Creativity reigns supreme in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications (FFAC). These graduates are artists, composers, designers, photographers, journalists, communicators, organizers, musicians, performers and almost any other creative title you can imagine. We asked some of the FFAC Class of 2016 about their most memorable moments at MacEwan University, points of pride and future plans. Here’s what they said.
Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music
When I was two years old, I started telling my parents I wanted to be a musician, then a pop star and eventually a singer/songwriter. People kept saying that I would change my mind when I got older, but when everyone else in high school was wondering what they should do, I knew exactly what I wanted.
I came to MacEwan to study drums but I wasn’t the strongest drummer in my class, and if I wasn’t practicing six to eight hours a day, there was no way I was going to pass. I also took voice lessons, and eventually I found myself in a class that required us to write a song. I hadn’t written anything in three years, but the song I wrote for that class went over so well that I had the confidence to approach a producer and record an EP.
Two of those songs are nominated for 2016 Edmonton Music Awards, and a third song is both my first song to be licenced by a TV show in the U.S. and won a local radio contest. I enjoy jazz and other more complicated styles of music, but I love how pop music is so stripped down and simple. It’s like a breath of fresh air.
Every night at 6 p.m., my family would sit down and watch the news together. My parents came to Canada from Afghanistan as refugees and my mom had always wanted to be a reporter, so we were constantly listening to and watching the news. That was our thing.
Half of my family still lives in Afghanistan, and we went to visit a couple of years ago. Days before we arrived, there was a bombing at the airport. It was really interesting to see the difference between what was actually happening and what the news said was happening.
I love seeing different perspectives and angles—and giving a voice to the voiceless. When someone shares a personal story with you, it’s a privilege, and there’s a responsibility attached to that.
In the fall, I interviewed Dese’Rae Stage about suicide for the The Scavenger. I needed to be careful about how I spoke to her and how I wrote about her experiences—but I felt honoured that she shared that with me. I love personal stories and I love politics. Those are the things I want to write about.
Arts and Cultural Management
I’m part of a tech collective called Phi: Illuminated Design that creates tech couture, and I just got back from a wearables fashion show in Shanghai that included three of our pieces. One is a called Gamergirls—a set of two dresses that each house screen displays for the wearers to play out an arcade-style video game controlled by Bluetooth-paired smartphones.
I have a Bachelor of Fine Art and I have worked in galleries, been on boards and have my own personal art practice, but I didn’t really know a lot about the business of art. As soon as I started the program, lightbulbs started going off for me. I remember taking the project management course and realizing that what I had been doing all along had a name—I just hadn’t realized it could be a job.
Three years ago I didn’t have any idea of how to write a press release or organize a press launch, but now I feel like I have the foundation and the confidence to represent myself the way I want to—and to be competitive in the business of arts and culture.
I used to be terrified of heights, so climbing up onto the grid 30 feet above the stage and hanging lights was a big deal for me. Now, I’m totally comfortable up there. Getting over that mental block is just one of many things I’m proud of.
Another was stage managing Nice Work If You Can Get It. That was when things clicked for me and I realized that I’m really good at this. I’m detail oriented, and when you’re stage managing, every detail matters—scheduling fittings, doing mike checks, calling cues and so much more. Making sure that everything is taken care of is how you make the magic happen.
Being part of such a creative atmosphere is really empowering—people are always throwing ideas at each other and there are constantly things happening and being created. It’s great to be part of and feed off of that energy.
I’m going into the second year of the Bachelor of Fine Art program at the University of Alberta next year, and I’ll be studying stage management. I’m really excited and if I hadn’t come to MacEwan, I don’t think I would be following this path.
My three years at MacEwan felt like a roller coaster of ups and downs—and the final semester was both the hardest and the best. Everyone in my class always seemed to know what their personal brand was, but I had a hard time figuring that out.
Going to New York with my class helped clarify things for me. It showed me that you don’t have to be like everyone else—there was so much to see and everything was phenomenal. After that, things just kind of fell into place.
One of my last projects was building a website. I coded it myself, it’s fully responsive, and it shows everything that I can and want to do. It looks good and it feels good—and I’m really proud of it.
