“Insomnia,” the 2023 senior exhibition, ensured that visitors were wide awake and engaged as they explored students’ projects and learned about what inspired them. It was a meaningful way for students to share what was, for many, the culmination of their hard work as Chargers.
June 1, 2023
When Jacey Ferraro ’23 recently visited Europe for the first time, she found culture, adventure, and a sense of wonder. Moved to share her experience with others, she was inspired to create a children’s book, which also became the focus of her project that was recently featured in an art exhibition on campus.
Ferraro describes the book’s character as a “small, spiffy frog” named Ribberto. His experience in the book, titled “Ribberto Finds Adventure,” parallels Ferraro’s own. Like Ferraro, who grew up in a small town, Ribberto lived in a tiny bog for his entire life. The story details his exploration of Paris and the excitement he uncovered as he made new friends and discovered what a new culture had to offer.
“I knew I wanted to bring the amazement I felt into the book and to illustrate it in a way that readers could feel like they too were there experiencing Paris for the first time,” said Ferraro, a new graduate of the University’s graphic design program. “The story teaches readers that the world is vast and amazing. Despite the differences in cultures and experiences, in many ways, we are all the same. Ribberto’s story also encourages kids to know that what makes you different or unique is what makes you special.”
‘Work with any kinds of ideas’
As part of her project, Ferraro also created supplemental marketing for the book, including merchandise. Her work was part of “Insomnia,” the 2023 senior exhibition that was on display in the University’s Seton Gallery. Ferraro also created the overall gallery theme and design.
The exhibition included a variety of projects that explored myriad important themes, from color psychology to sustainability and furniture. Projects also used different media to bring their work to life. The students’ thesis statements were displayed along with their work, explaining their inspiration and creative process.
Alexander Feyerabend ’24 illustrated Frankenstein using collage. His project brought together Mary Shelley’s famous nineteenth century novel and a more modern form of art. It was a celebration, of sorts, of how much illustration has changed over the past few centuries.
“I wanted to use collage as a way to speak to that legacy of illustration,” explains Feyerabend, an art major. “I also think it’s a thematically fitting way to illustrate the book, despite the fact that Frankenstein was published a hundred years before anyone was thinking about it.”
For Feyerabend, the project wasn’t just an opportunity to tap into his creativity. It also enabled him to develop some very practical skills, including adaptability. While he originally began his project by creating physical collages, about halfway through, he transitioned to using Photoshop and Illustrator. He says it was a terrific learning opportunity that enabled him to connect and apply what he’s learned in the classroom.
“The fact that I’ve taken a lot of classes in a lot of different subjects has helped me to be able to work with any kinds of ideas I have,” he said. “Just for this project, I painted, used Illustrator, took photos, and built my own gallery installation. I’ve also done 3D modeling, animation, laser cutting, and sculpture, all of which I enjoyed. I feel like I’ll be able to apply those skills to a job in the future.”
‘The lesson of elevating your art’
For Nichole Licata ’23, working on her project and being a part of the exhibition were meaningful ways to showcase her hard work and talent. She created a series of illustrations – all in her own unique style – depicting the animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. While exploring Chinese myths and traditions, she also navigated her “feelings of cultural imposter syndrome.
“Throughout my entire life, I have felt a stronger connection to the culture that surrounded me instead of the one where I am from biologically,” explains Licata, a new illustration grad. “I am so glad to have been able to be a part of this show because it is the culmination of all my hard work at the University of New Haven. It’s the physical manifestation of everything I have learned and problem-solved along the way. It was a great experience to share a space with all of my peers and to celebrate our projects together.”
For Ferraro, the new graphic design grad, the experience was especially rewarding. She said it opened her eyes to the magnitude of the impact of children’s media on their learning and understanding of the world. As she embarks on her own new adventures after graduation, Ferraro says her story’s main character Ribberto will continue his adventures as well. She plans to turn her book into a series, telling Ribberto’s stories as he travels the world and continues to bring an appreciation of new people and places to her young readers.
“My art and graphic design classes have encouraged me to find ways that my art can influence viewers, whether that is by making them laugh or by making them think,” she said. “The lesson of elevating your art to be more than an object and to turn it into an experience has set me up to make work that is both successful and meaningful.”