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Alumni in 10

Julie Upmeyer, '03

Julie Upmeyer, '03

Title/Employer: Independent Visual Artist: Istanbul, Turkey

Degree Earned/Emphasis Area: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Ceramics emphasis

Watch Julie's #GVLakerEffect video!

1. What has your journey been since graduation?
After graduating, I began working for several different international artist residency programs and arts organizations in Europe and Asia. At the same time, I was working for Res Artis, the worldwide network of artist residencies, as their website editor and communications person. I eventually moved to Istanbul and started an artist residency program of my own, hosting over 40 international artists in 5 years. All the while I maintained my practice as an artist, creating sculptures and installations, interactive works and exhibitions, in diverse places throughout the world.

2. How has Grand Valley had a role in your journey?
My professors at GVSU showed me by example that there are many different ways to be an artist, that there are many things you can do as an artist, and that the arts and the world are not mutually exclusive.

GVSU, with its local and global network of professionals, allowed me as a student to understand firsthand how networking and making connections can enable an interesting and diverse career. With its ever-expanding campuses and educational buildings, I was able to have three permanent commissioned artworks to my name even before graduating. This was priceless experience as a student.

3. What is your favorite Grand Valley memory?
As a swimmer, I spent my every waking hour either in the pool, or at the art building. GVSU was one of the only universities in the country that could provide me with both an exceptional fine arts education and a serious swimming program. The fact that I could pursue both these passions simultaneously is something for which I am still grateful.

4. What three words describe your experience at Grand Valley?
Challenging, nurturing, expanding.

5. How have you stayed involved with Grand Valley since graduation?
I have visited the campus and the art department every few years, meeting with professors and speaking to the students in their classes. I have met several times with GVSU students studying in Istanbul, and I have meet up with student groups traveling around Turkey.

6. Why are you proud to be a Laker for a Lifetime?
I’m so fortunate to have been a part of such a rich liberal arts education. I am grateful that in addition to my fine arts courses at GVSU, I was also able to study such diverse topics as geology, taekwondo, ethics, marketing, and the scientific revolution. This has greatly benefited my practice as an artist, as well as my life as a human being. I believe experiences from one field are certainly applicable and greatly beneficial to any other, especially for an artist.

7. What do you like to do for fun?
I still swim, and I have in the past years participated in some open-water swimming races, notably the iconic Bosporus Cross-Continental Swimming Race. This race starts on Istanbul’s Asian shore, following the Bosporus Strait down towards the Marmara Sea, and ending on the European side.

8. What is your favorite quote/motto to live by?
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -- William Morris

9. What motivates you?
I am a strong self-motivator, I set specific goals for myself and creatively pursue paths to attain them. This doesn’t always work, of course, and requires quite a bit of flexibility and re-adjustments on my part, but I do prefer this goal-oriented format to organizing my work and life.  I have been fortunate enough to have some very inspiring and generous mentors throughout my lifetime that have helped me to set and reach my goals.

10. What book or movie have you recently enjoyed?
For pleasure, I loved the book The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and I have been discovering older works by Margaret Atwood that I had overlooked in the past. And for my work, I have been reading about optics, dimensions, the shipping industry, and undersea cable networks. 

October 2016

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