Visual Culture Lecture Series

Visual Culture Lecture Series 2023 - 2024

All events are free and open to the public

Tuesday April 2, 2024 | Aaron Delehanty | Alex Girard | Annual Student Exhibition (ASE) Jurors | 6pm in Solon Campus Center 120 and on zoom

Photo of Aaron Delehanty with two landscape paintings

Aaron Delehanty is an artist whose work confronts issues surrounding the natural world, natural history, and the human-animal to non-human animal relationship.

His practice combines paintings, sculpture, drawings and dioramas to tell stories about what nature looks like within the anthropocene.

Aaron is an Instructor of Art at the University of Rochester, where he curates contemporary art exhibits in the Frontispace and Harnett Galleries.

He is a celebrated diorama artist, in the traditional style. His work is in the collections of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, M.I.T., the Rochester Museum and Science Center (NY), and several Nature Centers.  Recently he worked with artists Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman to build a monumental diorama for a traveling museum show, and upcoming is a project with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.  He is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Art Institute (may it R.I.P).  His studio - Loud Cow Studio - is located near a forest in the  outskirts of Rochester New York.

Headshot of Alex Girard

Alex Girard is a graphic designer and design educator, who believes in the power of design to connect people to ideas, visually. He is currently serving as the Chairperson for the Department of Art and Design at Southern Connecticut State University, in New Haven, Connecticut where he is also an Associate Professor of Graphic Design and a member of the Steering Committee for the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. He views education through the lens of user experience design and focuses on developing meaningful assessment practices that define and help to evolve curriculum, rather than exclusively evaluate it. He has served as the Director of Peer Review for Design Incubation, in New York and led Southern’s university-wide programmatic assessment process as the Co-Chair of the Standards and Assessment Review Committee. Also, an active practitioner of design, his practice focuses on elevating underrepresented and underfunded populations through his design work. He received a B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa in 2004, where he studied graphic design and painting, and in 2007, he received an M.F.A. in Graphic Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Tuesday March 19, 2024 | Alumni Panel | On Zoom

Headshots of four Art & Design alumni with a flower in the middle








UMD Art & Design is pleased to welcome four creative entrepreneurs who graduated from our programs in Graphic Design, Studio Art, Art History, and Art Education. Navigating the twists and turns of their post-college creative lives, they return to share their journeys as part of our Spring 2024 Visual Culture Lecture Series.

Sophie Ellefson
BFA Art Education / Art History Minor

Sophie Ellefson (Karakatsoulis) grew up in the country surrounding Duluth, MN where her parents ran a pottery business. In 2008 she earned her BFA in Art Education with a minor in Art History. Sophie began teaching art during her college years, including Digital Art Camp at UMD and ceramics classes at the Duluth Art Institute. After graduation, she worked at an international school in Vietnam, before settling in Arizona where she taught at a local charter school. Sophie has over 15 years of experience teaching in Minnesota, Vietnam and Arizona. A mother of 3 boys, Sophie made a career shift in 2021, when she started teaching afterschool art classes in her home studio. The classes gained popularity over the next 2 years, then she had the opportunity to expand into a larger location. By 2024 Sophie’s business, SEE Create Art, has grown to include a wide range of art media, and several employees to help staff the K-12 after school, K-12 homeschool, and special hands-on art classes. In the future, they hope to offer more adult opportunities and open studio times. “We explore a lot of techniques, and work on the elements and principles of art. We focus on a positive, inclusive environment where children and adults can foster friendships while they are creating. I’ve really enjoyed the business aspect of entrepreneurship, like website building and advertising. Teaching art never gets boring, and running a business certainly adds to the adventure! But I believe my experience as a licensed art teacher is what sets my program apart from the rest.”

Insta @SEECreateArt

TikTok SEE Create Art

Lizzy Siemers
BFA Studio Art / Digital Art & Photography / German Cultural Studies Minor

Lizzy Siemers graduated in 2015 from UMD with her BFA in Studio Art / emphasis in Digital Art and Photography and a Minor in German Cultural Studies. Lizzy is a 2D Digital artist and Game Designer with 7 years of experience making video games and 3 years of making board games. Lizzy has published 2 games on Steam: Verdant Skies and Claw Breaker, 3 games on, 6 Global Game Jam submissions, with one board game in development at Lizzy has also worked as a graphic designer and prop artist on the indie horror film Strange Nature. Currently producing a coloring book, she also creates as a Freelance artist, doing commission work, portraits or illustrations of DnD characters. Lizzy’s skills include concept art, production art, character and environment art, game design, UI design and production, and some 2D animation. Lizzy works in a range of digital formats, including photoshop, illustrator, procreate and after effects. In the future, she aims to become an art director for game or film production and to push for diverse representation in media.  

