All posts by A&D

Graduate Profile: Juan Pilar Baldera Jr.

lsu graphic design alumniGraphic design senior Juan Pilar Baldera has always had a passion for painting and drawing. Before attending LSU, Juan was a salesman, a profession he couldn’t see as his lifelong career.

Juan lived in Austin for 15 years before he moved to North Carolina with his wife so she could attend graduate school at Duke University. Juan’s wife was creating a professional network through her graduate studies, and that inspired him to do the same thing. He sought a career with plenty of room for creativity that would allow for him to provide for his family.

Juan has been very active at LSU. He worked for the Graphic Design Student Office, which provides professional design services for local community organizations and university departments. GDSO gives students the opportunity to gain valuable, real-world experience while building their professional portfolios. Juan explained that in class, students learn the artistic side of graphic design, but through GDSO, they learn how to work with clients who hold them responsible for their artistic visions.

Work from Juan’s Portfolio:


As an active student and scholarship recipient, Juan has also served as an ambassador for the graphic design program at LSU by assisting at recruiting events and leading tours at the School of Art. Juan was also selected as the student speaker at the May 2015 LSU College of Art & Design Commencement Ceremony, and his work was on display in the senior graphic design exhibition, Keep Unfolding, May 11–15, 2015, in the Design Building Commons (room 102).


After graduation, Juan and his family moved back to Austin. “Austin has a really great network for graphic designers and is a city that supports the arts,” Juan said.

LSU Ceramic Students Receive Recognition and Accolades

There are several reasons to celebrate MFA ceramics students!

Naomi Clement won the Kiln God Scholarship from the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Maine. Naomi is also an invited artist for a short-term residency at Watershed. Naomi studied with Walter Ostrom in the ceramics department at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD), where she graduated with a BFA and a minor in art history in 2003. In the years since graduation she pursued her craft in many different ways: working as an apprentice to studio potter Joan Bruneau of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; as the ceramics technician during NSCAD’s summer session; as a contributor to the book Utopic Impulses: Contemporary Ceramic Practices; selling and promoting her work at various craft shows and sales; and as an active member of the Woodlawn Pottery Studio in Toronto, Ontario. She is currently pursuing her MFA in ceramics here at LSU.

Graduate student Jenni Lombardi was recently featured in a three-person show titled The Recital of Flesh: Transcending Time and Transmutation at Missouri State University. Jenni grew up in Montville, New Jersey. She graduated from Paterson University of New Jersey in 2011 with a BFA in Studio Art. Although she began her undergraduate study with a concentration in painting, Jenni found through artistic discovery that she had an affinity for ceramic clay and could execute her ideas and style more successfully in the three-dimensional world.

Graduate student Mike Stumbras exhibited his work at the 2015 National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference. He currently has work in the Off the Table! and Twin Cups! shows at Missouri Western State University and the 9th Annual Yunomi Invitational Show at the AKAR Gallery in Iowa City. Mike grew up in Chicago, where he developed an interest in ceramic art. He has had residencies in Chicago, Kansas City, New York, and Colorado.

First-year graduate student Bri Ozanne was awarded a technical assistantship from the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine. Bri will assist figure artist Tip Toland, a fall 2014 visiting artist in the ceramics area at LSU, during a two-week workshop. Bri also won first place in the LSU Student Art Competition, which was on exhibit at the LSU Student Union Art Gallery this spring.

View more information about the MFA in ceramics at LSU.

LSU Ranked 14th Best Public University Animation Program in U.S.

lsu animation career review ranks digital artAnimation Career Review named LSU’s animation program the 14th best public university or college animation program in the nation! LSU was also ranked as the ninth best animation program in the South, across all Southern public and private institutions. Animation Career Review is the source for aspiring animation, design, and gaming professionals seeking information on training programs, schools, and colleges.

“We have created an environment that fosters collaboration with students, researchers, and industry,” said Derick Ostrenko, assistant professor of digital art at LSU. “Educating our own visual artists is vital to continue growing the digital media industry in Louisiana.”

