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How a medical condition is inspiring a MIAD Fine Arts senior thesis project

Malia Spellman NSP

Malia Spellman ’19 (New Studio Practice: Fine Arts)

MILWAUKEE (April 22, 2019) … For MIAD senior Malia Spellman, the process of making art is not just about creativity. It’s also about learning to accept how forces beyond her control affect her physical ability to create work.

“I have a muscular disease and have struggled making things with my hands,” she said. “The weather has always affected the process of making. It’s harder in cold weather. I’ve had to balance that with being able to work and push myself to keep making.”

Malia is majoring in New Studio Practice: Fine Arts and has a minor in Arts Management.

For her MIAD Senior Exhibition project, she has created an immersive environment – a large-scale installation using fabric, videos and projection – that allows the viewer to interact with the space.

For this installation, Malia has used resources in the college’s Textiles Lab and Printmaking Lab to dye fabric using natural dyes, the 3D Lab to build a wooden structure, the lighting studio in the Photography Lab and computer labs for video editing.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that my struggle with my muscular disease will always be present in my work, whether or not I want it to,” Malia said. “In my thesis exhibit, I want the viewer to slow down and appreciate the process, the gestures and actions of the fabric dying and the experience.”

Gaining professional experience through service learning, arts management minor and internships

Throughout her experience at MIAD, Malia has overcome the challenges of her medical condition to excel. During her junior year at MIAD, she volunteered at Express Yourself Milwaukee, where she discovered a desire to work for a nonprofit upon graduation.

She enrolled in the college’s new Arts Management minor to gain additional experience to achieve her career goal. “The Arts Management minor has framed how many opportunities there are after college. It’s versatile and relates to any other arts management position in visual or performing arts organizations.”

Malia also has had two internships: one at the Freeport Art Museum in her hometown of Freeport, Ill., where she photographed collections and helped with the local Boys & Girls Club art projects, and one last summer with Sculpture Milwaukee.

Malia plans to stay in Milwaukee upon graduation.

View the 2019 MIAD Senior Exhibition

The MIAD Senior Exhibition is on view April 19 – May 11, 2019. Admission is free; open to the public. MIAD’s Galleries are open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The MIAD Senior Exhibition Opening Reception is Friday, April 26, 5 – 9 p.m. The MIAD Senior Exhibition is generously sponsored by BMO Harris Bank.


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