By Karthik Kotresh
Spring 2020 saw the University of Nevada, Reno ending all campus operations and moving to online classes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in a lot of changes for both faculty and students. Disappointments and new challenges were pitted against each other. Keeping students’ spirits up was both imperative and important for the School of the Arts at the University of Nevada, Reno. One way the School of the Arts addressed this need was through a sticker contest.
“Before we started the sticker contest two years ago, we were working on designing a School of the Arts sticker,” says Shoshana Zeldner, program manager of special events in the School of the Arts.
“As we worked on a preliminary design for this sticker, we quickly realized that we could instead feature student artwork each semester, honoring and celebrating each of the different disciplines in the School. The sticker contest was born.”
The making of a sticker contest
Beginning with a simple idea that students would love to have their artwork showcased, the sticker contest became a symbol, an identity for the School of the Arts. It’s open to anyone and everyone who is minoring or majoring in one of the School of the Arts departments, be it art, music, or theatre and dance.
“I submitted my work during the last semester of my senior year, and that unfortunately happened during COVID-19,” Emily Kray, winner of the inaugural School of the Arts sticker contest said.
“Although I wasn't able to pass stickers out on campus to my friends, I was still able to mail them to my friends, family and academic peers. Overall, it was an incredibly pleasant surprise to hear that I had won!”
Art has always bridged the gap between the conscious and the unconscious mind. To delve deeper into yourself and to express yourself unconditionally, truly and honestly requires discipline and patience. And when that expression has fully manifested, it is meant to be celebrated. This celebration of art and of the artists within the School of the Arts became the central motif of the sticker contest.
Kelsey Reiman, a printmaking artist at the School of the Arts’ Black Rock Press, judged last year’s contest. “The sticker contest represents the School of the Arts by displaying the talent of one of our students and showing others on campus and in the community what kinds of things we can make,” Reiman said.
“Stickers are affordable; they can be printed in large quantities and given away to many people, who put them on their laptops and bottles so that other people can see them.”
Mikayla Dimulias, the winner of the fall 2021 contest, says, “I was attracted to the sticker contest because I love stickers and the idea of being able to share my art with fellow students around campus.”
“I also thought it was an awesome opportunity to promote the School of Arts here at UNR.”
Stickers connect campus to community
Apart from giving students a platform to express themselves outside of the classroom and coursework, the stickers also helped to connect School of the Arts students with the rest of campus. Be it representing cultures from different countries (spring 2021 winner), appreciating landscapes (fall 2021 winner), or reflecting on human identity (fall 2020 winner), the stickers elicit an emotional response from the viewer. Not everyone may get the exact idea behind the artwork, especially if it’s quite abstract, but it certainly succeeds in exposing our community to different perspectives. In that sense, the artwork begins in the artist’s imagination and ends in the audience’s.
“I learned more about participating in the art world,” Dimulias said. “It was nice to have some creative freedom and not feel pressured by a professor. I thought it would be so cool to have stickers with my own artwork on them and have fellow students be able to enjoy them and maybe stick them on their water bottles or notebook.”
Real-world artist experience
The School of the Art’s sticker contest is a great opportunity for students not only to showcase their artwork and be compensated but also to get real-world experience. The entries are reviewed by a panel of judges from the departments of art, music, and theatre and dance, and also by a representative from the Nevada Museum of Art.
“When choosing a winner, we consider not only how visually appealing or interesting the image is, but also how the image will translate to sticker, and how the image could represent the many different disciplines within the School of the Arts,” says Reiman.
Having students’ artwork reviewed alongside work of their peers and by professionals boosts an artist’s confidence more than just good grades.
“The School of the Arts sticker contest is a good opportunity for students to see how their work can be transformed into an easily digestible and disseminated product,” says Kray.
What’s more, the sticker contest enables students to practice being active in the art community. There is nothing like experiencing your artwork getting the admiration and respect it deserves. Even better, seeing it on other students’ personal belongings.
“It's a fun feeling to be able to give away my artwork for free to be stuck on walls, water bottles, laptops, phone cases, etc.,” adds Kray.
It’s unethical to expect artists to do their work for free and one of the aims of the School of the Arts sticker contest is to address that. Students not only receive feedback from professional judges, but they also receive a prize award of $200.
“So often, artists are expected to contribute something for free and we hope that by paying artists for the use of their work, they start to understand their value as artists and cultural workers in our community,” adds Zeldner.
The sticker contest today
The spring 2022 contest saw the most entries, making it quite a challenging task for the judges to decide on the winning design. In the end, they chose Jennifer Krupka’s stunning work.
“This crane is part of a series I created,” said Krupka.
“This series helped me grow my graphic design skills, which I have not had any classes for, but I have applied compositional knowledge I gained from drawing classes. I think this piece shows movement well with the spread‐out wings, clouds in the background, and the object breaking the barrier of the gold ring.”
Krupka adds, “Additionally, the design guides your eyes around the entire piece; across the wings, down the legs and around the ring.”
“The design was done in a triadic color scheme to create a harmonious look.”
Although the School of the Arts sticker contest is only four semesters old, it has come a long way. It has become a wonderful platform to tell the story of the School of the Arts through students’ artwork.
When asked if she had any advice for students who are thinking about participating in the contest, Mikayla said, “I would say to definitely do it. Not only is it easy to apply and create the artwork, but you also get a nice little bonus check if you win! What college student wouldn’t enjoy a little extra cash?”
The School of the Arts at the University of Nevada, Reno is now accepting submissions for the fall 2022 sticker contest. All University of Nevada, Reno undergraduate and graduate students majoring or minoring in a School of the Arts department are eligible to participate. Submissions must be received by April 18. The winner receives a $200 commission award and of course, stickers. For information about how to apply, visit the School of the Arts sticker contest webpage.