LSU is home to several programs for aspiring animators. The LSU School of Art offers a BFA and MFA in studio art with a concentration in digital art. The program fosters creative insight and theoretical grounding in addition to practical expertise. Students refine their skills in classes that provide an integrated understanding of animation, visual effects, 3D modeling, and interactive systems. LSU pulls instructors from the wide range of Louisiana digital media companies. These companies also offer internship opportunities for LSU students, keeping students and faculty current in trends, practices, and professional workflows.

For example, senior digital art student Madeline Kornman interned at Incendii VFX, LLC, in New Orleans, where she had the opportunity to shadow her boss on such projects ad NCIS: New Orleans and Transformers: Age of Extinction. She also got to work on the Academy Award winning film Selma and a music video for German musician Curse entitled, “Tatooine.” Madeline said her internship allowed her to meet other professionals in the field who gave her advice about her work. She said she wouldn’t have landed a new job at 3rd Dimension Media in Baton Rouge, which she’ll begin after she graduates this May, without the experience she gained working at Incendii.

The new Master in Digital Media Arts & Engineering at LSU will play an important role in the digital ecosystem at LSU and within the Baton Rouge community. An interdisciplinary program of the College of Art & Design and the College of Engineering, DMAE is an intensive, two-year master’s degree that employs a practice-driven approach to produce polished outcomes designed to meet industry needs. The courses explore cutting-edge developments in video games, interactive design, visual effects, and animation.

The DMAE program is housed within the LSU Center for Computation & Technology located on LSU’s campus in the new Digital Media Center, a state-of-the-art, $29.3 million facility that is shared with Electronic Art’s North American Test Center. Students work with a diverse group of digital artists, programmers, musicians, and researchers who help them develop their ideas into the future of media. Visit for more information about the program.

LSU’s Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research (AVATAR) hiring initiative established a university-wide faculty focus on the intersections among art, technology, and computation, creating new research areas in virtual environments, digital art, electroacoustic music, animation, video game design, scientific visualization, and more. Many digital art students at LSU pursue a minor in digital media, which allows them to take classes in video game design, electronic music, and interactive graphics.

Students interested in expanding their studies beyond digital art and animation may consider LSU’s BA in theater with a film and television concentration, as well. LSU students also benefit from a strong film and media arts program, which offers courses in screenwriting, film theory, and video production.

Also of note, LSU was chosen to host NIME15, the New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference, May 31—June 3, 2015, following the Red Stick International Festival. NIME is the premier conference in designing human-computer interfaces and interactions for musical performance. NIME gathers researchers and practitioners from around the world to lecture, exhibit, create installations, perform concerts, and lead workshops. Installations will be on view in exhibits at LSU School of Art galleries May 31 – June 28, 2015. Stay up to date on NIME workshops, lectures, and events at

Visit for more information and to view a complete list of rankings.

2015 Tiger Athletic Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Awards

lsu 2015 tag teaching awards

Four LSU College of Art & Design faculty will be recognized at this year’s annual LSU Distinguished Faculty Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 5, from 3-5 p.m., at the Lod Cook Alumni Center. Each will receive $1,000 for being selected by their college or school as outstanding teachers.

Congratulations to these LSU College of Art & Design faculty members!


Landscape Architecture Senior Erin Percevault Selected to Tiger Twelve Class of 2015!

lsu landscape student erin percevault receives olmsted scholarship

Senior landscape architecture student Erin Percevault has been selected to the Tiger Twelve Class of 2015. Students selected to the Tiger Twelve hold themselves to the “highest standards of academic, personal, and social integrity; practice justice, equality, and compassion in human relations;” and “respect the dignity of all persons and accept individual differences.” To be eligible for Tiger Twelve, a student must demonstrate through scholarship, actions, and contributions, the principles presented in the LSU Commitment to Community.

Erin will receive a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture with honors from the LSU College of Art & Design and the LSU Honors College this May. She has been selected for membership in Tau Sigma Delta and has been named a Distinguished Communicator by the LSU Communications across the Curriculum program for demonstrating exceptional communication skills as well as a commitment to community service, excellence in her field of study, and superior leadership skills. She is a 2014 National Olmsted Scholar, one of the highest recognitions American landscape architecture undergraduates can receive.

