Seniors share personal stories at art show

By William Dutton   Sterling, KS – April 27, 2018 2:36P.M.

Daniel Swartz, department chair of Art and Design at Sterling College was pleased with what his four seniors displayed at their senior art show Thursday, April 26.

He noted, “Each group of graduating seniors is unique in their chosen mediums/methods, messages and personalities. It is always exciting to see them mature artistically from their freshman year through to this final project. All of them have grown in significant ways, and I think have found their unique, authentic voice for this season of life. I’m eager to see what they all do next.”

The show was advertised around campus as “Homeland.”

One of the four seniors, Astrid Moncada from Patterson, California shared why the title was chosen for their senior show, “The posters are called “Homeland” because all the seniors in the show come from different places and with that are displaying art that is very unique from each other.”

Astrid's Art.jpg
Astrid Moncada’s paintings. Photo by William Dutton

Moncada, a staple on Sterling’s ministry teams the last few years has always been intentional about building strong relationships within her family back home. Her senior project then, naturally included people.

She stated, “My senior exhibit includes three paintings that are portraits of my grandmother, grandfather and mother. I really enjoyed being able to tell a story about the different personalities that my family members are known for.”

Fellow senior and California native Brandon Peterson has usually been seen with a camera in his hands while at Sterling. For his final project however, he decided he wanted to add another element.

Peterson commented, “My senior art show is a collection of photo collages that tell the story of Christ’s love for the church, and how that love is mirrored in marriage and family. In this project I’ve mixed photography, which I’m so familiar with, and collage, which is a brand-new medium for me. It has been really enjoyable to see how these two art forms work together, and to stretch myself as a well-rounded artist.”

Olivia Dunning, yet another west coast student has always loved to travel. She brought that experience into her final project at Sterling.

Dunning stated, “I am doing a series based on National Parks and other beautiful landscapes on the American west coast. I love to travel and explore nature, so I really enjoyed getting to bring that experience into my art.”

Peterson’s male counterpart in the department is Jose Chavez. Chavez ventured away from the type of art most people think of and came up with combing graphic design and a passion of his together.

He shared, “I made a soccer magazine. It is based on the amateur soccer scene in the state of Colorado. What I enjoyed the most was getting to travel from city to city and learn more about the new leagues and teams. Also, the fact that I was mixing two of my favorite passions made it more fun.”

Anyone who attended the show may have been in awe of the final product they saw. The seniors, however, had to withstand multiple challenges along the road to get ready for the show day.

Peterson noted the end of the year busyness was tough to handle at times.

Brandon Talking
Brandon Peterson showing his photography collage. Photo by Micah Black

He said, “The most challenging part of putting together my senior art show was definitely the time constraint. My collection consists of around 30 individual pieces that all are meant to function individually but also as a part of a bigger picture. Pulling this off in three months, while still enrolled in other classes, was truly one of the most difficult projects I’ve ever tackled.”


That’s a big statement coming from a guy who has taken countless photography sessions for weddings, senior pictures and other events over the past few years.

Dunning’s obstacle was different from Peterson. She sets the bar high for herself in most situations, and had a tough time feeling done as her final project wounded down.

She shared, “I am my harshest critic so coming to a stopping point is always the hardest part of any piece. I constantly see myself improving and sometimes I just have to relax and call a piece done.”

Jose Chavez explaining the soccer magazine he designed. Photo by Micah Black

Being a harsh critic is tough but traveling over a break from school and work can sometimes may seem tougher, but for Jose Chavez it seemed important to complete his project.

Chavez explained, “Getting interviews and photographs for the magazine was very hard. Colorado is quite far away and getting these things was not easy. I had to use my spring break to do all of that, and I ended up working during my break.”

Moncada shared a similar state of mind as Dunning as the process wound down.

Moncada said, “The most challenging part about my art pieces was knowing when it felt done. There was always something to fix or enhance in my portrait paintings. I also think the hardest part was not being afraid to paint something different. For example, my backgrounds changed a lot and I got comfortable painting with bright vibrant colors.”

Being Seniors these four have thought a great deal about the near future. All of them want to pursue art in their own unique way.

Moncada mentioned, “I will continue art by actually going to grad school in the future to study art therapy for children. I plan to have a graphic design job during this time as I pursue my education in art therapy and counseling. However, I will also make sure to strengthen all aspects of my artistic side such as music. I hope to also do mission work and use art as a means to share the gospel.”

For Dunning and Chavez using their graphic design skills seems to be an emphasis and desire of theirs for the future.

Dunning stated proudly, “I will definitely be continuing in art after I graduate. I will be working a job where I get to use my graphic design skills, and I will also be putting together an illustration portfolio with the goal of illustrating children’s book one day.”

Jose's Art
Jose Chavez’s graphic design display. Photo By William Dutton

Chavez, on the other hand, wants to use graphic design for his career choice.


He said, “I do want to continue, but mostly in graphic design areas and photography. I guess this has become part of me, and I want to continue doing it for as long as God lets me do it. To be able to find a job as a graphic designer and keep moving up the ladder and hopefully one day work for big design firms would be my goal.”

And for Peterson it seems to be a no brainer to stay with art.

He commented, “I absolutely want to keep pursuing art! I love traveling around the country to photograph weddings and connecting with people on that personal level. I hope to reach a point where I can actively do freelance photography full-time.”

With four seniors graduating in a department that’s not huge, what do they see for the future here after they graduate?

“I can definitely see that this art department will grow. We have so many gifted students who are pursuing art with a Christian-based faith and that for me is impactful! This department will keep preparing artists who will change the world around them by how they create,” Moncada declared.

Peterson echoed the same sentiments saying, “The future of the art department is bright. There are some freshmen and sophomores right now who are really talented. I know those students’ work will only improve in the next few years, and I’m excited to come back and see more senior exhibitions in the years to come!”

Chavez believes the department helps get students ready for the future.

He said, “I hope the department expands. This program does a good job to prepare students for a competitive world, and hopefully more students sign up to be art majors. But if more students come in, the building will need to expand too, and I hope that happens.”

Not only do these students see future success for the younger artists, they are leaving with thankful hearts filled with gratitude toward the people that got them where they are today.

Olivia Dunning at the art show. Photo by Micah Black

Dunning said, “Sterling offered me the opportunity to stretch myself as an artist. I got to try things I would never have thought to try before and gain experience with many tools and art styles that helped expand my ability as an artist.”




Chavez credited professors for his new skills.

“Having professors that care for your growth and success is what stands out the most. Also, learning more about artistic aspects in graphic design. I came to appreciate certain elements even more, like typography and the use of white space.”

Peterson had hills and valleys during his Sterling career, but he enjoyed the consistency he saw in people.

“My time in the Sterling College Art & Design program has been high and low, challenging and frustrating, but one consistent factor has been the intentionality of my professors. Every year, they have shown me that they not only care about my growth as an artist, but as a Christian,” he noted.

Professors are also something that Moncada has really internalized during her time at Sterling.

Astrid Moncada telling the stories behind her paintings. Photo by Micah Black


“Something that stands out about my art education at SC is the fact that I have professors that push you to create outside your comfort zone. I am grateful that they challenge you to try new things in order to see you grow as an artist. However, what stands out the most is that I have professors that encourage and reflect a Christian lifestyle to their students in the class setting,” she said.


Professor Swartz talked about this specific senior class and said, “I think every graduating class has set the tone in some way. Each senior show has a way of helping expand the possibilities for the classes after them. I think it helps younger classes dream bigger by opening up new avenues.”

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