Department of Art and Art History Alumni

Rachel Lee Hovnian interviewed by The Art Gorgeous

Fri. November 20, 2015


Woman in front of wall of electric outlets wearing dress of same pattern
Image courtesy of the artist.

Rachel Lee Hovnanian (B.F.A. in Studio Art, 1982) was interviewed by The Art Gorgeous.

Q+A with Jesse Kinbarovsky (M.F.A. in Design, 2014)

Tue. November 24, 2015


Jesse Kinbarovsky completed an M.F.A. in Design in 2014 from The University of Texas at Austin. He answered questions by email.

man smiles and poses for for photo

When you completed the graduate Design program, you were working on GlucoCue. Where is that project now?

Jesse Kinbarovsky: I continue to work on my diabetes ‘internet-of-things’ project, and have gotten a decent chunk through development. The utility patent was filed this year but will take a few more months for approval. I’ve pivoted a bit to account for gaps in the market and competition, but it’s more or less the same sort of thing I presented in grad school. I wish I were further on this, but given my schedule I’m happy that I’ve at least gotten this far. In the fall, I partnered with UT School of Biomedical Engineering to help develop, which was a good experience. I recently found a business partner, and it’s looking good for product release sometime in 2016, if I can focus enough time on it.

What work have you been doing since graduating?

JK: After graduating in 2014 I worked as a contract designer, playing lead design roles on a few projects. I spent much of the time focused on a really cool touch wall at a large hospital complex in San Francisco, developing a series of physical and music therapy games and interactive experiences for the Children’s Hospital there. I was extremely gratified to learn that the therapists walk groups of kids to the wall every day for therapy. Following that I moved to Precocity, LLC as a Senior UI/UX Designer on some large-scale software products. After a few months I became Creative Director, leading design and development teams in the U.S., Ukraine, and India on a suite of immigration, investment and tax compliance applications for Deloitte, Apple, Facebook and Google—about one billion in contracts altogether.

It was a real learning experience and full of big problems to solve, but in October I was invited to be Creative Director of UX for North America with KUKA Systems, a robotics and automation firm headquartered in Augsburg, Germany. In this new role I am helping launch a new R&D branch and working with some fascinating emerging technologies to define how people experience and interact with robots and automation systems in a wide range of settings. Starting in 2016 I will be building teams in Austin and San Francisco to design mobile and cloud solutions for industrial robotics applications in general, and healthcare automation more specifically.

It's only been a short time, but what has been the most exciting thing about your work for KUKA Systems?

JK: It’s been thrilling and demanding working with some very sharp people who are building some amazing technologies. But even more than that, it’s energizing to work in a very entrepreneurial environment at this early stage. All of us have the sense of urgency and excitement that comes with the start of a new thing.

How would you describe your practice before you entered the M.F.A. program in Design and how has it changed since you completed the program?

JK: All of the work I listed above has been a direct outgrowth of my grad school experience and output. UT Austin has dramatically improved my career trajectory, and the last year and a half have been filled with rapid growth. Before grad school I was pretty hemmed in to my specific design practice, stuck at a certain level and quite honestly too timid to venture into new areas. But the amazing professors and availability of great courses helped me tailor my education to expand my skill set and build confidence in my abilities. I learned how to think in new ways and engage with a wide variety of subjects, and the result has been having a meaningful impact on people’s lives through my design work.

Alumnus Teodoro Estrada partners with department to provide college preparation for students

Tue. November 24, 2015

two people present to group in an auditorium
Tedoro Estrada begins presentation with Diana Mendoza, assistant director of undergraduate admissions. Photo by Vivian Zapata.

When Teodoro Estrada (B.F.A. in Art Education, 1981) returned to his hometown—Brownsville, Texas—he didn’t set out to become play a major part in leading arts education in the community. And yet, this year marks five years of service as the Supervisor for Visual Arts for the Brownsville Independent School District.

“It is so exciting to see what is happening at the district level,” remarks Estrada. “I started to see the gaps and started working with teachers to start filling those gaps.”

After graduating from UT Austin, Estrada taught in middle schools and high schools in Houston for 20 years. He maintained his own studio practice as well as creating new programs for his students. Estrada collaborated with the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston to bring communities into schools. His projects included murals and exhibitions of student work that welcomed community members into the middle school and brought student work outside of the classroom.

“Art doesn’t have to be just on paper or canvas,” describes Estrada. “It can be out in the community for people to enjoy it.”

In 2006, Estrada moved back to Brownsville and completed his M.F.A. in studio art while teaching art at the high school level. In 2010, he applied to and was offered a position as Supervisor for Visual Arts for the Brownsville Independent School District.

“We started a portfolio review five years ago. The first one was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Brownsville and had four universities participate,” says Estrada. “About 50 students showed up and they really got into it. They saw how the portfolio review could help them get into art programs they wanted to study.”

By providing students an opportunity to show their work to college faculty and arts professions, Estrada provides a platform for students to get feedback and learn about pathways to different careers.

man leans over table to discuss art with two students
Eric McMaster reviews portfolios. Photo by Vivian Zapata.

“There’s a huge gap that needs to be addressed,” says Estrada. “This includes student’s preparation for college and that many of our community members don’t see art as a career. Every opportunity we get, we go out into the public to teach the community that art is a viable career.”

For the last two years, the Department of Art and Art History has participated in Estrada’s portfolio review and collaborated in presentations and discussions to increase college preparation.

“I’m always looking for new opportunities for our faculty and our students. I am looking for opportunities to build our art programs. Here in the valley, we have to create opportunity—we need to yell out to the world.”

