AMES, Iowa — Works by three Iowa State University College of Design student, faculty and alumni artists were recognized with top awards in “Octagonal 2021: The All-Media Show” on display at the Octagon Center for the Arts, 427 Douglas Ave. in Ames.

Juror Jenie Gao, an interdisciplinary artist, creative director, curator and entrepreneur, announced the awards during a virtual opening reception Friday, March 5. The show will run through April 10 in the Octagon’s Community Gallery.

The highly competitive exhibition, sponsored by Haila Architecture, Structure and Planning, features 41 pieces from a total of 349 submissions by 134 artists, selected in a blind review process. Award winners also were chosen through a blind process just before the show opened.

Emerging Artist Award

“Baptism” by Paige Holzbauer, graduate student in integrated visual arts and sustainable environments, won the Emerging Artist Award funded by the Brown Family Endowment Fund.

This photograph printed on linen and surrounded by sand on the floor of the gallery would not have worked nearly as well in a more traditional medium like painting, or even a photograph or painting installed on a wall, Gao said.

“Although it’s the same symbolism of the body in water and of this baptism and this religious experience, there’s something about taking the portrait off of the wall and installing it on the floor and surrounding it with sand where you’re not only recreating the scene of baptism, you’re subverting the expectation that we would engage with this experience via a portrait, a painting, a computer screen,” she said.

“Right now you’re forcing us to look down on what is supposed to be a religious experience and I think that’s a compelling portrayal. For the Emerging Artist Award, I really wanted to recognize this use of media and space.”

Janet Harris Squires Clay Award

Ingrid Lilligren’s stoneware vessel, “Ignorant,” won the Janet Harris Squires Clay Award funded by Haila Architecture.

In recent projects Lilligren, professor of art and visual culture, uses Braille to speak about cultural, social and political blindness. Braille text on “Ignorant” says “beautiful, pragmatic and so very finite” and “the extent to which we are willfully ignorant.”

“I like that it engages not only our visual senses, but also our sense of touch. I also like that, because it’s a tactile piece and it has Braille on its surface, it’s actually not very functional as a vase. It has holes that limit its usefulness as a physical container,” Gao said. “But what it loses as a physical container it gains as a message carrier, and I thought that that was a very powerful aspect of the piece.”

Veronika Ruedenberg Mixed Media Award

Jamie Malone, who received a bachelor of arts in biological/pre-medical illustration from Iowa State in 2019 and currently serves as curator-in-residence at the Octagon, won the Haila Architecture-funded Veronika Ruedenberg Mixed Media Award for “Transition of Venus.”

Gao “liked this artwork right away. I could tell this person who created it was someone who knew how to tell a story with a picture. The composition is lovely, the portraiture is lovely. It’s a beautiful piece,” she said.

“Particularly in this era, we need trans people to be visible. And for them to be visible in their totality, including their faces. We don’t have enough of that representation in portraiture, and so when a strong example of diverse portraiture enters our spaces, it deserves recognition. In terms of where we are culturally, and what art is for culture, I wanted to make sure that I elevated that.”

College of Design-affiliated artists

At least 13 College of Design students, faculty and alumni artists have work in “Octagonal 2021:”

  • Kelly Devitt Steenhagen (BFA 2017 Integrated Studio Arts)
  • Jennifer Drinkwater, assistant professor, art and visual culture
  • Nathan Edwards, associate teaching professor, art and visual culture
  • Charlie Esker, senior, integrated studio arts
  • Desiree Fuller (BFA 2012 Integrated Studio Arts)
  • Cindy Gould (BFA 1992 Fine Arts/MA 1994 Art & Design/MFA 1998), associate professor, art and visual culture
  • Paige Holzbauer, graduate student, integrated visual arts and sustainable environments
  • Ingrid Lilligren, professor, art and visual culture
  • Jamie Malone (BA 2019 Biological/Pre-medical Illustration)
  • Christopher Merchant, graduate student, industrial design
  • Anna Segner (MFA 2019 Integrated Visual Arts), assistant teaching professor, art and design
  • Chuck Richards, professor, art and visual culture
  • Alicia Wilkinson (BFA 2003 Interior Design)


Community Gallery hours are currently 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday by appointment. Enter through the Octagon Shop. Face coverings are required.


Rhonda Scott, Octagon Center for the Arts, info@octagonarts.org
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, hsauer@iastate.edu