School of Art Faculty and Graduate Students Receive Artists 360 Artist Awards

Top from left: Loring Taoka and Zora Murff; bottom: Ziba Rajabi and Ashley Gardner.
Artists 360, Kat Wilson

Top from left: Loring Taoka and Zora Murff; bottom: Ziba Rajabi and Ashley Gardner.

Last week Artists 360, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, announced 20 artists receiving project and student grant awards. Among the recipients are two School of Art faculty members, assistant professor Zora Murff and instructor Loring Taoka, and graduate students Ashley Gardner and Ziba Rajabi.

Artists 360 is a program designed to further the prosperity of the arts community in Northwest Arkansas. Project grants range in discipline from literary, performing and visual arts, ranging from mixed media to photography to sculpture and more. Students are recognized during post-secondary education and encouraged in building sustainable practices.

Zora Murff and Loring Taoka joined the School of Art in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences fall 2018. Murff is an assistant professor of photography and Taoka is an instructor for the schools' 2D Advanced Technology Lab. 

Zora Murff has a Master of Fine Arts in studio art from the University of Nebraska and Bachelor of Science in psychology from Iowa State University. His research focuses on photography's many intersections with social constructs and addresses questions related to how perception of individuals is shaped through the making and consumption of imagery.

"With the generous funding from Artists 360, I will research and create new works that explore the concept of utopias: how Americans tried to create them," said Murff. 

Loring Taoka earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Texas and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toledo. He is a visual artist utilizing a variety of approaches and techniques to explore notions of vagueness and authenticity.

Taoka is interested in perception and how it relates to ideas about truth and the known and unknown. 

"I create work that asks the viewer to question what they are seeing and understanding while presenting imagery that is simultaneously concise and convoluted," said Taoka. "Through these processes, I look at the ways I am read and identified, the ways in which I identify myself, and work to abstract these notions."

Taoka will create a body of work to be presented at the Galleri Urbane in Dallas with the project grant award received. The presentation will be an immersive installation with paintings, UV prints on plexiglass and custom printed wallpaper all challenging our perceptions and experiences.

Graduate student recipients Ashley Gardner and Ziba Rajabi are both in their final year of the Master of Fine Arts program at the School of Art. Gardner is working to expand the idea of fine art print of photography by creating her own textiles and using them to create domestic spaces that subvert the traditional notions of gender and family.

Ziba Rajabi describes herself as an Iranian woman artist based in Arkansas. Her paintings and installations revolve around the desire to reconcile the relationship between the two distinctive spaces: Tehran, Iran and Arkansas.

In addition to this years' award winners, Artists 360 recognized the outstanding applications and finalists for project grants including School of Art faculty Adrienne Callander, Dylan DeWitt, Rebecca Drolen and Adam Hogan and M.F.A finalist Anthony Kascak for the student artist grant.

For more information about Artists 360 and to see all award recipients visit,


Kayla Crenshaw, director of communications
School of Art


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