Success Stories

Student honored for arts advocacy and vision

Amber Stout

Not everybody gets custom-made jewelry designed in her honor. But then, Amber Stout isn’t just anybody.

The Women + the Arts committee at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts, in Grand Rapids, selected Stout for a Junior Maven Award in October 2011. Previous Mavens have included Kate Pew Wolters, who established the Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation, which is supportive of nonprofit arts groups; artist Linda LaFontsee, who has mentored and showcased many artists at LaFontsee Gallery/Underground Studio; and other innovative women who embody the spirit of arts advocate and generously share their creative vision and wisdom to make the community a better place.

Stout, a native of Grand Rapids, will graduate from Grand Valley in April 2012. She is an art and design major, with an emphasis in graphic design and a minor in non-profit administration. The UICA committee said they chose to honor Stout because she represented everything they were looking for in a Junior Maven: her long history with the ArtWorks program, first as an intern, then as a lead artist; her dedication to the Avenue for the Arts; and her continued involvement with UICA while actively pursuing a career in graphic design. The award was presented at a luncheon that highlighted the 10th Anniversary of UICA’s ArtWorks youth job-training program, for youth interested in creative careers.  

“Amber is a student with an exceptionally inquisitive mind,” said Dellas Henke, Grand Valley professor of art and design. “She also has a fearlessness to try new things, to ‘fail’ even — which is, of course, why she succeeds so often. These are qualities that are rarely so apparent in an undergraduate career, especially at the same time.”

Stout first became involved with ArtWorks as an intern in the after-school program when she was a senior at Northview High School in Grand Rapids. “I was so fortunate to be selected for the printmaking group,” said Stout. “It was led by Alynn Guerra, who did this year’s Festival of the Arts poster.” They designed and printed posters for their client, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, as part of an emerald ash borer public awareness campaign.

“The experience not only gave me skills, but also a bit of confidence to study art at Grand Valley,” said Stout. This past summer, Stout returned to the ArtWorks program as a lead artist to teach graphic design to her own group of 13 young students. Much of their work, following the themes of “take flight,” “soar” and “nurture,” all loosely related to the ArtWorks program, was featured at the very luncheon where Stout received her award.
The actual award is a unique jewelry design created by a local artist. Stout’s award was created by Renee Zettle-Sterling, associate professor in Grand Valley’s Department of Art & Design. She created a silver pendant with touches of gold and a matching pair of earrings, as a more youthful design than the traditional brooch awarded to Mavens.  

The Dwelling Place’s Avenue of the Arts Market has also benefited from both intern and volunteer efforts by Stout, as she managed several community events and worked to oversee the entire 2010 operations. While still a student, she also served as an arts administration intern, led tours of exhibitions at UICA, and worked as a student web and graphics designer with the Community Research Institute in Grand Valley’s Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

“Amber defies easy distinctions between being locally and globally focused,” said Paul Wittenbraker, Grand Valley associate professor of art and design. “She has a deep love of Grand Rapids, her hometown, but is also engaged with ideas that resonate in broad cultural contexts.”

by Mary Isca Pirkola