foundation we’ve been building throughout our education at the University of Iowa 3D design program.”

Courtney Gaston, an MFA Theater Design candidate, worked hand in hand with Al-Aithan on this year’s award-winning installation as the theatrical side. In an email to The Daily Iowan, Gaston said the fair is an important opportunity for students like her.

“I believe it is important for students to have opportunities like [the fair] because it creates an experience that allows students to grow as designers, artists, and makers,” she said. “This award was important to myself and my department because it encouraged us to reach beyond our departments and comfort zones and we were rewarded for that. The artistic risks that we took were recognized and appreciated and that is very affirming as an artist.”

Winn explained how the fair allows for UI education in design to be displayed. He said the UI community should be celebrating this coveted win.

“Art and design is one of the components of the University of Iowa,” he said. “But it should be celebrated and showcased. The students in these programs have a lot of potential. Even if we don’t have the best name recognition for these programs, we offer an unmatched program with our technology and mentorship.”