Artists Honored As Graduate Exhibition Opens

Manetti Shrem Museum Exhibit on View Through June 19

Group of people surrounding artwork
Artist Kelley O’Leary, third from right, flanked by, from left, LeShelle May, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan, Dean Estella Atekwana, Jock M. Reynolds and Chancellor Gary S. May, gathered around "Ether Rock, 2022," part of O'Leary’s installation, recipient of the purchase prize named for the Mays. (Jose Alfonso Perez/UC Davis)

UC Davis’ arts and humanities students were celebrated by their peers, professors, friends and families at the June 2 opening of the annual multidisciplinary showcase at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art.

Chancellor Gary S. May and Estella Atekwana, dean of the College of Letters and Science, hailed the students’ resilience, innovation and creativity amid a challenging two years in their welcome remarks. The “Arts and Humanities 2022 Graduate Exhibition” — with final projects ranging from immersive installations to cutting-edge research and performances from 27 students — is back in person after two years and will be on view through June 19.

Three students were awarded special honors. Professor Simon Sadler, chair of the Department of Design, presented The Savageau Award to Trace Manuel. The award’s purpose is to further the career of a design Master of Fine Arts graduate and to encourage, recognize and celebrate creative and original contributions to the discipline of design. It is named for Professor Emerita Ann Savageau, who established the endowed award fund with her husband, Distinguished Research Professor Michael Savageau.

Artist with blond hair sits in front of exhibit at museum
Trace Manuel, winner of design award for the installation "Deshonesty." (Jose Alfonso Perez/UC Davis)

The project combines an array of materials that employ high-resolution and low-resolution prototyping techniques and tools to explore how designers create and communicate meaning in design,” Sadler said. Manuel’s installation, Deshonesty, features DARB 1000, a prototype chatbot developed to help design students and educators seamlessly (and joyfully) integrate reflective writing into studio curricula.

The Keister and Allen Art Purchase Prize went to Morgan Cristine Flores. Awarded annually to an art studio M.F.A. student, the prize comes from an endowment fund established by Shaun Keister, vice chancellor of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, and Walter Allen, of Information and Education Technology. 

With humor and humility at its very core, and with an allegiance to both the subject and the object, Morgan's work constitutes social circumstance manifest in art and culture, politics, economics, class, and the inescapable workaday world we all struggle to inhabit,” said Distinguished Professor Annabeth Rosen, co-chair and Robert Arneson Endowed Chair, Department of Art and Art History. Morgan’s installation comprises three mobile sculptures created from found, recycled and donated materials and multiple photographs.

Three award-winning artists hold their certificates as they stand in front of exhibit wall.
Award and prize recipients, from left: Morgan Cristine Flores (art studio), Trace Manuel (design) and Kelley O’Leary (art studio). (Jose Alfonso Perez/UC Davis)

A third prize, the inaugural LeShelle and Gary May Art Purchase Prize, was awarded to Kelley O’Leary. The new May Art Purchase Prize is made possible through the generosity of Suzanne Hellmuth and Jock M. Reynolds M.F.A. ‘72 and joins the Keister and Allen purchase prize in enabling the museum to continue the tradition of purchasing graduate student work for the university’s Fine Arts Collection and building an endowment to eventually acquire a work from every graduating M.F.A. student. 

“The job an artist has, and the job Kelley has undertaken,” Rosen said, “is to investigate existing codes of communication, and conduct research using performance, prose and poetry, and precise and carefully found and fabricated evidence to generate a new archaeological analysis of the world we live in.” Her thesis records her journey of visiting the “Cloud” — data centers in the deserts of the American West.

M.F.A. art studio students Phillip Byrne and Emily Gordon were also finalists for the art prizes.

Media Resources

View a gallery and list of participants and their work here.

See the news release on the exhibition here.

Media Contact:

  • Laura Compton,

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