Featuring the diverse and creative people working to build a new independent art college
An Interview with Denise O’Donnell
CFO/CPO – Vice President of Finance, IT, and Human Capital Management (HCM)
Who is Denise O’Donnell? Who am I? I am a mission-driven individual that believes in fundamentally doing things for the greater good, even if it is more work in the present moment.
I am an intentional human. I practice being present in the conversation, actively listening, being mindful of others and what they might be going through, and always being driven to put forth my best effort.
I work a lot and falter on not having enough work-life balance, but I am always striving to better, taking each day as it comes and learning from the one before.
Where are you originally from? I am originally from Paisley, Scotland.
Paisley is Scotland’s fifth-largest town located in the west-central lowlands; it is known for its civic history in the art of weaving. Although our weavings mills are closed today and have been since 1993, the town still holds celebrations recognizing the anniversary of when we were the industry leaders. During that tenure, our town gave its name to the Paisley Pattern’s famous design that you see throughout the modern world.
What is your previous work experience? My introduction to the working world was at the age of thirteen when I got my first paper round—working my way from a few customers to having my first small business by fourteen. Although it is not directly correlated with my work today, I learned from my inauguration to the working world that you must have discipline, integrity, and drive; 3 core elements I apply to everything that I do.
I have spent time in engineering and manufacturing as an internal auditor and worked for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs at home in the UK. In the United States, I have practiced as a government auditor, an S1 filing to take an energy company public to the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE, and I have come through the ranks of finance in higher education.
In my previous role at Hocking College, I had oversight of areas such as finance, financial aid, athletics, grants, and the Hocking College Foundation. During my tenure, I tenaciously strived for excellence in entrepreneurship in higher education. My main projects were focused on leading and designing projects such as the opening of the State of Ohio’s first Medical Marijuana Testing Lab, a Water Park, a Dog Grooming and Boarding Facility, and a Distillery and rebuilding the athletics department as I had playing and coaching experience at the college level.
What brought you to KyCAD? I had previous ties to KyCAD, working directly with the organization as a part of the Spalding accounting team. Upon President Payne’s arrival, I was seconded to KyCAD for a short time before moving to Hocking College.
As I resigned from KyCAD, I remember sitting with President Payne and saying, “once I have learned more, grown in my career, if there is ever an opportunity at KyCAD, I would be humbled to be considered.” After a few years passed, there was a need at KyCAD, and the college had grown, and so had I. I was ecstatic to apply for the position.
I believe in access to education, and I am also a supporter of breaking the structure of “traditional” education. KyCAD’s mission and service align with me and who I am, an essential component of my work.
What is your favorite thing about KyCAD? The People. The Mansion. The Donors. The Student Studios. The Board of Trustees. The 849 Gallery. The Culture. Where should I begin?
KyCAD is unique in many ways, but my favorite thing about it is the attitude and drive of those involved. Everyone plays a vital role in the success of the college. KyCAD is a small, tenacious, creative, intelligent, dedicated team of people inspired to create Kentucky’s First Accredited Independent College of Art + Design for our students.
What drives your passion for education in the arts? Art influences society by challenging opinions, changing perspectives, and translating experiences for people to connect to and with.
Without artists, our world would be boring and bland. Without anyone challenging the accepted ways of thinking, we would not grow or innovate. The artist takes complex Information, communicates, and translates it for us to understand and conceptualize.
Without trained and educated artists in our world, we stay stagnant in our progress towards a different, more sustainable future.
Describe an “aha!” moment in your life. My “aha!” moment in life was when I chose to learn and understand myself. That might sound arrogant to some, so let me explain.
Have you ever had a candid conversation with yourself? Have you ever written down your mission, vision, or values? Someone asked that question one day, and ever since that moment, I was hooked on trying to learn who I am as a human.
I began to work within and live my life through the lens of a Japanese Concept called “Ikigai,” meaning to be content. To live out this concept, I needed to discover the way of life that gave me the feeling of being at ease with who I am and where I am on my journey to understand myself fully.