Throughout her senior year, Erin served as the president of the LSU student chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects. Serving as a liaison between students, ASLA, and practicing professionals, the student organization provides its members contacts with other students, schools, and professionals locally and nationwide; gives them access to valuable literature, information, and job opportunities; encourages community service; and, in general, prepares students for their professional careers. Erin’s involvement in ASLA has included organizing a swamp restoration in Baton Rouge; attending ASLA National Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., and participating in several community projects, such as Better Blocks BR.

As an upcoming graduate of the LSU Honors College, Erin presented her Honors Thesis research, “The Successional Grid,” at the ninth annual Ogden Honors Undergraduate Research Colloquium. Her thesis investigates the potential of alternative energy production in Texas in order to improve the economic and environmental security of the historically oil-driven state.


“This research moves from identifying the flow of goods and energy to the United States to articulating current environmental, political, and social conditions required for different energy production on the regional scale to the spatial implications of technologies at the site scale,” Erin explained.

After identifying major issues, the project will proceed to engineer successional systems that can be implemented at varying scales.

“As localized forms of energy become increasingly desirable, landscape architects’ artistic sensibilities, ability to work across multiple scales and disciplines, and experience in restoration and reclamation of work can engage the energy sector and the public in experimental operative strategies for future investment,” added Erin.

“As her Honor’s Thesis advisor, I can attest to Erin’s dedication to our program, enthusiasm for the discipline, and commitment to advanced scholarship,” said Assistant Professor Forbes Lipschitz. “Her thesis work presents a fresh understanding of the role of energy in shaping landscape systems. As she graduates this spring and enters the workforce, I am confident that her unique perspective will be an asset to the profession.”

Erin will be recognized, along with the other 11 students named to the Tiger Twelve Class of 2015, at a reception on April 25 at 3 p.m. in the rotunda of the LSU Business Education Complex.

Maria Muñoz Named Winner of 2015 Olmsted Scholars Program

leu landscape architecture studentThe Landscape Architecture Foundation has announced that fourth-year LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture (RRSLA) student Maria Muñoz was selected as the undergraduate winner of the 2015 Olmsted Scholars Program, the premier national award and recognition program for landscape architecture students.

Maria is the second LSU student to receive this national recognition, and for the second consecutive year! Each year, faculty of accredited landscape architecture programs across the nation may nominate only one student per program as Olmsted Scholars. Two independent juries of leaders in the landscape architecture profession select the winners and finalists from the graduate and undergraduate students nominated by their faculty for their exceptional leadership potential. The winners—one graduate and one undergraduate student—earn the designation of 2015 University Olmsted Scholars and receive $25,000 and $15,000 prizes, respectively.

“Receiving this national honor is among the highest achievements for a student of landscape architecture,” said Professor Emeritus Van Cox, interim director of RRSLA. “Maria is an absolutely delightful student, well-deserving of the honor.”

Building on her heritage and experiences in Puerto Rico, Maria plans to use the award to research the island’s network of local vendors and their sources of homegrown agricultural products. Through interviews and mapping, she will document the social networks and marketing strategies of growers, yielding knowledge that can help increase the growth potential of the homegrown food to local market system.

“I was honored just to be nominated by faculty, so receiving the scholarship really has me without words. I am beyond grateful,” said Maria. “The faculty here have provided the best support system and helped me refine my ideas.”

At LSU, Maria is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Student Chapter, and in 2014, Maria was one of three recipients of the $4,000 ASLA Council of Fellows Scholarship.

Maria is currently interning at Sergio Santana in São Paulo, Brazil, to fulfill the fourth-year semester-long internship requirement at RRSLA. At Sergio Santana, she is assisting with a large apartment complex being constructed in downtown São Paulo. She also gets to witness as the office designs areas for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“Everything about my internship has been exciting—from business to experiences,” Maria exclaimed.

Maria plans on attending graduate school after completing her BLA in May 2016. Committed to her activism for the cultural individualities and recreational needs of communities, her goal is to work with urban development both locally and globally. She wants to incorporate the significance of design with economic speculation, political negotiation, and democratic struggle as unique pieces that shape a society’s urbanization.

In recognition of her accomplishments as an Olmsted Scholar, Maria will receive two complimentary tickets to the LAF Annual Benefit on Friday, November 6, 2015, in Chicago, held in conjunction with the ASLA Annual Meeting, where she will be presented with the $15,000 award and attend a luncheon with the LAF Board of Directors and program sponsors. She will also serve on the jury for the 2016 Olmsted Scholars Program in the spring of 2016.

