Want to know what Watkins alumni are up to? Read below for more details.
Amanda Dillingham - Fine Arts - 2005
Why did you choose Watkins? I originally attended the Art Institute in Atlanta. It didn’t really fit what I wanted in a degree program so I transferred to Watkins to stay in school until I figured out where I really wanted to go. After my first semester I knew that Watkins was exactly what I was looking for. The classes were small and the professors all wanted you to succeed. It was a really supportive environment.
How did your education here prepare you for your career? Watkins definitely prepared me for graduate school. I came into my graduate school program with a strong theoretical and studio background. It really allowed me to be pushed because instead of having to start with rudimentary readings I was able to skip ahead to read and write about theories that pertained specifically to my practice. Also, while at Watkins the former head of the program encouraged my friends and me to put on our own art shows with work we were doing for classes. This gave me experience for my current job as a gallery curator. The professors also gave us knowledge to apply for other shows. I just had a show here in Nashville but have also applied for shows most recently in Los Angeles and New Jersey. Having lots of exhibition history also helps with getting jobs as well as into graduate school.
What are you doing now? I currently work as the Gallery Curator at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN. On the side I freelance write for the Nashville Scene about art events around town. Finally, I am still pursuing a career as an artist, entering shows, as well as conferences and maintaining studio practice and research.
What did you like best about being a student here? I loved the community Watkins offers. Everyone in my class got along really well. Everyone supported and encouraged each other. Also, it is great how the faculty treats students more as peers. I think it encourages a level of dialogue that is really unique for an undergraduate school.
What was your favorite project that you worked on here? Doing the secret shows was the best project I was involved in. We had so much fun putting on these shows. The relaxed atmosphere made it a big event that people didn’t want to miss and taught us tons about how to exhibit our own work, write statements and resumes, and how the audience would perceive it.
Why did you choose your particular field as a career? I had chosen graphic design, knowing that I really wanted to be a fine art major, because my parents were worried I wouldn’t be able to get a job. After a semester at Watkins and many conversations with the professors I decided to change my major to what I loved. I knew if I put my mind to it, I could make it work somehow!
Lisa Stevens - Interior Design - 2009
Why did you choose Watkins?
I transferred to Watkins from Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, MI. My biggest reason for transferring to Watkins was to be in a potentially better job market than Michigan and have better opportunities after graduation. Nashville is known for having a thriving economy and great appreciation for creative professions. Watkins had the accreditation I was looking for, and I was drawn to the small class sizes and convenient location to Downtown Nashville.
How did your education here prepare you for your career?
Watkins gave me a great foundation of knowledge that I gradually built upon in the professional world. I began interning very early in my education at Watkins, and had tons of professional work experience behind me by the time I graduated. Watkins also gave me opportunities to be a leader through orientation sessions, open houses, Student Government, and Student ASID & IIDA Chapters. Those experiences helped develop strong leadership skills that I now use professionally.
What are you doing now?
I am an Interior Designer at Thomas L. Anderson Architect, where I specialize in designing sacred space and commercial buildings. As a side project, I recently teamed up with a group of developers in Nashville to restore historic homes around Nashville and revitalize the neighborhoods. I became LEED-accredited in June ‘09 and enjoy designing LEED-certified buildings in the Nashville area. I love giving clients the opportunity to have a more sustainable story. Outside of my design profession, I recently opened Paper Finch Studio, a small fine art studio where I create and sell affordable, sustainable fine art.
What did you like best about being a student here?
I really enjoyed all the opportunities for involvement that Watkins offers. While there, I had opportunities to be a leader in several areas of service, volunteer work, and community involvement. Playing a major role in events and leadership at Watkins strengthened social networking and problem-solving skills that I would come to rely on professionally. Watkins also opened my eyes to a lot of issues facing our world today through various lectures and events, and gave me a broader perspective.
What was your favorite project that you worked on here?
I really enjoyed working on a hotel design in my Advanced Commercial Design class. Lajuana Gill was a fabulous professor and taught us so many valuable things about how contract documents are to be set up, how to organize a project binder, and so many technical aspects of a design project that has proved very useful professionally. I also got to experiment with color in texture in a way I hadn’t done before. Another memorable project was my involvement with the annual “YArt” sales. I got to be involved with the early attempts and later to see the event become stronger and more widely publicized. It really helped me learn what the public is looking for when purchasing art.
Why did you choose you particular field as a career?
I chose Interior Design because I’ve always had a great passion for the spaces that surround us, and how they affect us. I love problem-solving and brainstorming creative solutions to design constraints. I love working out a design as a sketch on paper, and then watch as it transforms into a real space, occupied by real people whose lives can benefit from a space that functions better, and improves their quality of life. I love working and collaborating with clients to achieve spaces that go above and beyond their expectations. It’s a really rewarding career!
Bill Cornelius- Film - 2005
Why did you choose Watkins? I chose Watkins because I was looking for a film college. Film had always been my passion and I didn’t want to waste years at a regular college that didn’t allow me the opportunities to learn and pursue my passion. Nashville is also close to my extended family in Kentucky, so it was nice to have them near.