After learning myself, I know what makes me content in life, what brings happiness, and how to handle the roadblocks that life can throw our way.
It is a journey I am still on, and I still study my Ikigai annually in October to ensure the things I am doing align with the life practice I am striving to achieve.
What is your favorite part of the contemporary arts? The variety of perspectives and the lens that an artist can view through.
The City as Campus concept at KyCAD allows the artist to create a dialogue or narrative within their work. While all students in a class might be given the same assignment, everyone approaches their work so differently that the produced results never fail to astound me.
As a former athlete and a current accountant, my mind tends to navigate to the logical side, where the only outcome is the only outcome. Working daily with artists has allowed me to expand my thinking, patterns of thought and problem-solve with a different approach to finding solutions to problems.
What are the top three things you like about the arts scene in Louisville? I enjoy the Louisville Arts Scene’s eclectic mix from the Louisville Orchestra to Actors Theatre to 21C, and they are all right in our backyard.
The Visual Arts are growing in Louisville thanks to the support of organizations such as The Speed Museum, The Great Meadows Foundation, and KyCAD. We hope to see continued momentum in this space.
What has been your most memorable moment at KyCAD? I remember sitting as a guest at the 2018 KyCAD Gala, and President Payne announced that the college had obtained its licensure through the Kentucky Council for Postsecondary Education. The buzz and excitement rippled through the gala attendees; the atmosphere was electric.
It was then, even a supporting guest, I thought to myself, KyCAD is going to be something phenomenal in the future.
What do you like most about your role? My role is to serve the institution as I operate within the support departments of the college. I enjoy that my role crosses a myriad of departments. I see the picture from start to finish and have the opportunity to conceptualize the nuts and bolts of what it takes for the organization to run and strategic thinking and future planning. It is terrific watching it all come together.
Use three words to describe yourself. Intentional. Modest. Tenacious.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Vincent Van Gough said I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream. For me, this encapsulates KyCAD. Our Founder and Chancellor Churchill Davenport dreamed of having a college of art and design here in Louisville, Kentucky. As he and President Payne lead KyCAD forward, we are all helping to assist in the curation of KyCAD so that what was once a dream can become a reality and serve out its mission for centuries to come.
An Interview with Mackenzie Taylor
Junior BFA Student
Who is Mackenzie Taylor? A sister, a daughter, a friend, and last but not least an artist.
What drives your passion in the arts and as an art and design student? My passion for art comes from understanding myself and experiencing the world we live in. I am intrigued by the awe of art, what makes a person enter a different reality when seeing certain pieces of work. Through art I want to understand where identity and commonality lie. As a student, I am driven by the knowledge and cheat codes of navigating through this world differently and more efficiently.
Who is your favorite artist (i.e. sculptor, metal fabricator, and more)? As of now, Lorna Simpson, much of her work deals with questions I have myself. The vast number of underlying messages and ambiguity draws me to her work. When seeing her work, I resonate with it so much I can picture myself going through the motions. Also, she doesn’t restrict her concepts to just one medium.
What is your favorite food? I love food! I love experiencing taste. It’s easier to say my least favorite is tomato-based food, and only because of an intolerance to tomatoes.
Best movie you’ve seen in your lifetime? “Crooklyn” A Spike Lee Joint. I could watch this a thousand times; I grew up on this movie. Many of the scenes relate to my life which may be the reasons why I am drawn to it.
What was an aha moment for you? The viewer is also an important part of your work. For a gaze to last you must purposely create open-ended questions for the viewer.
Best thing you like about the arts in Louisville? There is a little bit of everything.
What has been your favorite class at KyCAD thus far? Capstone, I am able to find myself within my work. I also can test out newly learned skills from other classes or other works. This class helps tremendously shaping who you and your art are.
An Interview with Céline Browning
Artist, Professor of Studio Arts at KyCAD
Who is Professor Céline Browning? I am an artist, art writer and educator from Chicago. Using the vocabulary of surrealism and pop-art, I deconstruct, combine, and repurpose familiar functional objects, creating an uncanny visual language that reimagines what these objects signify.
