Introducing CCAD’s Outstanding Seniors for 2022
Every year, Columbus College of Art & Design faculty selects an Outstanding Senior to represent each major. This honor recognizes these students’ academic and artistic accomplishments. Read more about the Class of 2022’s Outstanding Seniors—in their own words—below:
From the moment she entered the world during the early hours of Aries season, Alyssa Maul, from Eaton, Ohio, has continually found new outlets to express her creativity; whether it was playing flute in band, making pop tab bracelets with her Girl Scout troop, or crafting collages of her favorite celebs in middle school (looking at you, One Direction).
And while her creativity followed her wherever she went, one moment changed her life forever—and it happened on the floor of the band room, where she and her best friend Jenna agreed that they would join the Graphic Art program at Miami Valley Career Technology Center after visiting on a school trip.
There, she met her instructor, Lisa Hetzer, a CCAD graduate who encouraged her to take a tour of CCAD’s campus—and the rest is history. (No, not really, but it’s always fun to say that, isn’t it?)
Through her last 3.5 years at CCAD, Maul dove deeper into her love of AdGraph and even took a liking to copywriting, which was her minor. Some other exciting things happened along the way, too, like receiving a Silver Addy award, joining AdGraph Collective’s social media team, being on the President’s List each year, receiving a Columbus Society of Communicating Arts Creative Best award, and working for the CCAD Student Agency. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a career as a designer and is currently working on her small crochet business, Lucky Tulip.
Born and raised by fierce art supporters in Baltimore, Maryland, Josie Renkwitz enjoyed a steady diet of Looney Tunes, Tim Burton, and Wallace & Gromit. She explored these influences in her own drawings and was mostly focused on her own work until high school, where she met her best friend and they started making comics together (her friend writing and Renkwitz drawing). This collaboration, in conjunction with the 2013–15 era of animation fandom on the internet, propelled Renkwitz to pursue cartoons as a career.
During her time at CCAD, Renkwitz has pursued storytelling in both animation and comics. She is currently one of 10 CCAD students selected to participate in Spitball 8, a CCAD Comic Anthology. Paired with writer Bishakh Som, they are working on an eerie story about tarot decks and missing persons, titled “The Lovers.” Over the past three years, Renkwitz has collaborated with an animated band project called Skeleton Staff. She animated their theme song last year to promote a compilation of singles they released in 2021. Renkwitz also participated in freelance work for a Space Jam 2 commercial and animated the intro for Devyn Crimson, a prominent vintage fashion YouTuber. Renkwitz is currently enjoying her position as a production artist in a local studio that makes mascot costumes. With her overlapping interests in fashion, music, comics, and animation, Renkwitz is looking forward to finishing her current film, making mini-comics, and playing shows with her new band.
Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Bonnie Gumser started their first year of studying at CCAD in 2018 and instantly fell in love with Columbus and the campus community they soon joined. Despite mainly focusing on ceramics and illustration in high school, they decided to follow a passion from their early childhood and chose to major in Comics & Narrative Practice upon arriving at college.
During the first few years of their education journey, they dipped their toes into many different facets of the art world—participating in gallery showings such as AOI, spending countless hours in the ceramics lab for work study, and launching their own online store and sticker club. By their junior year, they had fallen in love with art all over again. Gumser is spending their senior year soaking up as much information as their brain will allow and keeping busy with being the assistant editor of CCAD’s comics anthology Spitball 8.
After graduation, Gumser hopes they can find a publisher for their comic series Lottie’s Cosmic Lover and use that money to set up a ceramics studio in their garage.
Austin Tootle was born and raised in Lancaster, Ohio. He was creative starting from a young age and then really explored his creative side in high school art classes. After graduating high school in 2015, he pursued modeling and acting, discovering in the process that he was more fascinated with the fashion aspect. Tootle realized he really wanted to learn the ins and outs of the fashion industry, which prompted him to apply to study at CCAD.