Learn how the College of Fine Arts and other alumni are leading outreach efforts in the Rio Grande Valley

Q+A with Emily Edwards (B.A. in Art History, 2015)

Tue. November 24, 2015

woman in blue blouse poses for picture
Image courtesy of Emily Edwards

Emily Edwards (B.A. in Art History, 2015) is a graduate student at Georgetown University. She answered questions by email.

Margaret Conyngham: After you finished your B.A. in Art History at UT Austin, you were accepted into the Art and Museum Studies graduate program at Georgetown University. What is your research focused on?

Emily Edwards: I am primarily focusing on contemporary art. I am also taking a few curatorial studies courses that focus on exhibition planning.

MC: Congratulations on your internship at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. What kinds of projects have you been working on there?

EE: Thank you! I am currently developing a video podcast for their website. I also work with the curatorial staff on exhibition research for future catalogs.

MC: How did your undergraduate work prepare you for graduate school and the work you are doing at the Hirshhorn?

EE: I learned how to do in-depth research through my undergraduate classes, especially while writing my undergraduate thesis. I really fine-tuned my writing skills in my four years at UT. I also learned how valuable it is to form relationships with professors. They all want to get to know you and help you succeed!

MC: Do you have any advice for students thinking about applying to graduate Art History programs?

EE: My biggest piece of advice is to thoroughly research the graduate programs. I remember thinking one program was perfect but then looked at their course offerings to find they did not offer any contemporary art classes. Since that is the area I want to specialize in, I quickly crossed it off my list! I also advise looking into the programs well in advance of application deadlines. I spent the summer before my senior year drafting a list of the schools I wanted to apply to so I could spend the fall of my senior year actually working on the applications. Those deadlines sneak up faster than you think! Finally, take advantage of the career services available in the department. I had no idea how to write a statement of purpose initially. Visiting career services helped me focus my ideas.

Maggie Conyngham is a recent graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Art History and French. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.

Q+A with Raul De Lara (B.F.A. Studio Art, 2015)

Tue. November 24, 2015

man in black and white sweater poses for camera
Image courtesy of the artist.

Raul De Lara graduated with a B.F.A in Studio Art with high honors in 2015. He now lives and works in Chicago and answered these questions via email.

Kayla Jones: What sort of opportunities provided by UT Austin did you take advantage of while you were an undergraduate student?

Raul De Lara: While at UT Austin, I took advantage of programs such as the New York Seminar, Ox-Bow, and scholarships within the College of Fine Arts and other areas in the university. I made sure to learn how to properly operate every single tool available at the wood shop and Digital Fabrication Lab. I also took advantage of the faculty and staff’s knowledge and wisdom. I would often ask them for advice and questions about the professional world and life in general.

KJ: Which opportunity you took advantage of had the biggest impact? Why?

RDL: The opportunity that had the biggest impact was the Ox-Bow program. A year before graduating, I was awarded a scholarship to go to Ox-Bow during the summer for a two-week class. The experience allowed me to dive deeply into a sea of opportunities within the Ox-Bow and Chicago community. I remember not being able to believe that I was in a place where every single person was just as excited and passionate about becoming something greater. This opportunity had the biggest impact on me because it created a chain reaction of favorable circumstances that eventually led up to me receiving a fellowship to attend Ox-Bow and moving to Chicago—creating a solid foundation for the first years of my artistic career.

KJ: Why did you decide to move to Chicago?

RDL: During my Ox-Bow fellowship I connected with a lot of Chicago artists, which opened up an abundance of opportunities for me in the city. A Chicago friend and I decided to look for a place together. We wanted an all-in-one living space where we could have living space, studio space and a gallery. Eventually we found the perfect building that would fulfill our visions in the neighborhood of Bridgeport and together we founded Fat City Arts. Having this strong network of people and finding my ideal living situation led me to have no other choice but to move to Chicago to pursue my professional goals and ambitions.

chair with wooden cushions
Thinking Chair, 2015, mahogany and white oak. Image courtesy of the artist.

KJ: How did you get the opportunity to work for Nick Cave?

RDL: After locking down my new space in Chicago, I had in mind the ideal job of working with an artist that I really look up to: Nick Cave. I landed my job working with Nick Cave by networking Ox-Bow and Chicago circles, which eventually led to an interview with him. During the interview I got to see the studio crew in action and the famous Soundsuits; I was hooked immediately.

KJ: How has it been trying to maintain a studio practice since graduating, moving and getting a job with Nick Cave’s studio?

RDL: My studio practice has been very fruitful since moving to Chicago. Learning how to carefully manage my time has been a key factor in all of the following. I have a well-equipped wood shop and a lot of space where I can create work. Having a gallery on site also allows me to host events that showcase my work and the work of other living artists. I live with three incredibly talented artists who just graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We help each other and share knowledge on a regular basis.

Collectively we operate Fat City Arts, which is not only a place where we host art and music shows, but also a hot-spot for creatives to engage with one another and further develop the vernacular of tomorrow. Graduating finally allowed me to be able to start big scale solo and group projects. I am currently working on collaborative sculptures with artists from Detroit, Chicago and Ireland. I am also in the process of painting a 44 ft. mural in downtown Chicago. During the first part of my weekdays, I work with Nick Cave at his studio. I love being there because he is a role model for me; that man works harder than anyone I know. I also recently got accepted by Chicago Artists Coalition to be a yearlong resident for HATCH Projects, where I will receive professional development through dynamic exhibitions, one-on-one studio visits, public programs, and community building to develop a sustainable creative practice.

KJ: What advice would you give current undergraduates?


  • Your professors and staff are your most valuable assets. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and favors—they want to help.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of simply being liked.
  • Do not take your place in time for granted. There are thousands of people fighting to be where you are and where you want to be.

Kayla Jones lives in Austin, Texas where she is pursuing a B.F.A. in Studio Art and B.A. in English at The University of Texas at Austin.

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