How did your education here prepare you for your career? In addition to what I learned in class, I learned from working on various student film projects. In doing film at Watkins I feel like I was able to make all of my major mistakes before getting out into the professional world where making a big mistake could cost me a job. I also learned a lot about the film business in-general and the importance of networking.
What are you doing now? I started my own production company called Lavorsia Pictures Entertainment, which is named after my senior film at Watkins. I’ve been doing a lot of free-lance work, mostly directing, shooting, and editing music videos for various musicians around Nashville. I recently finished work on a documentary about the Bell Witch with fellow Watkins alum Zac Adams. I’m also in the midst of production on my first animated film. I try to keep myself continuously busy with no shortage of film projects.
What did you like best about being a student here? I was always overjoyed that I was actually going to a college for film. I’m glad I spent 4-years of my life learning about what I love, rather than wasting it somewhere else.
What was your favorite project that you worked on here? Probably my senior film “Lavorsia”. It was the first film that I had written from the heart. Despite some trials and tribulations, I was very satisfied with the end product and felt a great sense of accomplishment being that it was my last student film.
Why did you choose your particular field as a career? I have been actively pursuing film since I was 8-years old. It’s a joyous feeling for me to share my imagination with other people by way of film. I feel it was something I was born to do and will continue doing until I die.
Shaun Slifer - Fine Arts - 2004
Why did you choose Watkins? It was close to home (Memphis)and I could afford to go there, had a friend there from high school who was enjoying it. Turned out to be a good call.
How did your education here prepare you for your career?
I learned a good combination of discipline and craftsmanship, but most importantly my teachers changed the way I thought about art by being fully engaged with what I was doing and encouraging me to follow the ideas I dreamed up, guiding me to make them better. Much of that has stuck with me and I’m still in touch with many of the instructors.
What are you doing now? I am a working artist in Pittsburgh, holding down several part-time jobs and a full time vegetable garden. I am employed as an Artist Educator at the Andy Warhol Museum, I am integrally involved in several artist collectives, and I regularly produce and exhibit work in whatever media I can get my hands on.
What did you like best about being a student here? The instructors, the encouragement. The lake was nice too, especially when we had that canoe.
What was your favorite project that you worked on here? That’s impossible to answer, come on! I had a blast on my thesis project though…
Why did you choose your particular field as a career? It dawned on me late in high school that I was never going to make it as a marine biologist. Best to recognize your strong points and make clean moves where possible, follow your gut, and no walking under the eaves when it’s raining.
Lee Gilmore - Film - 2001
Why did you choose Watkins? I chose to go the Watkins because of it’s location and it’s affordability. I wanted to stay in the South during college and Watkins was my first choice. It had a good film program as well as other fine art classes I could take on the side.
How did your education here prepare you for your career? Watkins gave me a really great overall knowledge of the film making process, from all aspects of production down to the theory behind it. The school gave me the chance to figure out what areas of film I enjoyed the most and then provided the resources necessary for me to delve further in and get my hands dirty.
What are you doing now? I spent the last two years working as a sound effects editor in TV, working mainly on Law & Order:SVU and House. After working as an assistant sound editor on Live Free or Die Hard last year I decided I enjoyed working on features more and recently made the switch. I’m currently a sound effects editor on The Ugly Truth and then move on to Underworld3 and Terminator Salvation this fall.
What did you like best about being a student here? I liked having smaller classes which allowed the faculty to have a more hands on approach in their teaching. I enjoyed all the editions classes and film history was a blast.
What was your favorite project that you worked on here? We had a project in my sound design class where we had to recut the entire sound for a movie trailer of our choosing. It was my first real taste of sound editing and creating a believable world from literally nothing. I was hooked after the first day.
Why did you choose your particular field as a career? I love how subliminal and manipulative sound can be. It allows for as much creativity as you can muster. It’s one of the most under-appreciated parts of film, but also one of the most powerful. Picture tells the story. Music makes you feel it. But sound makes you believe it.
Katie Bean de Souza - Graphic Design - 2005
Why did you choose Watkins? I already had a bachelor’s degree when I decided to go back to school for a degree in graphic design and I wanted a school where I could really focus on my studies. Watkins seemed like the perfect school for what I needed.
How did your education here prepare you for your career? At Watkins I was able to focus on graphic design.
Whatare you doing now? I am working as an art director at redpepper, a Nashville-based advertising agency.
What was your favorite project that you worked on here? The Belly Dancing Festival Poster. The assignment was to create a poster for an unusual festival using only type (no photos and no illustrations). So, I created the shape of a belly dancer with type that read “More hip shaken’ than a roomful of Elvis impersonators”. It was a fun project. And it won a silver ADDY at the National level which just happened to be in Nashville that year. My boss at redpepper took my husband and me to the event in a limo to celebrate my big win and we had an awesome time.
Why did you choose your particular field as a career? As I mentioned before, I had already gotten a Bachelors degree in Journalism and Advertising. I worked at an advertising agency, as the production and traffic manager and saw what the graphic designers did - day in and day out. I knew that with the proper education and training that I could do that - and could be damn good at it too.