During his time at CCAD, Tootle discovered his unique style and pushed his skills to the next level. When it comes to his design process, he loves to tap into a world that is only visible in his dreams and he makes it a reality. His love for Lana Del Rey and the 1960s presents itself in his work. He loves taking vintage aesthetics and modernizing them because many generations can relate to them. Tootle interned at Fear Columbus Haunted House, where he learned new skills and created costumes for the 2021 Halloween season. Since his internship, he has been working as the costume director for Fear Columbus, where his creativity is at an all-time high. Tootle has been recognized as a President’s List honoree multiple times throughout his time at CCAD. After graduation, he plans to find a full-time position as a designer, where he can share his creativity with others.
Born and raised in Columbus, Zarek Metz discovered his passion for filmmaking at an early age. Metz would spend his time making videos with his siblings and friends on an iPod Camera. He loved watching the reactions of his friends and family when they were watching his videos. This inspired Metz to take film classes in high school to further his knowledge into filmmaking. Simultaneously he began watching movies in a different light, taking the time to appreciate the different aspects of film. After taking a gap year working in a mailroom, Metz decided to chase his dream and enrolled into CCAD’s film program.
During his time at CCAD, Metz worked on developing his voice within film by constantly pushing his editing and directing skills. Metz directed many projects during his time at CCAD, including Loretta, Silverman, and his senior thesis, All My Love. During his sophomore year, Metz received a Telly Award for October, a music video that he directed and assisted with editing. As a student, Metz was recognized as a President's List honoree every semester. During his spring semester of his freshman year, he began working for CCAD’s Marketing & Communications team and its Student Agency, working over the next four years to creating videos for the college’s messaging. Upon graduation, Metz hopes to find a job working on traditional film sets or any job that allows him to use his creativity in filmmaking. He also plans to continue making content and music videos for artists and musicians.
Yahfa Guerra is a contemporary fine artist who explores the realm of realism and surrealism as it relates to her identity as a Caribbean woman. She lives in Columbus, Ohio—the place where she was raised, and yet, familial ties allow her a tether to her ancestral home. Love and connection are foundational principles of her work, while hoping to inspire and to be inspired. It is Guerra’s belief that an individual’s essence can become immortalized through art for future generations to see. Furthermore, she intends to combat the systematic erasure of people of color in history and give the future generations a known legacy that can provide inspiration.
Guerra’s experience at CCAD has provided a rich environment that continuously provides her with new ideas and innovative practices. After graduation she plans to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree, with the goal of being an educator who also has a private practice.
Guerra’s work has been exhibited in the Franklin Park Conservatory, the Elijah Pierce Gallery, the Sean Christopher Gallery, and the exhibition Chroma: Best of CCAD. Her work also has been displayed in the offices of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and the office of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. Her awards include first in the Columbus Chapter of the Links Art Exhibition and third in the Congressional Art Competition.
As a Chinese-born Indonesian, Michelle Parwoto Wirono rarely saw animated characters that look like her growing up. When animated films such as Mulan and TV shows like The Life & Times of Juniper Lee came out, she felt a sense of representation and recognition. However, Wirono has yet to see an Indonesian protagonist in a renowned animated movie. The need to bring awareness to less-portrayed Asian countries shaped her artistic journey. In high school, she took the International Baccalaureate Diploma program, using higher-level visual arts to illustrate works that represent and explore her identity as a Chinese-Indonesian. Wirono furthered her passion to portray her culture by attending CCAD, majoring in Illustration and minoring in 2D Animation.
Throughout her years at CCAD, Wirono was a part of the Student Government Association as the representative for international students. She was also the Creative Director for Ohio State University’s Organization of Indonesian Students in America (PERMIAS). Additionally, Wirono worked as a teacher’s assistant for CCAD’s Creative Summer Workshops, guiding next-generation artists in their pursuit of creativity as they learned from adept and experienced illustrators. Additionally, Wirono received the Trustees International Scholarship and was on the President’s List for all four years at CCAD. She is a co-valedictorian of this year’s graduating class. Being surrounded by brilliant mentors and friends at CCAD has helped Wirono grow as an illustrator. After graduation, Wirono plans to work as a full-time visual development artist, designing unique environments, props, and characters while bringing her Chinese-Indonesian culture into the animation industry.
