The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Introducing our graduate students

SoVA is very pleased to welcome an exciting group of students to our graduate programs. This is one of the largest cohorts for some time and the talent they bring means the expectations are high.

There are twenty new M.F.A. students coming from all corners of the United States and several from overseas, including Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Having a lively group of graduates will not only heighten the creative pulse across the M.F.A. program, but also throughout the studio community.

Similarly, we have one of the largest groups of new doctoral students joining the Art Education program in a long time. They bring with them experience and expertise in studio art, graphic design, art history, and arts advocacy; teaching experience in schools and universities; and interests in multiple aspects of art education, ensuring the makings of lively seminars, complicated conversations, and the kinds of enduring collaborations that distinguish Penn State art education.

New Media Concentration

Gabriel Ibias is originally from Porto Alegre, Brazil. He has a B.A. in advertising from Pontifícia Universidade do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), and he’s been working with 3D animation and video post-production since 2004. His research focuses on real-time computer graphics and interactivity.

Dengke Chen comes to Penn State from China. His undergraduate major was traditional 2D animation. Dengke worked for two years as an art director for a children’s TV show. He loves to incorporate folk art into his creative art, which can be new media, digital art, drawing, and comic art. 

Nouf Alhamdan , originally from Saudi Arabia, received her B.A. in special education in 2007 from King Saud University in Riyadh. She worked in a family business with autistic children for three years, in addition to serving as a teaching assistant in the media department at King Saud University, giving her the opportunity to earn a scholarship to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees. Nouf is committed to using her experiences in the New Media program to make Saudi society aware of social and educational issues related to women and special needs learners.

Jesse Rafalko received his B.A. in film-video with a minor in English from Penn State. While an undergraduate, he started working as a video and web designer at Penn State’s Center for Sustainability, where he came to be identified as a ‘change agent.’ Jesse is now working to consolidate his love of technology with the agency of nature as a New Media graduate student, while continuing to contribute to the growing sustainability efforts around the University.

Photography Concentration

Charles Mankey's work has consisted of an exploration of relationships that exist within various natural landscapes that serve as a metaphor for how society can live fulfilling and sustainable existences within the natural word. He has worked primarily with digital photography but has also used traditional silver as well as alternative processes to examine these concepts.  

Jenna Ferraraccio's work explores physical and emotional connection to the land we inhabit. She graduated from Penn State with a B.A. in visual arts in December 2011, and is continuing her education to one day help educate others.

Danyel Woodring is passionate about photography and helping others. Her work provides insight into social and economic concerns and encourages an engagement in community. Danyel graduated from Penn State with a B.F.A. in photography and minor in human development and family studies in August 2011. Danyel currently works part-time for the local homeless shelter and the United Way. She also volunteers weekly caring for abandoned cats.

Anna Margush is a a photographer. As an artist she explores transitions – the spaces between things, the pauses between a breath out, and a breath in.  

Ceramics Concentration

Roberto Lugo received his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute. His ceramics fuse street art and pottery. Roberto intends to pursue a career in activism, teaching as well as being a studio artist. Brooks Oliver comes to Penn State from Dallas, Texas, where he grew up and attended Southern Methodist University, receiving his B.F.A. After earning his undergraduate degree, he taught at the Jesuit College Preparatory of Dallas high school for a year and then completed a post-baccalaureate residency at Syracuse University. His current ceramic works attempt to bridge modern technology and high craft.

Margaret Kinkeade completed her B.F.A. in printmaking at the University of Oklahoma. She is interested in the traditional public and private roles of each gender and how important or relevant these divisions are in modern life. The generational transmission of knowledge, particularly in regards to both women’s work and craft, is something that she strives to find ways to visually represent in her work.

Jennifer Kirkpatrick is originally from Utica, Nebraska. She received her B.F.A and B.S. in art education from Northwest Missouri State University. For the past two years, she has been a post-baccalaureate student in ceramics at the University of Arkansas. Her work explores the integration of ornamentation in architecture of the cities she has lived in and visited.

Christina Erives received her B.A. and M.A. in ceramics from California State University at Northridge. Her Mexican heritage and family traditions inform her work through narratives about the distance between today’s Mexican societies and the country’s cultural history. She creates clay-based objects to celebrate these customs in an effort to prevent the collective forgetting and loss of history.

Sculpture Concentration

Sidney Church comes to Penn State from South Carolina, where he received his B.F.A. from Clemson University. Vacillating between tinkerer, time-machine owner, and multi-material technician, Sidney can be found methodically working on objects relating to memory, history, and losing (and gaining) individual and social perception. Often using irony and humor as a catalyst for viewer engagement, Sidney’s own wry sensibility is infectious and positively engages the Sculpture studio.

Katie Hovencamp, who grew up in the Poconos, received her B.F.A. from Arizona State University. After leaving Phoenix, Katie worked for the LeRoy Neiman Art Center in Harlem, New York City, installing exhibitions and teaching students in daytime, afterschool, and Saturday programs. Katie’s work encompasses sculpture, printmaking, textiles, installation, and performance, enfolding content that spans pop culture, mythology, gender roles, and the use of a shamanistic body. Katie’s love of collecting old books rich with illustrations is second only to her energetic studio practice.