Now in its eighth year, the Olmsted Scholars Program recognizes and supports students with exceptional leadership potential who are using ideas, influence, communication, service, and leadership to advance sustainable planning and design and foster human and societal benefits.

“The Landscape Architecture Foundation is delighted to recognize and support these up-and-coming leaders,” said LAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch. “The entire profession is being elevated by the tremendous work that they are doing and the ideas that they are bringing forth.”

About LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture
The Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture has established an international reputation as one of America’s leading and consistently top-ranked programs. Part of the LSU College of Art & Design, the school offers Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture programs. For more than 70 years, the program has produced landscape architects who practice all over the world and participate in the full spectrum of the discipline. For more information, visit

About the Landscape Architecture Foundation
The Landscape Architecture Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Established in 1966, LAF invests in research and scholarship to increase our collective capacity to achieve sustainability through landscape solutions. Visit for more information.

Alumni Spotlight: Marvin “Buddy” Ragland, AIA, BArch 1980

BuddyRaglandFor Marvin “Buddy” Ragland, AIA, BArch 1980, the Baton Rouge and LSU community remain a top priority in both his work and personal life. Ragland’s close ties, especially to the College of Art & Design, are evident in his design projects and philanthropy.

As a principal at Coleman Partners Architects, LLC, in Baton Rouge, Ragland has worked on projects such as the recently completed E. J. Ourso College of Business complex and is well underway in planning the overhaul of the university’s Patrick F. Taylor Hall, formerly known as CEBA.

Coleman Partners, whose five out of six principals are alumni of LSU’s School of Architecture, provides designs for all building types but places special emphasis on hospitality design, educational design, office, and adaptive re-use design and master planning. The firm’s in-house services include architecture, master planning, and interior design in addition to a wide variety of consultant services. With branch offices in New Orleans and Houston, the firm serves a wide geographical area, including the Gulf Coast, West Coast, Caribbean Basin, and the Northeast United States. The geographical and aesthetic variety makes Ragland’s job quite exciting.

“I love what I do here because I am able to offer such direct services to my clients, and I still have time to volunteer within the community,” Ragland said. “Being able to work in such a broad arena and with such a diverse range of project types and clients is just awesome.”

The North Louisiana native remembers how he first became interested in architecture. “I was in junior high when my dad hired an architect to design our home, and I got to watch as the process unfolded,” he said. Ragland witnessed the meetings and planning firsthand, and when it came time to start building, he was hooked.

“I think it was around the tenth grade when I realized architecture was definitely the career for me,” Ragland continued—a plan he remained committed to until fruition.

Ragland has been with Coleman Partners since 1984 and became a principal in 1990. As such, he negotiates and writes many of the contracts for the firm’s design services, mediating solutions to any problems that may arise. Ragland is also responsible for developing and maintaining client relationships, a task that he thoroughly enjoys.

Some recent projects that Ragland has managed include the master planning and building of the Baton Rouge Community College as well as renovations and additions to the Bon Carre Business Center. He also managed the renovations of Hotel Indigo and the historic Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center, which was converted into a 93-room hotel downtown.

As for upcoming local projects, Ragland noted that the firm is almost finished with construction documents for the renovation of LSU’s College of Engineering complex, Patrick F. Taylor Hall. “It’s a consolidation of all the schools in the College of Engineering. Our plans will strip the original structure down to its bare bones and add about 100,000 square feet—a complete overhaul,” Ragland said. Construction should begin shortl with an estimated completion date of 2017.

Ragland and the firm are also working on the design for the Water Institute of the Gulf, which will be located on the new Water Campus near downtown Baton Rouge. The 40,000-plus-square-foot project, located on the river batture, is currently programmed to include a destination restaurant, exhibition and conference spaces, structured parking, and office space.

Internationally, the firm is in the early stages of designing another Ritz-Carlton hotel, this one in the Turks and Caicos.

In addition to being an active participant in the American Institute of Architects, Ragland has served as guest juror and lecturer at the LSU School of Architecture and is a member of the School of Architecture’s Professional Advisory Board. Recently, Ragland presented a Brown Bag Lecture at the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio and spoke to a pro-practice class in the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture.

