CIA Students Respond to Progressive Art Collection in Ready, Set, Relay!

How To Make a Cake by Emily Fontana. Top row, left to right: butter, 1 +1 1/2 cups of flour, scrambled eggs, a pinch of salt. Bottom row, left to right: sugar, vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda.

In Ready, Set, Relay!, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) students created paintings, drawings, sculptures and digital media in response to celebrated works in the Progressive Art Collection, bringing fresh perspectives to historic works and offering the public a rare opportunity to view Progressive’s collection.

Seventeen students spent the semester researching and responding to works by world-renowned artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker, Petah Coyne, Vik Muniz, Todd Pavlisko, and Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry.

While visiting Progressive, CIA painting major Emily Fontana connected with Rebus, a site-specific installation of porcelain ceramics created by CIA alum Andy Yoder. The pieces together form a rebus, or puzzle where words or syllables are represented by pictures.

“I find it important that Andy’s work displaces objects from their typical setting, therefore displacing the rules we associate with them,” Fontana says. “One form that my work takes is sculpture, and I started to imagine how I could do the same thing. I chose to create eight cakes, titled How To Make a Cake. Each one is a word puzzle of an ingredient in a cake and is installed on the wall in similar fashion to Rebus.”

A highlight for students was meeting, virtually, the artists whose work they responded to. Fontana’s conversation with Yoder was insightful.

“Andy described how his work has a key connection to memory,” she says. “Whether an idea stemmed from seeing how large his father’s shoes looked in the closet as a child or his grandmother’s licorice stash, the goal is to gain a visceral and humorous reaction. This helped me think about my intentionality with the objects I use/represent in my work.”

Yoder enjoyed the talk and commended Fontana’s work.

“My time at CIA was transformative, and connecting with Emily felt like a bit of a time machine,” he says. “[Her] work had parallels [to Rebus], such as wordplay, the use of everyday objects and a dose of humor—but I was glad to see it remained distinctly different, as an extension of her perspective and personality.”

Ready, Set, Relay! is on view through September 6 at Progressive’s Campus One in Mayfield Village. RSVPs are required: visit

“I hope visitors see the impact that responding to these iconic works had on our practices,” Fontana says. “We were able to create work that may not have been created without the guidance of these artists’ successes—and still stayed true to ourselves.”

11610 Euclid AvenueCleveland, Ohio 44106cia.edu800.223.4700


2024 Alumni Exhibition, June 12–August 9

2024 Faculty Exhibition, August 29 – October 6

Leave a Reply