Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is pleased to announce illustration student Ashley Bryant as the valedictorian of the college’s 2017 graduating class. Bryant, a 2013 graduate of Grand Haven High School in Grand Haven, Michigan will speak during KCAD’s commencement on Saturday, May 6.
“Ashely is an exemplary student and a talented artist who will undoubtedly go on to accomplish a great deal more in the years to come,” KCAD president Leslie Bellavance said. “KCAD is proud to name her as our 2017 Valedictorian.”
Bryant has also been announced as the illustration program’s 2017 Excellence Award winner. Each year, those graduating students who exhibit a rare level of mastery and accomplishment in their chosen field receive this honor, the epitome of KCAD student achievement.
“Having earned the honor of being not only the Illustration Excellence Award Winner for 2017, but also the valedictorian of her graduating class, Ashley has proved without a doubt that she is brilliant and talented,” professor and illustration program chair Jon McDonald said. “She has a mature, dedicated work ethic that shows through in the work she has produced. This will serve her well as she continues her career in art.”
Bryant says it was the early encouragement from her parents and teachers that ultimately led her down a creative path.
“I think that even at a young age, my parents noticed that I had an affinity for art. Their recognition, and that of my teachers, encouraged me to pursue creative work throughout high school, and ultimately, as a career, Bryant said”
After making the decision to attend KCAD, Bryant found a home in the college’s bustling creative community.
“It wasn’t until I first toured the KCAD campus that I realized how advantageous a creative community could really be. The art on the walls and the conversations with professors left me really excited about my future,” she said. “KCAD offered opportunities that I had never even considered before.”
In the illustration program, Bryant succeeded not only in the classroom, but outside of it as well. In 2015, she was featured in the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Exhibition held at the Museum of American Illustration Galleries in New York City. In 2016, she was an award winner in the Michigan Fine Arts Competition, a juried competition that solicits over 500 entries annually from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. She also had her work published in Creative Quarterly, a prestigious international journal that features juried work by artists and designers from around the world.
As an illustrator, Bryant believes in versatility. Through her career at KCAD, she’s focused on building a diverse skill set that will enable her to succeed in a wide variety of professional settings.
“I love all mediums of illustration indiscriminately and I enjoy illustrating at different levels of complexity. My work runs the gamut from hyperrealism to graphic design, and everything in-between,” Bryant said. “I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about being an illustrator is the notion that you have to have one definitive style. I personally don’t believe in limiting myself to a single look. Instead, I am focusing on creating ranges of illustrations that are targeted at specific markets, each with a very specific style in mind.”
Upon graduating, Bryant plans to continue on in her current position as a graphic designer at Design Design Inc., a Grand Rapids-based designer and manufacturer of greeting cards, paper tableware, gift packaging and stationery gifts. As for the future, she’s considering pursuing a career as an art director, and hopes to land more freelance opportunities as well as opportunities to license her artwork for commercial use. Ultimately though, she says she’s ready for anything.
“While I’m not really sure where I’ll end up, I know that I will make the most out of any opportunity that comes my way,” Bryant said.
“During her time as a KCAD student, Ashley has already made impressive strides forward in her professional career. We know she will go on to accomplish a great deal more, and we look forward to celebrating her success as a KCAD alumna,” said interim dean of the college Ron Riksen.
You can learn more about Ashely Bryant and see further examples of her work at ashleyillustrations.com.
Work from Bryant and the rest of KCAD’s 2017 graduating class will be featured in a series of exhibitions beginning Tuesday, May 2. The Excellence Awards Exhibition (May 2-18), hosted in The Fed Galleries at KCAD inside the college’s Woodbridge N. Ferris building (17 Pearl St. NW), will showcase work from the 16 graduating seniors who have been named Excellence Award winners for 2017.
The Fed Galleries will also be hosting the Masters Thesis Exhibition (May 2-18), spotlighting the fully developed work of the 12 students who have completed their graduate studies.
The Annual Student Exhibition (May 2-6), featuring work from each of the college’s programs, will encompass all floors of the college’s 17 Fountain St. NW and Woodbridge N. Ferris buildings.
All exhibitions are free and open to the public. For more information, visit kcad.edu/galleries.
KCAD’s commencement will be held on Saturday, May 6 at Fountain Street Church. Tickets are required.
Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is committed to creating lasting impact in West Michigan and beyond through collaborative partnerships, cultural innovation, and an educational model that prepares students for leadership in the visual arts, design, art history, and art education; provides innovative, collaborative education that fosters intellectual growth and individual creativity; and promotes the ethical and civic responsibilities of artists and designers, locally and globally. For more information, please visit kcad.edu.
Ferris State University is an equal opportunity institution. For information on the University’s Policy on Non-Discrimination, visit ferris.edu/non-discrimination.