Meet CCAD’s Class of 2021 Valedictorians
Each year, Columbus College of Art & Design selects a Valedictorian from its graduating class based on their having the highest grade point average throughout their college career. This year, there is a three-way tie among members of the Class of 2021 for that distinction. This year’s Valedictorians are Sarah Ann Bieber (Film & Video, 2021), Jesamie Houghtby (Fashion Design, 2021), and Grace Warren (Fashion Design, 2021). Of note: Bieber and Houghtby also earned the distinction of being selected by faculty as Outstanding Seniors in their respective majors. Read more about this year’s Valedictorians below:
Sarah Ann Bieber
Film & Video
Born in Kansas and raised in Lancaster, Ohio, Sarah Bieber has always gravitated toward thinking outside of the box. At age nine, she became enchanted with filmmaking after seeing James Cameron’s Avatar in theaters. Witnessing the endless possibilities one could create on screen instantly captured her heart. Filmmaking, especially directing, became her one passion, and she would often say her goal was to be the youngest director to win an Oscar.
Before her arrival at CCAD, Bieber didn’t have many art classes available to her, so she would create independent video projects whenever she could. Even now, “I go about making films in the same way I did back in high school. The only difference is that I've improved my craft because I'm passionate about being better with every project I do,” she says.
Bieber says her work is driven by an “eagerness to escape reality, enjoy what I'm doing, and open people's hearts.” She describes her senior thesis as a “satirical short about a want-to-be serial killer who attempts to claim a human life and start his notorious career but struggles with the realization that he sucks at killing people.”
Bieber has been a President’s List honoree each of her semesters at CCAD. Her work ethic earned her the spot of being one of three valedictorians graduating in the spring of 2021 after just three years at CCAD. She has had multiple pieces shown in CCAD’s Chroma: Best of CCAD showcase, her experimental video POP was featured in the Young Hearts 9 exhibition at Sean Christopher Gallery, and she received a bronze Telly Award for her work on the music video October in 2020. A short she worked, Channel 113.4, is an official selection of the Toronto Independent Film Festival of Cift for 2021. Bieber also is President of CCAD’s Film Collective.
When she’s not making films, you can find Bieber painting, playing Just Dance, or learning something new. And she is quick to note that her time at CCAD hasn’t always been easy, calling it “the toughest three years of my life,” despite remembering with fondness events such as CCAD’s Halloween celebration, Big Boo, which saw her dress up like painter Bob Ross and do the worm on the dance floor until everyone joined in.
Bieber says her favorite CCAD class was Interactive Design, led by Adjunct Faculty Lexie Stoia.
“Having a passionate teacher who's willing to nurture your ideas, a small class size, and working with new technology is what made it meaningful to me,” she says.
After graduation, Bieber plans to continue improving her craft, working on freelance projects, and making a name for herself in a career she loves. “I'm looking forward to carving my own path,” she says. “I don't know for certain where I'll end up, and that would usually stress me out, but I know that as long as I stick to my values I will find, if not make, where I need to be.”
Jesamie Houghtby grew up in Mount Gilead, Ohio. They have been creating ever since they could, making work ranging from drawing to musical arts to fashion design. Before they transferred to CCAD for Fashion Design, they were a Fine Arts major. They did not know that they would soon be exploring the lines between fashion and art, and learning that those lines did not have to be so rigid. Indeed, Houghtby says their favorite experience at CCAD was showcasing their work alongside that of their peers at the Columbus Museum of Art. “As someone who considers themselves just as much of an artist as they do a designer, it was so amazing to have that opportunity,” they say.
Houghtby is thankful for the relationships that they formed at CCAD with students, faculty, and staff alike, including founding the Deep Roots Plant Club with a friend.
During their time at CCAD, Houghtby has developed their own unique style of fashion and has explored ways of pushing the boundaries of gender, sustainability, and function in fashion. “Since transferring to CCAD, I have learned more and more that bending the lines between art and design is what makes design interesting. I began as a Fine Arts student, and I have been able to evolve that into fashion design in my own way,” says Houghtby.
As a result of being surrounded by death in their last two years of college and through the COVID-19 pandemic, Houghtby became interested in the death positive movement, which encourages people to talk more and create art about death. Their thesis collection, “amelioration // reclamation,” is inspired by the movement.
The collection, says Houghtby, “is all about reclamation of structures by nature and change. It is inspired by the Brutalist architecture movement and overgrown buildings. My collection is 100% biodegradable, so that everything will decay with the human body during a natural burial.”
Houghtby’s work has been shown at the Columbus Museum of Art, the Cloud City Multi-Media Bazaar, and The Dollhouse Magazine fashion show. Plus, says Houghtby, “during my time at CCAD, I decided to do something I never thought I would be capable of, so I applied to be in Chicago Fashion Week. I will be showcasing my line at Chicago Fashion Week in October!”
Post-graduation, Houghtby will be working as an Assistant Designer at Abercrombie & Fitch. “I am looking forward to planning for my graduate studies sometime in the future where I can continue my work in blending the lines between art and design,” they add. “I’m not in a rush, it feels like I can relax and take a deep breath for the first time in a long time.”
Grace Warren is from Indianapolis, Indiana, and transferred to CCAD in 2018. From an early age, Warren developed an inclination toward art and a love of fashion, and earned an associate’s degree in Fine Arts before transferring to CCAD. As she planned her move to CCAD, Warren knew she had to follow her passion for fashion design and decided to pursue this field of study.
In her studies at CCAD, Warren has examined different aspects of fashion design and has enjoyed developing her fashion design skills from conceptualizing to intricately illustrating clothing to the final, technical aspect of creating garments.
At CCAD, Warren has been involved in Chroma: Best of CCAD, where she displayed a garment designed with a fellow peer, as well as collaborated on creating a lookbook for a local Columbus business. In her Introduction to Fashion Design class early on at CCAD, Warren worked with two other students in designing a look for the CCAD Fashion Show inspired by Easton Town Center and developed using alternative materials, including mouse pads and pamphlets. “It was such a fun experience and I loved seeing it on the runway,” she says.
Warren’s senior thesis collection is called “Liberation: Homage to the Heroine,” and consists of four looks that draw inspiration from painter Benjamin Wu. Wu’s subject matter, women and life during Westward Expansion, influenced her concept and silhouettes. Warren created prairie dresses and crocheted accents that were then garment-dyed using natural materials.
“My design practice is based on research and experimentation. With my senior thesis, research and trial and error went into my concept, different dye processes, and crochet techniques. I believe that failing and figuring out what does not work is just as important as finding that final solution in design,” she says.
Prior to transferring to CCAD, Warren’s experience with design was in fine art. I was comfortable with sketching and developing concepts into final, finished drawings. “Taking my sketches of clothing and making physical garments has allowed me, as an artist, to feel as though I am coming full circle in bringing my art to life,” she says.
After graduation, Warren heads to Philadelphia, for a design team internship with retailer Anthropologie. Following that, she plans to seek a full-time position where she can use the skills she has acquired while at CCAD to continue growing as a fashion designer.
“My mom encouraged me since I was young to do what I loved and follow those passions, and I have always had an affinity for fashion and art. Getting to research, sketch, and construct clothing that reflects who I am as a designer is what I have always envisioned doing,” says Warren.
CCAD celebrates its 142nd Commencement on Saturday, May 15, at 10 a.m. (EDT). Visit ccad.edu/2021graduation for more.