Onward to Make the World Better
With four years of critiques and lectures and countless hours of studio work under their belts, recent graduates of the Cleveland Institute of Art are ready to dive into the real world. Meet a few of them and find out what they’re bringing to wherever they next land.
Ask Ross Brunetti what industry most needs help from an interior architecture expert, and he doesn’t hesitate: retail.
“The internet has been a big driver that has changed the customer experience in the retail world,” says Brunetti, a recent graduate from CIA’s Interior Architecture program. “But it opens up all these new opportunities for companies to adapt and approach people in new ways that they haven’t had before.”
Brunetti grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was “the art kid” in high school. When he started at CIA, he was torn between Industrial Design and Interior Architecture—a type of design that focuses on creating user-friendly experiences in stores, restaurants and other public spaces.
A talk with an upperclassman helped him decide. “The analogy that they used was that industrial designers would create Mr. Coffee, the coffee pot, whereas interior architects create Mr. Coffee the brand, and the entire experience,” Brunetti says.
During an internship at the retail design firm Miller Zell in Atlanta, Brunetti worked on designing the next generation of Church’s Chicken, a fast-casual dining concept in the South. “I was tasked with creating a new walk-up location for Church’s Chicken, which was really fun.”
Time at CIA allowed him to hone his thinking skills and helped him discover the pleasure of problem solving. “My dream job would be to be a chief innovation officer at a design firm that is doing a lot of work for social justice.”
During his time at Cleveland School of the Arts, a magnet high school for artistically gifted students, Jarod Perry-Richardson concentrated on art but always fit a little music in on the side. So maybe it was inevitable that music worked its way into his studies as an Illustration major at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
During senior year, Perry-Richardson had an assignment to make a piece of art inspired by a lakefront park where the class was doing research.
A classmate reminded Perry-Richardson that he had expressed interest in making a bass and suggested a way to tie it to the assignment. The two worked together to build an instrument with a boxy, hexagonal body and spider-shaped sound holes. “It’s not a professional-quality bass, but it is a bass, and it works, and it can stay in tune,” Perry-Richardson says.
The bass became part of his senior thesis exhibition—a prop for his presentation of fifteen album covers he designed to match up with tunes he wrote in the psychobilly genre. Among them: “My Girl from the Underworld” is a song about a “down-on-his-luck bozo who ends up courting the devil’s daughter, much to his detriment.”
At the moment, Perry-Richardson does freelance illustration. He hopes to break into Marvel or DC Comics. “Those are the real high bar,” he says.
When she was a high school student in Buffalo, New York, Julia Milbrandt took her lifelong interest in art to the next level. “There wasn’t any other subject that I was really passionate about,” she says.
At CIA, Milbrandt double majored in Drawing and Printmaking. “I’m really interested in how, from photographs, I can make drawings that teeter between abstraction and representation,” she says.
She’s drawn to shiny objects or a rainbow reflected from a piece of glass, and she loves the quiet moment of discovery. “Sometimes it gets a little silly. And sometimes I feel like people won’t take me seriously, because they are silly, or weird, or just happy all the time,” she says. “But in the way I render things, and in the ways I present them, I’m very serious about these not-so-serious-things, and I think other people should be, too.”
She’s aiming for a career as a studio artist. She also hopes that her experience organizing CIA’s Student Independent Exhibition, and internships at the Western New York Book Arts Center and another at the Morgan Conservatory, will help her get work in a gallery.
At age 27, Mark Rubelowsky already had a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Southern Mississippi when he stumbled onto a new game plan—one that didn’t depend on designing on a computer.
He was visiting Cleveland with his dad, who was about to take a job at the Veterans Administration, and stopped in at the Cleveland Institute of Art. “While [Dad] was getting fingerprinted, I came to CIA and thought it was really cool.” Before long, he was enrolled as a transfer student at CIA.
He landed in the Glass Department, where his work features notable glass-and-wood mashups, including a horizontally cut wooden lamp with glass feet that evoke centipede legs. His River Table is an accent piece containing a well of glass rods that mimic moving water. More recently, he’s been experimenting with wonkily formed glass vases edged with living moss. He likes the idea that the moss requires a bit of care. “You build relationships with the things you live with and you really start to appreciate and love them,” he says.
His hope for the future is to end up making interesting, beautiful objects somewhere near Lake Tahoe, where he’ll have a dedicated studio in the woods. “My girlfriend’s going to break up with me soon if I fill up any more of our house with equipment.”
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