He is grateful for everything the College of Art & Design has given him and insists the School of Architecture was the catalyst for developing and furthering his education and practice for his career in architecture.

Ragland particularly enjoys the culture of design schools, specifically, how the learning style differs from that of other disciplines. “The method and engagement of learning is just fascinating,” he explained. “There is something unique about the way you learn how to synthesize information early on in a design program that is very helpful.”

Ragland encourages students to appreciate their design education and to take a moment to realize the powerful lessons they are learning in school. He contends that the unique lessons of how to solve design problems are important ones. ”Your services will be rendered upon people you may never see, but you are still responsible.”

Ragland and his firm make it a point to give back to the LSU College of Art & Design in order to ensure current students receive the best of the best just as he did. Coleman Partners sponsors an esteemed guest lecturer once a year for the School of Architecture. “Since the majority of our partners are alumni of the School of Architecture, we feel it’s only right to give back as the school has given us so much.”

Whether it is through his time, education, internships, or philanthropy, the alumnus is committed to making sure the students in the College of Art & Design receive the knowledge to ensure they have what it takes to create a lasting impact in design.

“I have been doing this a long time, and I am more and more convinced my education at LSU was my spring board to what I believe to be a successful and enjoyable career.”

Ripple Effect: Establishing Water Literacy in New Orleans Schools

ripple effect nola

What if every fourth-grader could describe the impact that rainfall and runoff have on the urban landscape?

For a city such as New Orleans, whose metro region averages more than five feet of rain per year and annually spends millions of dollars pumping out stormwater, it is increasingly imperative that every citizen graduate high school with basic “water literacy.”

Starting this year at KIPP Central City Primary, Ripple Effect, a non-profit organization that promotes water literacy through design-based, in-school instruction, is building an empowered and water-literate citizenry. Ripple Effect team members are practicing teachers, designers, and water experts collaborating to develop a curriculum that aligns with Common Core and Next Generation Science standards to teach kindergarten through twelfth-graders about hydrology, ecology, and geography—all through design processes!


Ripple Effect co-founder Aron Chang taught architecture and landscape architecture courses at the LSU College of Art & Design and is currently an architectural designer and planner at Waggoner & Ball Architects. Chang serves on the interim steering committee of the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative and was a primary writer, design team leader, and outreach coordinator for the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. In 2012, Chang and co-founder Claire Anderson, a first-grade teacher at KIPP Central City Primary, created a water workshop for 30 fourth graders at KIPP as part of a three-week study of the city’s geography and topography, subsidence, flooding, infrastructure, and international “water cities.” Today, they have a team of 12 designers, seven teachers, and eight water experts working on Ripple Effect from grades K–4 at that same school.

“Without a basic knowledge of the problems at-risk communities face in an era of climate change and sea-level rise,” said Chang, “the average citizen isn’t likely to support proper investments in infrastructure or develop the necessary skills to protect their communities.”

Three more Ripple Effect design team members have connections to the LSU College of Art & Design, including:

  • Kristen Kelsch, architectural designer at Jahncke & Burns Architects, alumna and instructor of the LSU School of Architecture (MArch 2010);
  • Patrick Jones, interaction designer, architect, senior designer at IA collaborative, and former instructor at the LSU School of Architecture; and
  • Emily Bullock, an associate at Spackman Mossop Michaels who received her Master of Landscape Architecture from the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture in 2009.

“Basically, we teach teachers how to teach design,” explained Kelsch, who is part of the design team helping Ripple Effect create the curriculum, bringing an understanding of design process and pedagogy to teachers.

Kelsch helps lead day-long training workshops hosted by Ripple Effect five times each semester. At Ripple Effect workshops, teachers and designers learn about local water issues and how to use the design process as a pedagogical tool.

As an instructor interested in reaching out to younger demographics and “getting kids excited about design,” Kelsch volunteers with a number of organizations and initiatives intended to inspire students to pursue careers in design. She has led the Architecture Camp at LSU every summer since 2011. She mentors students through the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students Light a Fire program, and she is an ACE Mentor at De La Salle High School in New Orleans. Most recently, as part of a STE+AM initiative, she introduced architecture to eighth-grade students at Mann Arts and Science Magnet Middle School in Little Rock, Arkansas, through a partnership with the Alex Foundation over spring break.

