Tyler News

Back to Blog May 9, 2022

2022 Diploma Project Unveiled at Commencement

Author: Emily Herbein

Tyler’s 2022 “Diploma Project,” a special gift to the graduating class made by a distinguished alum, is a one-of-a-kind, hand-blown glass owl decanter to celebrate their achievement. 

Since 2019, the Tyler School of Art and Architecture has presented its graduating students with a special class gift: a unique work of art made by one of Tyler’s renowned alumni — a tradition that connects two generations of creatives. 

This year, multidisciplinary visual artist Virgil Marti (MFA ‘90), in collaboration with Tyler glass students, created unique owl decanters, symbolic of this “raise a glass” celebratory moment. The piece is decorative and utilitarian — an everyday object that Marti hopes will remind students of their time at Tyler. 

Alongside Glass Program Head Jessica Julius, Marti designed the owl-shaped molds, chose a limited color palette, and oversaw production. Inspired by the kitsch of 1960’s and 1970’s aesthetics, Marti aimed for a design that would allow for individuality and variation in the final stages in order to best represent the uniqueness of the student body. 

Tyler glass students Katie Receveur, Gemma Hollister, and Summer Lynn Moore experiment with colors during an early prototyping session.

The most exciting and rewarding part of the making process was getting to see firsthand the level of talent that emanates from Tyler studios. “Every time I came back to check on the progress, just seeing all of these beautiful glass objects and the amount of production the students had done was great. I love watching the glass studio work. There’s a whole group dynamic that goes on in terms of getting things made,” Marti said.  

The Diploma Project allows students to gain hands-on experience working with a visiting artist. Marti was present during studio visits, and learned from students what they thought of the decanter-making process, their own practices, and their goals after graduation. “The group of people that you’re in school with will always be close to you. Learning from each other is just as important as learning from the faculty,” Marti shared. 

Tyler glass students Jason McDonald (MFA ’23) and Katie Receveur (BFA '22) blow hot glass into a mold to create an owl form.

Reflecting on his own time at Tyler studying painting, Marti emphasized how the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum has carried over into his own career. “The faculty was always very open to us using whatever we needed to get our work done, whether that meant paint or some other material. Defining our practice was very open, so I felt like I could explore whatever I wanted, which was very good for me.” Marti’s work now encompasses various mediums, from sculpture to painting to large-scale installations involving wallpapers, furniture, and lighting. 

In the project’s first year, the Class of 2019 received a limited-edition print designed by Edgar Heap of Birds (MFA ’79) in collaboration with Tyler Printmaking students. In 2020, Polly Apfelbaum (BFA ‘78), in collaboration with Fibers & Material Studies students, created cozy, hand-crafted winter hats, each topped with a gigantic white pom-pom. In 2021, feminist media artist Angela Washko (BFA ‘09) created a digital, social practice performance called “Always On,” to reflect the technology-reliant year that students faced during the pandemic. 

Tyler glass students and glass program head Jessica Jane Julius pose with Virgil Marti (MFA '90) and their collection of completed owls.

The team collaboratively created over 400 glass owls for this year’s diploma project.
Special thanks to the whole team: 

Virgil Marti, MFA '90
Aidan Lederman Gerard, BFA ‘22
Gemma Hollister, BFA ‘22
Cassandra Jasulevicz, BFA ‘22
Kathryn Receveur, BFA ‘22
Brynn Hurlstone, MFA ‘23
Christen Baker, MFA ‘23
Summer Lynn Moore, MFA ‘22
Jason McDonald, MFA ‘23
Jessica Jane Julius, Associate Professor of Instruction and Program Head of Glass 
Theo Brooks, Technical Assistant, Glass
Kati Gegenheimer, BFA '07, Associate Director of Academic Enrichment Programs and Adjunct Assistant Professor

Photo credit: Carin Whitney