Instagram: @SailorLoonArt

Candace LaCosse
BFA Graphic Design

At UMD, Candace LaCosse majored in Graphic Design and Journalism. With her background in journalism, education, and art, one of her early jobs after college was as an editorial and fashion assistant for Mpls.St.Paul magazine in Minneapolis. When Candace fell in love with shoemaking and leatherworks, she apprenticed with shoemakers around the country. She opened Hemlock’s Leatherworks, a boutique shop now located in downtown Duluth, Minnesota in the Board of Trade Building. Since 2015, Candace has been producing Hemlocks’ high-quality leather goods with a minimalist, classic style. Her leather bags, shoes, and accessories have been shown and sold nationally. The retail shop features other independent makers, with unique options for jewelry, clothing, home goods, natural beauty, ceramics, prints, and stationary. Candace also teaches and exhibits her work in high-end craft shows across the country. Her work has been featured by the American Craft Council, the American Craft Exposition, Star Tribune, Duluth News Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, Making It Up North, Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, North House Folk School, and more.  

Michelle Bennett
BFA Studio Art / Digital Art & Photography

Michelle Bennett is an American portrait photographer based in Minneapolis. She graduated from UMD in 2011 with a BFA in Studio Art / emphasis in Digital Art & Photography. Beginning her career on the north shore of Lake Superior, Michelle drew her inspiration from the wild and untamable nature of the great lake and the surrounding landscape. Focusing on connection to the subject, and creatively framing them within their environment, Michelle developed a dramatic aesthetic that became her stand alone style. Over the years she has attracted prominent Minnesota brands and maintains a client base of artists, craftspeople, and musicians. Working at the intersection of photography and music inspired Michelle to study artist management at Berklee College of Music in 2020. Her position in the music industry, plus her ability to provide art direction and styling, cemented Michelle as a go-to photographer for Americana artists within the midwest region. Known for her work with natural light, Michelle also experiments with low light environments, manipulating incandescent light sources and reflective surfaces to create dreamlike painterly portraits that are popular with her musical clientele. Her notable clients include: Ryan Necci and The Buffalo Gospel, Tia Keobounpheng, Pachyderm Studios, Dead Horses, Lanue, Minnesota Alumni Magazine, Artful Living Magazine, Lululemon, Barbaro, Humbird, The Last Revel, Jeremy Messersmith, Silvercocoon, Noihsaf Bazzar, Coda Bow.

instagram @wolfskull_creative

Tuesday January 30, 2024 | Connor Blacksher  | Graphic Designer | 6pm in Solon Campus Center 120 | Not available on zoom

Photo of Connor Blacksher

Connor Blacksher is a product designer that makes nonsense a part of his process. He's passionate about finding smart, user-oriented solutions with multi-disciplinary teams. Connor is an advocate of being your authentic self at work and making extra iterations. If he's not designing, he's going for runs with Emily, his wife, and Emerald, his daughter. 









Tuesday February 6, 2024 | Johanna Toruño | The Unapologetic Street Series | 6pm in Solon Campus Center 120 

Artist standing on street with a ladder

Johanna Toruño is a Salvadoran-born, community-taught visual artist who uses the streets as a public platform and gallery. Raised in San Salvador until being displaced in the US at 10, she is inspired by her experiences growing up in the aftermath of the civil war to use poster work as a medium to self express and center a queer migrant lens. As she explains, “political art is the people's art as it has been used for many generations.” 

She is inspired by the people that exist in public spaces; the working class, immigrant Black & Brown communities are the beat of the heart of the streets: “I am led by community, my ancestors, and the elders and artists before me who have paved the way for me to do the work that I do. The Black folks and specifically women who have created culture- the Queer, Trans, and migrants who continually pave the way for all of us.”






Tuesday September 12, 2023 | Alumni Panel | 6pm in the Marshall Performing Arts Center

headshots of four individuals




Topher McCulloch
Class of 2007
BFA Graphic Design and General Studio Art

Topher McCulloch is a developer Time Out Chicago once called a “champion of the internet.” With his background in graphic design, he brings an eye for detail to every digital experience he creates or oversees as Director of Development & Technology at Pivot Design. When not deep in code, he volunteers for local arts organizations in Chicago, carrying forward his heavy student involvement with Art Guild, the Student Design Organization, Literary Guild, the Queer & Allied Student Union, and the Tweed Museum while at UMD. For over a decade he has created a near-daily daily art project called Make Something Awful Every Day.   https://tophr.org

Amber Mahlberg
Class of 2009
BFA Graphic Design

Amber Mahlberg is an Art Director & Designer working in Minneapolis on a wide range of projects, from product branding and social media campaigns to broadcast commercials. During her time at UMD, she ate a lot of pizza, volunteered at the Tweed Museum of Art library, worked as a Student Designer for UMD Health Services, and completed an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project (UROP) in international design. Amber lives in Plymouth, MN with her husband and rescue dog. Her current workplace is Minneapolis design agency IdeasthatKick   http://www.amahlberg.myportfolio.com

