Meet CCAD’s Class of 2022 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. Two members of the class of 2022 are tied for that distinction. This year’s valedictorians are Friday Smith (Animation, 2022) and Michelle Wirono (Illustration, 2022.) Of note: Wirono also earned the distinction of being selected by faculty as Outstanding Senior in Illustration. Read more about this year’s valedictorians below:
Forever freaky, fun, and fashionable, Friday Smith has lived in almost every environment Ohio has to offer. Whether in a big city, a sleepy suburb, or a backwater one-stoplight town, Smith has always made it their priority to grow even in the most difficult of environmental circumstances. Creating art provided a mental release and a productive method of self-expression no matter where they were. When Smith found out in high school that drawing funky ladies, crafting, acting, and making questionable outfit choices could be careers, well, you could imagine their excitement. From then on, it was art school or bust.
Smith was looking for an art school with a close-knit community that was abundant with accessible resources and financial opportunities to enable them to attend. When it came time to choose a school, Smith followed their gut. “The minute I stepped onto CCAD's campus for the first time, I knew it was the place for me,” Smith says.
Early in their artistic endeavors, Smith was fascinated with cartoons, and the form became a source of comfort and inspiration. “I loved drawing in unrealistic and over-exaggerated styles,” Smith says. However, over the course of time at CCAD, Smith’s interest in animation evolved into exploring and playing with the concept of putting art into motion via more experimental processes.
Since stepping underneath the Art Sign on CCAD’s campus, Smith has added their voice to CCAD as president of the Animation Student Collective, lended a hand in essential CCAD experiences such as Saturday Morning Art Classes and at the one-of-a kind Packard Library, as well as had the pleasure of seeing their work exhibited in a few of the annual Chroma: Best of CCAD events. These are just a few of the gold-star college milestones Smith keeps on their mental mantle. But out of all the technical skills and professional tips and tricks picked up in 3.5 years at CCAD, Smith’s proudest achievements from their time at CCAD are not found in titles, grades, or record books. Held closest to their heart are all of the incredible people they’ve had the honor to call colleagues and friends.
“I had the opportunity to meet and interact with people of all different backgrounds and interests, thus having the opportunity to pick up so many different tricks and tips of life and art-making along the way—as well as some wonderful friends,” Smith says.
It is with these people at their side that Smith has had the chance to grow not only as a creative, but into a person who would knock the socks off of their younger self and any elderly person within a five mile radius. After graduation, Smith intends to take even greater strides in their journey of self-expression by exploring the vast world of artmaking and building a stronger and more loving relationship with themselves.
As a Chinese-born Indonesian, Michelle Parwoto Wirono grew up rarely seeing animated characters that looked like her. 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. Wirono wanted to go to an institution with a diverse and supportive community and found the right fit at CCAD. “CCAD provided me with that and throughout my years here, I always feel welcomed and encouraged,” Wirono says.
Wirono describes her experience at CCAD as “eye opening.” When she started, she didn’t know how to use illustration software like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Toon Boom Harmony. “I find it funny now that I am comfortably using these programs for my illustration and animation thesis,” she says.
Wirono celebrates the little wins that come from improving her skills, like the time she overcame her fear of using saturation and hues in her work. “I decided to get out of my comfort zone and alter my art-making process. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but now I am a little more confident with adding saturated colors into my work. I consider things like this a small victory.”
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 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.
After graduation, Wirono plans to support her family as a full-time visual development artist, designing unique environments, props, and characters while bringing her Chinese-Indonesian culture into the animation industry. “They have been very encouraging and supportive of my dream, and I would love to pay them back,” Wirono says.
CCAD celebrates its 143rd Commencement on Saturday, May 14. Visit ccad.edu/commencement for more.