Drawn to a Highly Ranked Program: Grad Student’s Art Inspired by Digital Culture

 

Master of Fine Arts student Dana Potter grew up working beside her mother, a ceramic artist, in an arts center in her small Iowa hometown of Okoboji.

“I saw her bringing people together and creating a sense of community through art,” said Potter, who will be attending UT’s highly ranked printmaking program as part of the first class of recipients of UT’s new Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence, a premier fellowship program designed to help recruit the nation’s best graduate students.

Potter earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking from the University of Northern Iowa in 2015. Her minor was in interactive digital studies, which looks at how digital technology shapes modern culture.

Her passion has been creating artwork that illustrates how the digital culture, including our pervasive use of cell phones and computers, affects our everyday lives. Her work has received accolades from the SGC, a leading organization for artists engaged in printmaking, drawing, and graphic media.

For her senior thesis, Potter created artwork by tracing her computer mouse movements while using various computer applications. She cut plywood shapes visualizing those mouse movements and made prints using the cutouts.

The next spring, Potter received a SGC International Undergraduate Fellowship and was awarded $500 to create original artwork for the 2017 SGC International conference.

She took a printmaking internship at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis and used the center’s facilities to create screen prints depicting tracings of social media advertisements.

“Digital advertisers track consumer behavior and use it for targeted advertising,” she said. “My art was a reflection of how my identity—a young female with interests in travel and clothing—has become a conversation with advertisers.”

Her work was displayed at the Hudgens Center for Art and Learning in Atlanta during the SGC International Conference this past spring.

Potter knew UT’s graduate printmaking program, currently ranked No. 2 in the country, was where she wanted to continue her studies.

She had gotten familiar with the university during her senior year when she accompanied some of her faculty members—including Tim Dooley, a UT School of Art printmaking alumnus—to UT to present a project at the 2015 SGC International conference.

“Because I want to continue working in the field of printmaking and become a leader in my area, I need an MFA,” she said. “UT’s program gives me three years to better develop my work.”

Potter loves what UT has to offer.

“It’s a really green, environmentally friendly studio,” she said. Graduate students have their own studio to use. And she’s working with faculty members who are well known in the field—Professor Beauvais Lyons, Associate Professor Althea Murphy-Price, and Associate Professor Koichi Yamamoto.

Lyons said the School of Art is pleased to have recruited Potter to its ranks.

“As an SGC fellowship recipient, Dana was singled out as one of the most promising undergraduates in our profession,” he said.

Potter said the Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence, which will provide her with $10,000 a year for her graduate studies, will give her the freedom to devote herself full time to her artwork and studies.

“The fellowship is an honor that carries a lot of responsibility,” she said.

“I won’t take it lightly. I plan to create a lot of work and do whatever the program needs me to—making a name for myself and creating good work,” she said. “I want to become a leader in the print field . . . being in a high-up position in a printmaking studio, owning my own studio, or being a professor at a university.”