I just finished an internship and I know I want to work in web design, focusing on the user experience and user interface side of things. I always wanted to help people, but I didn’t know in what way. Good design makes things easier, simpler and understandable. And I think that can make a difference.
When I lost my house in the Slave Lake fire, it made me realize what it’s like to have nothing. I always wanted to be a journalist, but when I looked up the pay on career days at school, it was terrible. After the fire, monetary success didn’t seem as important anymore.
I have been pinch-hitting at CBC Edmonton this year. When I went into work in the afternoon on May 3, the newsroom was buzzing and the first shots coming in of the Fort McMurray fire were surreal. Trees were on fire on both sides of the highway and it looked vividly like my memories of getting out of Slave Lake. I never thought I’d see something like that again, let alone be reporting it.
But I wouldn’t have had that chance if I hadn’t done an internship at CBC Yellowknife. And I wouldn’t have had that internship if I hadn’t been volunteering with the griff and CJSR radio.
I’m really proud of the work we did to change the student newspaper. I’m also proud of running for student council last year. I didn’t win, but I learned that even if you work as hard as you possibly can, things don't always go the way you want them to. I don’t regret that experience at all. If I had won the student council race I wouldn’t have ended up going to Yellowknife, and I wouldn’t have been in the CBC Edmonton newsroom helping to cover the Fort Mac fire.
Arts and Cultural Management Dean's Medal for Academic Excellence
Right out of high school I went to university to become an archaeologist, but in my final year I realized that I didn’t want to be out in the field digging six months of the year. My friends do it and love it, but it’s not for me.
I took some time off to figure out what I wanted to do, and I decided to take what I already knew about archeology and combine it with my love of museums. And I was excited when I found out that in Arts and Cultural Management I could do museum administration and a whole lot more.
While I was at MacEwan, I worked part time at the Royal Alberta Museum, spent two summers working at the Edmonton Fringe Festival and went to Ottawa as part of a student-led initiative to research visitor experience at the Canadian National Museums. And today I’m working at the Alberta Museums Association.
I grew up outside of the city and never really felt as connected to Edmonton as I do now. All of these experiences made me feel much more a part of the place I call home.
In high school, the only thing I was really good at was art—and calculus for some reason. But right after high school I went to NAIT for marketing, because I didn’t think I was good enough or could do anything with art. I did really well in marketing and became an honours student, and by the time I graduated with my diploma, I had a lot of job opportunities. But I wasn’t happy—even when I was offered a job that would start me above entry level and was $80,000 a year, which was great for a 19-year-old.
Every night before I went to bed, I would look at my sketchbook and think, “I wish I could draw tonight.” But I had no inspiration and I had no time—I had marketing projects to work on and things to study for. I had great marks and a great work ethic, but I didn’t have any time for me.
I applied to MacEwan’s Fine Art program on a whim. I wanted to see if I was good enough or smart enough to get in, and if so, would I go? Would I turn down jobs? I really didn’t think I would get in—but I did. So I said, “Screw all the job opportunities!” And ever since I’ve been here, things are different and I’ve been happy.
I remember spending a day in my first year learning Adobe Illustrator. I was playing with the program and the next thing I knew something clicked and I was illustrating. When my friend looked over and saw what I was working on, she was shocked. It wasn’t the greatest illustration, but it was pretty good considering I was so new.
But I didn’t just learn technical skills during my time at MacEwan—I also learned to create and to think in a different way in order to solve problems.
It feels like all of the things we’ve learned and the experiences we’ve had since day one funneled into the Design Studies Portfolio show. I’m really proud of how we all came together to create a great show that showcased our work.
I’d love to be a creative director one day. I know I have a lot to learn, but I don’t plan to shy away from that. I’ve always wanted to be a driving force in Edmonton’s creative industry. There’s so much potential here.
MacEwan University is proud to celebrate the more than 2,200 members of the Class of 2016. Congratulations to this year's graduates, medal recipients and distinguished award honourees.
Watch this very special message from the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications.
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