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Harrison Landis discovered the practice of industrial design very shortly before attending CCAD. In the years leading up to his college studies, he was interested in the products that moved the cultures in which he was involved. Landis’ love for design would start with the world of footwear design but eventually expanded to many other categories that would directly inspire his designs to come.
At the start of his studies as an Industrial Design major at CCAD, Landis discovered the vast variety of things that could be created by industrial designers. By his junior year, he would shift his attention to making designs meant to inspire the environments where people both worked and lived—furniture and housewares in particular. Landis’ goal from now on would be to positively affect the moods of the environments that surround all walks of life. Landis also has had the opportunity to work with the renowned design company Stanley Black & Decker for 10 months during his senior year at CCAD.
After graduation, he plans to seek a design job centered around the world of furniture design, which will allow him to create energetic and unique designs for years to come.
Born and raised in Dublin, Ohio, Skylar Dalbenzio has been involved in the arts from a very young age. In the fourth grade, she was first introduced to CCAD through Saturday Morning Art Classes, where her love for art and design only grew deeper. Through the years, she continued pursuing different media with a focus on drybrush painting her junior and senior years of high school.
Dalbenzio credits high school art teacher Dan Gerdeman for being an encouraging voice that gave her the confidence to pursue a career in design, and she believes she may not have applied to CCAD had it not been for him.
Dalbenzio made the shift towards interior design because she desired to work in a field in which she could be creative, but that also offered structure. During her time at CCAD she has enjoyed being exposed to all that the world of interiors has to offer, and has immersed herself in different fields, finding a love for crafts such as furniture design and ceramics. As a student Dalbenzio has been recognized as a President’s List honoree every semester since her arrival at CCAD. She spent the summer of 2021 interning for Chute Gerdeman where she gained experience in the retail interior and architecture realm. Upon graduation Dalbenzio hopes to take part in a range of interior design projects, residential and commercial. She hopes to find a place within the industry where she feels fully content and is adding value to her community.
Jamie Hoy was born and raised in Hudson, Ohio, a small town within the Akron metropolitan area. Hoy attributes her artistic curiosity to her grandmother, with whom she would often spend time. Her grandmother was a watercolor artist and introduced Hoy to the importance of art.
During her time at CCAD, you could find Hoy spending countless hours in the Photography department's darkroom. As a student, Hoy was interested in creating multimedia pieces that went beyond traditional photography. For her solo thesis show, she used the techniques she learned from her alternative process class to create cyanotype quilts, which were on display at Blockfort Gallery in early April. After graduating from CCAD, Hoy plans on attending graduate school to continue her study and practice of fine art-making.
STUDIO ART WITH AN EMPHASIS IN THE HISTORY OF ART & VISUAL CULTURE Ash Towry
Born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of North Texas, Ash Towry has created an artistic practice that draws from their experiences in the Lone Star State. As a child, Towry showed a keen interest in southern wildlife and would often create life drawings of the animals native to their area. Towry has expanded upon this interest and many others upon entering CCAD’s creative community in 2018.
While Towry started out in Fine Arts their freshman year at CCAD, they switched their major to Art History at the start of their sophomore year per the advice of Dr. Carol Boram-Hays, a CCAD faculty member. Towry has found the most supportive and talented community of artists and art historians within the Art History program at CCAD and it is because of this that they feel they have truly been able to make the most out of their undergraduate experience.
With the help of faculty members such as Dr. Katherine Hammond and Elizabeth Trapp, Towry has written papers that have been or will be presented at colloquiums and symposiums. They have also shown their work at a multitude of shows both on and off-campus, the most notable being their thesis show, All The Fixin’s. Towry plans to attend the Southwestern College and New Earth Institute for their master’s in Art Therapy and Counseling in the fall of 2022.
CCAD celebrates its 143rd Commencement on Saturday, May 14. Visit ccad.edu/commencement for more.