In 2014, Ripple Effect was one of seven organizations to receive funding from the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans to implement green infrastructure demonstration projects, education, and outreach initiatives. During the 2014–15 pilot year, Ripple Effect has engaged more than 300 students and their families at KIPP Central City Primary through new curriculum, community events, and a campus redesign project.


Yes, Ripple Effect also remediates actual sites! They are redesigning the schoolyard at KIPP Central to solve flooding issues and provide sustainable water management features that teachers and students can connect to in class learning. Chang said the students are learning how to draw in plan and sections, how to map flooding in their own courtyard, and how to make decisions about the placement of new trees and rain gardens.

“Water projects at the city scale are so vast so as to be almost abstract,” said Chang. “Boiling down these concepts to an area the children can relate to, such as their school’s courtyard, makes sense and helps tie the project to their personal experiences.”

With pavement covering 75 percent of the surface area and no shade, the courtyard floods every time it rains and is inhospitable in the hot sun. Local foundations are playing an important role in funding this project, but Ripple Effect is also in the last week of an ambitious campaign to fundraise the remainder through Kickstarter (Water Literacy School Courtyard, The funding will go towards adding rain gardens, large cypress trees, and a giant play mound that will not only solve the school’s flooding issues but create a joyful and fun environment that teaches students about their place in the Mississippi River Delta.

Next year, Ripple Effect is expanding to schools across Greater New Orleans and building upon partnerships with the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board and Waggoner & Ball Architects to improve the quality and the reach of their programs. Visit or follow Ripple Effect on Facebook at for more information about Ripple Effect. Teachers, designers, or water experts interested in contributing may contact Ripple Effect at

First Statewide Juried High School Art Exhibition a Success!

The LSU School of Art, in conjunction with the LSU College of Art & Design and the LSU School of Architecture, hosted the first annual statewide juried exhibition for high school artists. The exhibition was held from March 9–19 at the Foster Gallery on the LSU campus. All public, private, and home-schooled high school students residing in Louisiana qualified for submission, with the exception of East Baton Rouge Parish residents who were eligible to enter the Baton Rouge Gallery competition.


Competition winners were announced at a reception held at the Foster Gallery on Saturday, March 14. Victoria Maxwell, a sophomore at Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, Louisiana, received first place for aMazing Hedge Hog. Danielle Broussard, a junior at Episcopal School of Acadiana in Broussard, Louisiana, received second place, and third place went to Carter Broussard, a senior at Episcopal School of Acadiana in Broussard, Louisiana.

Five honorable mentions were awarded to:

  • Freshman Tiffany LeBlanc of Catholic High School of New Iberia for Who Do You Trust?;
  • Senior Savannah Berube of Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, Louisiana, for Self Portrait II;
  • Sophomore Elsa Ramsey of Episcopal School of Acadiana in Broussard, Louisiana;
  • “Mother and Child in the Savannah,” by senior Veronica Mialaret of Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, Louisiana, for Mother and Child in the Savannah; and
  • Sophomore Nicholas Lee of Brusly High School in Plaquemine, Louisiana, for Back through the Looking Glass.

The LSU School of Art received 136 entries from 17 Louisiana high schools, representing all major cities and regions of the state. Rod Parker, the director of the School of Art, felt that the competition had a very successful debut and added that the next two iterations of this event are already being planned.

Bradley Furnish: From GDSO to Pixar

lsu graphic design alumni bradley furnishBradley Furnish, editor at Pixar and 2004 LSU School of Art alumnus, will be returning to LSU to visit classes and present a screening of his recent project, The Dam Keeper, which was nominated for an Oscar in the animated short category.

The screening of The Dam Keeper will take place April 16 at 5 p.m. in the Digital Media Center Theatre on campus, with a reception beginning at 4 p.m.

An original animated short film by feature animation artists Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper made its world premiere as an official selection at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Its debuted in the U.S. the same year at the New York Children’s International Film Festival.

