UA art professor Jackson Boelts and members of the UApresents team have involved advanced digital illustration students in competitions over the years in which students pitch a season design for the UA arts organization's marketing materials.
UA art professor Jackson Boelts and members of the UApresents team have involved advanced digital illustration students in competitions over the years in which students pitch a season design for the UA arts organization's marketing materials.

Illustrating the UApresents Season

Students taking a course with UA art professor Jackson Boelts have the unique opportunity to compete, with the winning illustration selected for the UApresents season brochure and other materials.
Nov. 1, 2012
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This is the third feature story in a series about UApresents, which emphasizes community outreach and promotes educational growth.


Other stories in this series:


For the 2012-13 season, Schuyler Copeland's design won and is currently being used in UApresents marketing materials. To learn more about Copeland and his work, read "UA Grad's Art Illustrates UApresents Season," on the UA's official blog,

One of the most visible marketing tools utilized by UApresents, the University of Arizona's professional performing arts presenter, is the illustrated season brochure.

If you know UApresents, you've likely seen it. The illustration appears on the season brochure and a large banner that hangs in front of the UA's Centennial Hall. It is printed on membership cards, sometimes T-shirts, and is framed and gifted to some of UApresents' most loyal donors.

And every year, a UA student designs the illustration.

UApresents began collaborating with Jackson Boelts, a UA School of Arts professor, eight years ago. Each fall semester, Boelts and the UApresents staff involve advanced digital illustration students in a weeks-long competition to season look and feel for the following year’s performance season.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to showcase their work and to help UApresents reach its goals," Boelts said. "This is a great way to get the students involved in real-world projects and to give back to the University and community."

With 100,000 UApresents brochures printed and about 80,000 mailed, that's huge visibility for students and their work.

"We see the brochures on the coffee tables in donors' homes and other places we visit on a regular basis," said Jo Alenson, the marketing director for UApresents. “They truly have a year-long shelf life and our patrons really look forward to the new creative that inspires each season.”

Students will make the formal pitch on Nov. 2, and their work then will be shared with the organization's art director and advisory board. The winner of the competition will be named later in the month with the student's artwork set to be unveiled during the spring, first during a private event.

For now, and as part of the course, students have been producing original, individual designs and illustrations, often offering critiques of one another's work. The peer review is essential not only for student engagement, but also for developing a critical understanding of one's work.

The students are working to connect traditional mediums with digital visualization and are trained in coloring, tinting, shading, shapes, textures and composition; they must be mindful of artistic intent, client demands and what perception different viewers may glean from their work.

Shane Csontos-Popko, a UA visual communications senior, said he was attracted to the course and involvement with UApresents because of the heavier emphasis on graphic design.

"Every artist wants his or her work to be seen, and I like to be able to show my work," said Csontos-Popko, who is specializing in illustration in his program. "I enjoy making the work, and I want people to enjoy looking at it."

Sara Lovelace said she appreciates having the added flexibility and a chance to work with another client in advance of graduating from the UA in December.

"UApresents was very open to our creativity and our opinions, which gives us a lot of freedom to try out different options and styles," Lovelace said, adding that she began with basic doodles and sketches.

"It's always a good idea to find a source of inspiration, too. With UApresents, that was easy," she added. "They have a lot of different events involving music, dance and art, which are very easy to draw inspiration from."

For Boelts, who has involved his students in work with the UA's Dining Services division over the years, it is important that students gain a strong command of how to interact with clients and to formally present their work.

As part of the design competition, the students must determine how to best translate the look and feel that a client – in this case, UApresents – desires in a way that is representative of the organization.

"This is a difficult problem to solve for the students. They need to create an exciting cover that is bright, happy and shows the content of next year's UApresents without knowing the exact performers that have yet to be determined," Boelts said. "There are any number of directions students can take on this assignment, and the final project can be used in their portfolios even if their assignment is not chosen as the final image."

While UApresents did offer students examples of prior marketing materials, the organization does not directly dictate the direction of the design.

However, the organization, in choosing the work of art, is looking for a piece that is representative of the season and the dozens of shows it presents.

In describing the organization to students during a project briefing in October, Alenson noted that UApresents is known for live, high-quality productions; for being welcoming, open and inspiring; and for being community-oriented and globally aware.

Above all, the organization's staff wants to see "what UApresents represents by your own means," she told the students.

Morgan Tennant, another senior in the program, said she likes to begin with a list of words affiliated with the project. She then works to connect those words with larger concepts before moving into the sketching phase.

"Another visual can lead to another idea," said Tennant, who was still wrestling with a number of concepts for the UApresents design.

"Working with clients is a great experience," she said. "It prepares us for when we start looking for jobs and helps us to experience what things we will use later in life."