What drives your passion in the arts: as an artist and professor of studio arts? The capacity of art to create positive social change.
You’ve just been awarded a wonderful opportunity. Can you tell us about it? And what it would mean for you as an educator and artist? One of the keys to maintaining a creative practice is understanding how you work best, and under what conditions you produce your best work. Then, you need to consistently look for opportunities to cultivate those moments. I’ve found that my work is best served by seeking out periodic spells of isolation, preferably in the woods. Thankfully, many artist residencies provide just this kind of environment. For me, residencies offer time and space. Not just physical space, but more importantly, mental space.
Who is your favorite artist (or two)? There are so many. A few of the artists whose work I return to again and again are Lee Bontecou, Mona Hatoum, and Doris Salcedo. Sometimes the work of Giorgio de Chirico and Lenora Carrington haunts my dreams.
What is your favorite food? Chicago-style hot dogs. Hands down.
Best movie you’ve seen in your lifetime? Jurassic Park. It was incredible in 1993, and it still blows my mind in 2021.
What was an aha moment for you? Realizing, after getting my BFA in studio craft and my MFA in metal, that I was actually a sculptor, and that I didn’t need to use metal to make good work.
Top three things you like about the arts in Louisville? I can’t wait to answer this question after the pandemic has died down. I moved to Louisville in August of 2020, so I still feel like I don’t really know the arts in Louisville. I will say that I love the Speed Museum, Quappi Projects, the architecture in Old Louisville, and North Lime’s donuts.
What has been your most memorable moment at KyCAD? Three-way tie:
- Accidentally setting off the alarm in the mansion and scrambling around like a headless chicken to turn it off;
- Participating in a virtual meditation led by Owsley Brown in Mindful Studio this fall;
- Attending the first Junior Capstone critique and feeling simultaneously excited by the wonderful work the students were creating and privileged that I can be part of their journey.
An Interview with Melissa Liptrap
Registrar and Unsung Hero…
How do you make a difference in the student’s lives at KyCAD? (i.e. what is most important about your role?) I really value helping students find their path to the finish line. Tracking each student’s progress toward degree completion is important, but it is also exciting to follow.
What is your favorite pastime? Growing up, I always camped with my family, but I didn’t have the same appreciation for it that I do now. I love being outdoors, camping, hiking, and exploring.
Why did you choose KyCAD? When I started at KyCAD, it was still the Kentucky School of Art. I was really excited by the potential of the school and the opportunity to help it grow. The school has evolved so much over the years. It has been really challenging and really rewarding.
Who is your favorite artist (or two)? I don’t know that I can name a favorite, but I am really fascinated by Ian Cheng’s work.
What is your favorite food? I love eating food that I’ve made with my family. Spicy and savory foods win out for me over sweets!
Best movie you’ve seen in your lifetime? I don’t watch a lot of movies, but Pina 3D was a beautifully shot tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch and I think of it often.
Top three things you like about the arts in Louisville? Community, collaboration, and connection.
What has been your most memorable moment at KyCAD? When the first class of students graduated from our program at Spalding, that was a pretty memorable day. I’m really looking forward to seeing our first class of graduates as an independent institution!
An Interview with Andrew Cozzens
Associate Professor of Studio Arts, Director of Operations, & Chair, Center for Environment – KyCAD
What drives your passion in the arts: as an artist and professor of studio arts? I’ve always loved making. That’s where it started. I love learning new skills and working with new materials and processes. I also love people. Through my research and studio practice, I address our collective problematic relationship to time, and through my teaching, I help students explore their interests to develop their own practice that exercises their own voice in a way that is meaningful to them.
Who is your favorite artist (or two)? I am going to cheat with this question. I have to start with Tehching Hsieh, but tied for second is James Turrell, Bruce Nauman, Ai Wei Wei, Olafur Eliasson, Ana Mendieta, Guiseppe Penone, Anne Hamilton, Roman Signer, Rachel Whiteread, and many more. Those are the big names. There are so many more and I am embarrassed for not listing all of the artists that have been my favorite at a specific place and time.