The film is set in a desolate future where one small town’s survival is left up to a large windmill dam that acts as a fan to keep out poisonous clouds. Despite bullying from classmates, the dam’s operator, Pig, works tirelessly to keep the sails spinning in order to protect the town. When a new student, Fox, joins Pig’s class, everything begins to change.

So how did this Baton Rouge native come to work at one of the most successful animation studios in the world as well as edit an Oscar nominated short film?

Put simply, Furnish saw what he wanted—and went after it.

When Furnish saw the Pixar movie Monsters Inc. while in his first year of college, he was inspired by the film’s innovative animation and heart-felt storytelling. “I was impressed by the essence of the craft and the story at the heart of their projects,” he said.

Set in Monstropolis, a town crawling with monsters, the story is built around the characters scaring children in order to purposefully elicit fear from them. This in turn causes children to scream, providing the town and its inhabitants of monsters with a basic source of power.

Furnish came to LSU with a love of film and art. At the time there was no film department at LSU, so Furnish looked for other creative outlets while continuing to make short films on the side.

He ended up trying out the graphic design program in the School of Art and loving it. He was asked to join the school’s Graphic Design Student Organization (GDSO), which gave him the opportunity to do real design work and develop a skill set that has benefitted him in his career as an editor.

Through GDSO, Furnish learned how to give critiques and take critiques, all while collaborating with others. “It takes one hundred bad ideas to get to a single good idea, and that is a key principle I learned working in GDSO.”

While at LSU, Furnish was fortunate enough to have several instructors who purposefully pushed him to challenge himself, thus minimizing his own fear of failure. This especially helped when it came time for Furnish to make decisions about his life after college.

After graduation, the Baton Rouge native planned to move to Los Angeles to work in film but found the city a bit overwhelming. He settled in San Francisco and, shortly after, applied for a job at Pixar. But he never heard back.

For the next three years, Furnish did freelance work around the area until he heard of a job opportunity at Pixar. “I heard through a friend of a friend of an opening, and I got hired as an editorial production assistant.” In that position, he was able to work on films such as Toy Story 3, Brave, and Toy Story That Time Forgot.

Since then, he has worked his way up at the company and has enjoyed the learning experience every step of the way. He realized how everything he practiced in graphic design was very similar to the skills he used in editing. “The practice of trial and error and various reiterations of visuals are practices you go through in both design and editing.”

Now, as editor in the promo department, he edits short pieces of content for feature films, including the forthcoming films Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and Finding Dory. The promo spots are sometimes used in theatrical trailers but are mostly used to highlight a single character or scene on a cross-promotional platform, such as the Disney Channel.

Furnish works with the film’s director to achieve his or her vision, as well as camera operators and effects technicians to ensure the visual components are in line with the story. He revels in the opportunity to be able to work with top-notch people whose talents prompt great responses from audiences of all ages.

The lesson that one’s mistakes can often bring rewards that successes can’t is one that Furnish has learned over the years and wishes to pass on to current students. Fear, just like in Monsters Inc., can be powerful and often cause people to shy away from pushing themselves further.

“When you are able to push yourself beyond the fear of failure, you remove any internal limitations, and that is when you take risks,” he continued. “Sometimes failing is more important than success because you can adapt and still learn after failure.”

With no risk, there is no reward, and it is clear from Furnish’s successes that fear of failure has not stopped him. As far as he can see, Furnish will continue to work at Pixar. After all, he loves what he is doing.

“When you finally get to show people something you have spent years working on and they erupt in laughter—that is gratification.”

At the end of Monsters Inc., the monsters find out that joy and laughter produce even more power than fear, and in Furnish’s case, if you have enough power to move past the fear, the joy at the other end is simply overpowering.

More about Bradley Furnish

Bradley Furnish is an editor at Pixar Animation Studios. His film credits include Toy Story 3, Brave, and the Toy Story That Time Forgot television special. In addition to his work at the studio, Bradley continues to work on independent projects ranging in content and style. He is particularly proud to have edited Pixar’s It Gets Better PSA, the short film Cologne, and, most recently, the hand-painted animated film The Dam Keeper, screening at the LSU Digital Media Center Theatre on Thursday, April 16, at 5 p.m. Bradley graduated from the LSU School of Art with a BFA in graphic design in 2004.

Written by Kristen Higdon