A Gateway to the World: KCAD as Creative Conduit
This article was originally published in the Winter 2015/2016 issue of Portfolio. View the complete issue here.
There’s much more to the learning experience at an art and design college than a fat portfolio and a diploma.
Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) acts as a conduit, allowing students to stretch their creative legs in an atmosphere that’s open to everyone, from anywhere. It’s a gateway that allows every student to discover new aspects about their work, their creativity, and themselves. One way KCAD does that is by circling the globe, inviting students in from around the world and sending others to venture out into it.
“Openness means opening yourself up to different things and increasing your level of understanding,” says Industrial Design student Aakosh Arora, who came to KCAD from New Delhi, India in 2011. “It’s opening up to different cultures and different types of design and people. It’s blurring your own boundaries and trying to merge with other people.”
Like a lot of teenagers, Arora was obsessed with the sleek designs and technology of modern vehicles. That love of cars inspired him to pursue a degree in Industrial Design. Since he was moving from one of the most populated cities in the world, West Michigan proved to be a big shift in scenery.
“When I came here on the first day it was very quiet and so peaceful that I thought it was a public holiday, but that was just how it was,” Arora says. “It was a shock because I could actually sleep. Back home I was always surrounded by background noise and people.”
Despite his newfound rest, the transition wasn’t without the challenges of adjusting to life in a new country. Thankfully, Arora was able to lean on his professors and staff at KCAD to help ease his transition. When he first arrived, he was picked up from the airport and, later, taken to purchase a laptop and other supplies. After he had settled in more, he found himself hanging out with his professors after class, having conversations about his work, and collaborating on projects.
“I think KCAD has some of the best professors in the U.S.,” Arora says. “I am amazed by them and how talented they are. The professors are very open and helpful to international students. They understand that you’re coming from a different culture and are very welcoming.”
For Raquel Silva, being at KCAD has instilled a deeply rooted responsibility to enact change in her home country of Puerto Rico. Silva, a junior Drawing major, believes that when an institution such as KCAD exposes its students to other cultures, they are able to take their work to the next level of enacting positive change in the world around them.
“Bringing together other cultures builds an important ambition that makes students grow outside of KCAD and have that desire to be more responsible though art—not only using it to make things beautiful but to change the world for the best,” Silva says.
KCAD also encourages its students to expand themselves by studying abroad. Devin Childers, a senior Industrial Design student, recently participated in KCAD’s first student exchange program to Manchester University in England—an experience that he says proved integral in shaping his creative process.
“You pick a college not necessarily for the technical skills, although that’s very important, but for all the things that can be learned,” Childers says. “It’s the experience and the environment that are the most important. Studying abroad makes you a more well-rounded individual.”
Childers was able to see how different cultures designed products and how those products were used in their daily lives. But it was not only the physical products that inspired him; Childers was able to observe the way people in the U.K. moved and interacted with their built environments, giving him a better perspective on how to craft future designs.
“You can only see so much on the Internet or when you’re talking to other people; you really have to go places to experience them yourself,” Childers says. “Traveling is one of the best ways to learn anything. KCAD offers a gateway, a door to the rest of the world.”
As diverse as the converging backgrounds and cultures that enliven the halls of KCAD may be, the common language of creativity bonds everyone together.
“One great thing about being in a school like KCAD is that no matter where you’re from, the language of art and design is the same,” Arora said. “It’s the same for everyone in the world.”