What is your favorite food? I really just like anything that is prepared with a little TLC. As for favorites, I love good pizza, soup dumplings, and Mediterranean food.
Best movie you’ve seen in your lifetime? City of God and Inglorious Bastards… those two come to mind right off the bat, but there are so many good films out there that it’s tough to think about a favorite for too long.
What was an aha moment for you? When I realized that I had spent hours and hours and hours sitting in my studio watching metal slowly rust. It was research for a different project, but I did it day after day for quite a while. I learned so much from doing it and enjoyed doing it so much, that I began to shift my focus from just making artwork ABOUT time, to examining the human EXPERIENCE of time.
What has been your most memorable moment at KyCAD? Teaching Senior Thesis. There is nothing like watching a student develop their work and their practice to a place where they are creating and exhibiting artwork that truly represents their own interests as individual artists.
Top three things you like about the arts in Louisville?
- The Community. I should probably make this my 1, 2, and 3.
- The Diversity/ Variety. There are artists here doing so many different things. It’s fantastic!
- The Resources. Compared to other cities, being an artist and living in Louisville is very doable!
An Interview with Austin Kopp
Junior BFA Student & Rising Fashion Designer – Austin Kopp(AK)
Who is Austin Kopp? I am a very detail-oriented and organized person. There is a rhyme or reason for everything I do. I believe every decision we make will have an impact on the future, so I live my life in a disciplined and morally driven way. I strive to be as productive as possible, and I attempt to experience as many new things as I can because I feel as if I can never consume enough. I am a creative individual because of my personality, not my skills. I believe as people, we all have untapped potentials; mine are never-ending. If I set my mind to something, I will approach it with all my efforts and energy. I believe my talents come from my drive to learn and grow as a person. As a creative individual, I strive for authenticity. I don’t create and work tirelessly because I want to be recognized, paid or respected. I am here to learn, grow and be the best version of myself.
What drives your passion in the arts, and as an art and design student? What drives my passion is growth. I create because I learn something every time I go through the process of developing a new product. Whether it was a success or not, there is always something I take away from that experience, whether good or bad. I feel that in my clothing, there is a much deeper passion that drives me. When developing products, I strive to be fully engaged in the medium and my practice. When I design clothing, I do it based off my style and my vision. My goal is to fully submit to the work and allow for the purity and authenticity in myself to prevail in my creations. My passion is driven by the feeling my customers get when wearing one of my products. I create clothing because of my unique sense of style, and I sell clothing to make people feel unique and empowered.
Who is your favorite fashion designer? I wouldn’t say I have a single favorite designer because I admire so many different designers and styles. I feel the clothing industry is ever-evolving, so it is hard to distinguish who my favorite would be. Even though I like so many, Rhuigi Villaseñor is a designer that particularly stands out due to his rapid success and extremely unique designs.
What is your favorite food? Seafood or Italian
Best movie you’ve seen in your lifetime? Interstellar, if it’s not the best it would definitely be in my top 10.
What was an aha moment for you? One of the biggest aha moments I’ve had was when I first started making clothing. I essentially had no knowledge or formal education going into fashion design, everything I know has been self-taught. My first aha moment was about eight months in; I began to get experimental with my designs and their functions. I started to develop a trucker jacket that I believed could have been one of the most unique articles of clothing I’ve ever seen. It took me about five to six months to design and complete, but when I finished it, I was in awe with myself. Not only did it fit extremely well, but it was truly one of the most unique pieces of clothing I have ever seen. That is when I knew this path was for me.
Best thing you like about the arts in Louisville? For me personally, the best thing about the arts in Louisville is that the playing floor isn’t saturated. I believe Louisville is in the process of developing a much larger art scene than the city has ever seen, and I am extremely excited for what the future brings!
What has been your favorite class at KyCAD thus far? One of my favorite classes at KyCAD was a film introduction class. It was one of my favorites because I had never been introduced to that side of art/design, so it was very exciting to learn more about it.
Office of Admissions
Kentucky College of Art + Design
505 West Ormsby Avenue
Louisville, KY 40203