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Art for conservation: MIAD junior illustrates children’s book

As a high school student in Alabama, Ella Parris ’25 (Illustration – Animation Track) got involved with the National Association of Resource Conservation & Development Councils (NARCDC). Now, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) junior is illustrating a series of children’s books for the organization to help promote conservation to kids.

A group of five diverse kids interacting with nature.

Parris is an intern with NARCDC through a program for professionals without a background in conservation to explore the Resource Conservation and Development fields. “Though I don’t have a traditional conservation career and the conservation knowledge of many in the field, I have been working to provide my skills in order to promote conservation through the NARCDC and help them with logos, branding, ad material and educational material in the form of our children’s book series, ‘Out and About with Sprout,’ currently in development!” she explains.

One impactful experience in high school synthesized Parris’ passion for conservation and skills in illustration. In Florala, Alabama. NARCDC members revitalized a classroom and greenhouse at a local Headstart pre-school. “Being able to be hands-on with a project was very fulfilling and gave me a real appreciation for those working in community conservation,” says Parris. It was also her first shot at designing work for the organization. “The greenhouse reopening for the Headstart needed some promotional material, and the organizers felt like the clip art they were using didn’t reflect the diverse community that the Headstart would be representing,” she explains. “I offered my services as an illustrator to help create a cast of kids that would better represent the greater community.”

Using art to promote conservation is a focus of Parris’ new book series, “Out and About with Sprout.” The concept was developed by NARCDC interns. “We worked out the concept of a small plant character named Sprout who helps young readers learn about how to help and conserve the environment around them, while also teaching about conservation careers and those who work within their community to help upkeep the world around them,” explains Parris.

“The idea of having my work published is very intimidating,” says Parris, “but really exciting to see what future opportunities it may create!” Although the idea of a career focused on children’s book illustration is intriguing to Parris, her main focus at MIAD is animation. “Maybe Sprout could have an animated installment in the future,” she suggests.

In her three years so far at MIAD, Parris has seen growth as an artist and creator. “I’m originally from Headland, Alabama, a small town in the southeast of the state. I didn’t have many opportunities for art education back home or in school growing up, so the shift from pretty much no art curriculum to going to school for illustration was a big jump,” she explains. “MIAD has given me so many opportunities to not only improve my technical skills in illustration but also my ideation processes. It’s given me a real passion for conceptual art and storytelling that has surely helped with the process of creating a children’s book.”

Parris also emphasizes the community aspect of her MIAD education. “I’ve … made connections with so many extraordinary peers and amazing friends that I now have to bounce all of my ideas off of, which has truly been one of the most valuable things I’ve gained from coming to MIAD. It was a big risk, but I’d say that it has already been so worth it.”

Keep up with Ella and learn more about MIAD’s Animation track!

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