Sarah Hample
Class of 2011
BFA Art Education
Master of Education / Educational Technology Concordia University St Paul

Sarah Hample is an artist and art educator who lives in Shakopee, MN and teaches at St Anthony Village High School. Her current creative work is focused on photography, drawing and painting. As Sarah recalls her time at UMD, “I snuck off to UMD because my dad did not want me to go to college, and I was determined to get the most out of it, and I did. I met amazing professors who encouraged me to think critically but most importantly to not leave learning in the classroom, but to learn to explore and teach myself in the future. This is something I try to impress on my own student now, to not just let learning happen to you but to actively pursue knowledge.“

Susanna Gaunt
Class of 2017
BFA in Painting, Drawing and Printmaking
BA in Philosophy from Boston College

Susanna Gaunt is an award-winning mixed-media installation artist and instructor living in Duluth. Using mediums such as drawing, photography and collage, she analyzes the human condition through a philosophical and scientific lens. Inspired by historic European curiosity cabinets, natural history museums and personal specimen collections, she tangles human anatomy with animal taxonomy, creating works that encourage curiosity and reflection.;

Tuesday September 19, 2023 | Dr. Emily Ruth Capper | Art Historian | 6pm in Solon Campus Center 120 

Headshot of Dr. Emily Ruth Capper

Emily Ruth Capper is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota and an Associate Curator at the Weisman Art Museum. Her research investigates the many ways in which postwar interdisciplinary art has intersected with the cultural and intellectual history of higher education. Her research has been supported by the Dedalus Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Getty Research Institute. Her current book project, Happening Pedagogy: Allan Kaprow’s Experiments in Instruction, is under contract at the University of Chicago Press. For the past few years, she has been working with the Getty Research Institute on an interactive digital publication that presents twelve experimental scores alongside a video archive of historical and contemporary realizations. 

Tuesday September 26, 2023 | Simon Pineda | Graphic Designer | 6pm in Solon Campus Center 120 

Headshot of Simon Pineda

I am a designer, illustrator and photographer specializing in visual communication in the retail environment. Born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I’ve made pictures with pencils, paint and cameras since I was a child. I studied fine arts at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, along with religion and music. Always at the intersection of visual media and food, I worked primarily in kitchens before coming on as the principal marketing designer for a three-store cooperative grocer in Milwaukee. I’ve been with Whole Foods Market since 2013; a Senior Designer since 2018. From making price signs with chalk markers in city store basements to implementing a top-to-bottom overhaul of our in-store marketing strategy following Amazon’s acquisition, my roles have been many and varied. Projects include item-level price and storytelling signage, product and event photography, art direction, signage execution strategy, product packaging, national brand campaigns and design for the opening of 15 new store locations from Ohio to New York.
In that time, I’ve moved frequently, traveled extensively and try as best I can to maintain a personhood separate and distinct from my work. I currently live in Providence, Rhode Island, with my wife and daughter.

Tuesday November 7, 2023 | Mathew Zefeldt | Painting & Drawing | 6pm in Solon Campus Center 120 

Headshot of Mathew Zefeldt

Mathew Zefeldt (b. 1987, California) is Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Minnesota. He received his MFA in studio art from UC Davis in 2011 and received his BA in Art at UC Santa Cruz. He has had solo exhibitions at The Hole, NY; Celaya Brothers, Mexico City; Hair + Nails, Minneapolis; Big Pictures, Los Angeles; 5-50 Gallery, Long Island City; The Soap Factory, Minneapolis; Circuit 12, Dallas; Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis; Hap Gallery, Portland; and Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica. He has exhibited in group exhibitions at Joshua Liner Gallery, NY; Lisa Cooley, NY; MOHS Exhibit, Copenhagen; Left Field, San Luis Obispo; and The Minnesota Museum of American Art, Saint Paul; Akron Art Museum, Ohio; Currier Art Museum, New Hampshire, and The Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City.

Tuesday November 14, 2023 | John O'Neill | Associate Professor of Graphic Design | 6pm in Montague 70 and on zoom

Headshot of John O'Neill

Professor John O’Neill is a disability advocate and designer who brings awareness to ableism and disability rights. He teaches graphic design with the focus on user experience (UX) design and accessibility.



His design work has been exhibited and awarded by:

  • HOW International Design Awards
  • Creative Quarterly
  • Graphis
  • Center for Plain Language
  • Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals
  • Graphic Design USA

He has presented nationally and internationally regarding graphic design, user experience, and accessibility. He is also a published author who speaks about web accessibility.

John received his BFA in Graphic Design from Virginia Commonwealth University, School of the Arts and an MFA in graphic design from Rochester Institute of Technology, School of Design. He has also taught graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University,