AICUO Art Awards Showcase Rio Student

IMG_9261RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Each year the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio honors senior students in Fine Arts with the Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts.

University of Rio Grande junior Alina Hamner wasn’t eligible this year, yet each winner at the April 8 awards ceremony cherished her work as the 2015 AICUO Sculpture Design Contest winner.

“I had heard about the actual senior awards through the art faculty, but I didn’t realize there was a competition for the physical awards,” Hamner said. “I was pretty excited. I had to show my parents; look what I won.”

The contest required artists to submit designs for three separate awards: Grand Prize, Finalist and People’s Choice. The winner would be paired with a professional local artist who would bring their designs to life. The final products would then serves as the formal trophies for April’s AICUO awards ceremony.

Hamner was introduced to the contest by Rio Professor of Art Kevin Lyles, who shared an email from AICUO Arts Award Coordinator Sean Brewster regarding the contest.

Hamner’s concept came instantly, but it required homework. First, she researched the professional artist – Columbus College of Art & Design Assistant Director of Graduate Studies Molly Burke – to discover her expertise in blown glass. Armed with a better understanding of the medium in which she was designing for, Hamner studied the human eye.

“She did a great job. I remember looking through the designs and hers really stood out to me,” Burke said. “She thought about using the eye and taking it apart biologically. She also thought about the colors, too. Each of the awards has a different color … very bright. There wasn’t a lot I had to change.”

Burke hosted Hamner at her workshop in January. They discussed the designs and Burke showcased her previous work and walked Hamner through the blown glass process.

“Since it’s a visual arts award I wanted to focus on the eye,” Hamner said. “As artists we have the spatial intelligence to see things differently.”

For the Grande Prize award, Hamner’s design called for an abstract eye form with flared glass to represent eyelashes that Burke brought to life with turquois and fuchsia color.

“For the Finalist award, I went deeper into the eye, and we have rods and cone,” Hamner explained. “They are what help us distinguish between lights and colors. So I just took a literal interpretation.”

Burke used a rose red, iris gold, iridescent gold and coral red for the Finalist award.

For the People’s Choice award, Hamner focused on the iris, which gives the eye color. Burke blended transparent blues and greens to create a beautiful rich turquois.

“I chose that to represent how we’re all unique and different with different colored eyes,” Hamner said. “Each of the designs involved a very intricate thought process. I think it makes them more special since they have a meaning behind them.”

Hamner is on schedule to graduate with her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and a minor in Psychology in May 2016. She then plans to pursue a graduate degree in Art Therapy.

The Laurelville native and Logan Elm High School graduate has a talent for art and a passion for helping others. She worked as a Sunday school teacher for three years, so a career in Art Therapy would be the best of both worlds.

Having the 2015 AICUO Sculpture Design Contest winner on her resume is a significant step in the right direction for Hamner’s career aspirations.

“Its really great experience for the student. She can have this in her portfolio, to say she worked with a glass designer to produce her designs,” Burke said. “To see what you’ve done translated through somebody else’s hand, that’s pretty neat, too.”

Founded in 1876 and nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of southeastern Ohio, the University of Rio Grande serves as an oasis of learning, innovation and technology. The 190-acre residential campus strikes a balance of liberal arts and experiential learning to prepare students for successful lives as responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, global community. An epicenter of cultural enrichment, Rio offers students a nurturing environment focused on the needs of the individual with a student-faculty ratio of 19:1 and a plethora of extracurricular activities ranging from Student Senate to Greek life, and intercollegiate athletics.

For more information about the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College visit or call 800-282-7201.