Steven Read comes to the School of Visual Arts from Duluth, Minnesota, where he received his B.F.A. in ceramics, sculpture, and technical theatre and scenic design from the University of Minnesota at Duluth. In Duluth, Steven started Prøve Gallery, whose mission is, in part, to expand the community and provide cultural exchange. Steven’s work often melds instinctive tactile response within a conceptually vast and contemplative space of the mind and spirit. Embodying exchange and productivity, Steven shares his technical expertise and professional practice with our undergrads, providing rich conversation in the Sculpture area.

Printmaking Concentration

Cassie Berringer received her B.A. in art from Malone University in Ohio, graduating magna cum laude in 2010. An Ohio native, she also studied at Kent State, where she refined her printmaking skills and portfolio. Cassie has an exceptional command of the intaglio printing process and has a firm understanding of the other three techniques. She is interested in exploring Christian Doctrine visually in her art.

Drawing and Painting Concentration

Sarah Swist received her B.F.A. from Western Illinois University in 2011, where she was the recipient of multiple talent grants. In 2012 she was a recipient of the Fund for Excellence in Graduate Recruitment (FEGR) Award at Penn State. Sarah’s newest paintings are based on an increasingly large dead insect collection. Her recent interest in entomology is portrayed in a large scale as typically small legs, antennae, wings, and abdomens become magnified to near-human size. As familiarity increases, subjects are painted loosely, in a way that contrasts the strict anatomical form of insects.

Kevin Mercer received several annual merit scholarships and an honorable University Gallery Purchase Award during his undergraduate study. As an emerging artist, Kevin’s work has been shown in galleries in Illinois, New Mexico, Iowa (Figge Museum of Art in Davenport), Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio (Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati). Kevin makes paintings that observe, recognize, and create understanding of thoroughly lived-in, yet underappreciated spaces. His recent work is thoughtful, investigative, and painted in a direct and honest way. He attended Western Illinois University (2010) for his B.F.A. in painting and metalsmithing.

Art Education

Christina Hanawalt received her B.S. in art education from Penn State and her M.S. from Maryland Institute College of Art. She lives in Harrisburg, where her husband and three children wait for her to return on the weekends. She taught high school art in Fairfax County, Virginia, and was an adjunct instructor of art history and art appreciation for the past four years at Shippensberg University.

Hyunji Kwon comes to Penn State from South Korea. Her interest in environmental art education is put to good use in her assistantship this year at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. Hyunji professes a love of travel and an addiction to coffee.

Natalia Pilato is a first-generation Italian American, a native of State College, and a graduate of Penn State with a B.F.A. (sculpture) and an M.Ed. in art education. The director of the Community Arts Collective, Natalia is a working artist and educator, and the mother of two children, Jazelle and Gracie. Her research focuses on community-based arts practice.

Jordan Crosby, originally from Pittsburgh, is an art historian, museum educator, and public policy advocate. She received her B.A. in French and art history from Hamilton College, and her M.A. in art history from the University of California at Davis. Jordie is committed to elucidating the role of the arts in the Pennsylvania public schools.

Asavari Thatte completed her master’s in graphic design at the Savannah College of Art and Design last spring. She is interested in children’s literature and plans to research children and media. A Hindustani classical vocalist, Asavari has performed in public and travelled widely.

Sue Uhlig is originally from the Chicago area. Teaching kindergarten through eighth-grade art so close to many Frank Lloyd Wright houses, Sue became fascinated by architecture and began to volunteer for events associated with Wright’s buildings. For the past ten years, she taught art appreciation and art education courses at Purdue University, and recently participated in a six-week trip to Morocco and Tunisia as part of a Fulbright-Hays Study Abroad Program for Post-Secondary Educators.

Kate Brennan, a native of Warren, Pennsylvania, has an M.F.A. in metalsmithing and jewelry from Colorado State University. She taught art for two years in the middle school that she attended herself a few years earlier. Kate is an avid birdwatcher, interested in researching intersections between art and science.

Alphonso Grant, the only male in the cohort of 2012–13, is serving as the project manager for the Organization of the Black Aesthetic Curious (OBAC) at Penn State. This complements his interests in black visual culture and African American studies, and his desire to use W.E.B. Dubois’ concept of double consciousness as curriculum construct in art education. He presented his first academic paper at the Curriculum and Pedagogy Conference in New Orleans in early November, and is currently preparing a manuscript for submission to a journal.

Laura Sapelly is interested in integrating academic art education with social activism through the needle arts. This interest emerged from her master’s thesis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Laura is pursuing a dual-title degree in art education and women’s studies.

Sarah Abu Bakr is Palestinian and Kuwaiti, with a background in graphic design and an M.F.A. from Goldsmiths, London, in computational studio arts. Interested in feminist visual culture, creative writing, poetry, and autobiography, Sarah is pursuing a dual degree in art education and women’s studies.