Engaging with high school students as they prepare to apply to college requires a certain type of person — one who is up-to-date on trends, has a friendly and welcoming demeanor and can relate to students on a personal level.
As an artist and recruiting coordinator at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, U-M alumna Juliana Lew says working with prospective U-M students to determine their dreams helps fulfill her own, as their conversations inspire the pieces she creates. Lew creates wearable artwork and fine-art pieces.
She started making small accessories, most of which were jewelry, before coming to college as an undergraduate, and currently focuses on the themes she finds most important: feminism and color.
“I was brought up in a very religious household, and my family had come from very disparate nationalities and backgrounds,” Lew says. “All of my grandparents were first-generation immigrants to North America, so I draw a lot of inspiration from historical and religious artifacts. I use those as a jumping off point to be a conversation about what is going on now.”
One of her most recent works of art is a stained-glass, laser-cut altar piece that lights up to display a colorful uterus. Each of her pieces of art integrate her two themes in varying ways.
Previously, Lew created two paintings that combined naval flags and historic quilt blocks, each with intrinsic meanings, to tell the story of relationship devolution. Designed on reclaimed wood, the flags spell out her personal journey, and touch on religion and her own history navigating a toxic relationship and divorce.
She also created a series of jewelry from hardware store materials, such as necklaces and bracelets, that centered on color and finding new uses for nontraditional items.
By participating in the art and design world in her own ways, Lew works to ensure that the conversations she has with students are authentic and relatable.
“My favorite part of my work in recruiting students is meeting high school art and design students who have something that they want to say and are looking for the next vehicle to get there to say it,” Lew says.
“When I meet with a student who gets excited about their future, they inspire me as much as I hope I inspire them through conversation. That’s where I draw a lot of my creative strength, through the voices of those students who have so much that they want to share with us.”
“At the most recent Stamps senior show, I had a collaborative moment and idea with a student’s piece there that helped me figure out how to solve a problem on the current piece I was making at the time,” Lew says.
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She cites how her shared passion between her and prospective students for creative expression is among her favorite aspects of work.
While she is no expert in physics or string theory, she says she believes that everyone a person meets has a story to tell and that it is in human nature for those stories to be shared.
“Sometimes we can share in words, and sometimes we have to use other means. Our strings are all vibrating on this frequency that we’re trying to connect with.” Lew says.
“My creative work, while it is inherently introspective, as most creative work is, is meant to invoke my ideals and thought processes to be seeded into other people’s minds, and for them to take from it what they will and do what they want to do with it. So, it’s all connected, we’re all connected.”