School of Art, Tesseract Center and Crystal Bridges Collaborate on Virtual Exhibition, 'Frankly'

Graphic Design Class of 2020
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Graphic Design Class of 2020

It has become an annual tradition for University of Arkansas graduating graphic design seniors to showcase their work in a "Pecha Kucha-style" presentation. But with nationwide quarantine restrictions, the seniors have instead embraced the moment to go fully digital in 2020.

However, this is no ordinary online experience. Through a collaboration between the U of A's School of Art and the Tesseract Center for Immersive Environments and Game Design, both part of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, as well as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, this virtual exhibition will be a real-time, immersive 3D creation.

The virtual exhibition, Frankly, will feature the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design seniors' work and will go live in the Tesseract Center's Gallery 5 on Thursday, May 7 as well as on the website

A virtual reception for the exhibition will also take place at 5 p.m. May 7 with details on The exhibition and reception are both free and open to the public.

Gallery 5 is an interactive, real-time 3D gallery application developed by the Tesseract Center in partnership with Crystal Bridges. The Tesseract Center produces video games, interactive visualizations and virtual reality content for teaching and research.

Under David Fredrick, director of the Tesseract Center and professor of classical studies in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and CulturesGallery 5 was first created five years ago as a digital recreation of the physical Gallery 5 space found at Crystal Bridges. The virtual gallery application is a browser-based solution for hosting online exhibitions with the ability to feature paintings, film, sculpture or time-based media work. 

"The initial goal of Gallery 5, as a collaboration between the Tesseract Center and Crystal Bridges, was to bring an interactive virtual gallery experience to students and the public," Fredrick said. "Frankly takes this work to the next level, as an exhibition in real-time 3D of new and incredibly meaningful work by graduating graphic design students. It is fantastic to have this work hosted in a digital application developed by current University of Arkansas students and graduates. We are all excited to invite you to experience this collaborative exhibit and celebrate the class of 2020 with us through Frankly."

Shane Richey, Crystal Bridges' creative director of experimentation and development, agreed and said that the collaboration was also a great way for Crystal Bridges to honor its commitment to provide access to its collection and resources.

"It's exciting to invite the students into the virtual galleries and provide a space for them to show off their hard work in a time when people don't have access to Crystal Bridges or the School of Art's Fine Arts Center Gallery," he said.

There are 24 graduating graphic design seniors this year, and each will be featured in Frankly and has dedicated their final semester to researching and designing a speculative solution for a systemic problem of their choice. 

With topics ranging from developing self-confidence and managing mental health, to interventions in sex education and local politics, these projects showcase the versatility of the graduating design class.  

"This class of seniors has demonstrated incredible resiliency and innovation this semester by pivoting their entire senior show to a virtual format," said Ali Place, assistant professor of graphic design. "By embracing the limitations of the current circumstances, they designed a bold and forward-thinking exhibition that will amplify the impact of their design research projects."

Place and her students describe Frankly as "prefacing a harsh reality laid bare at a time when the stakes demand it." As the students developed the overarching identity behind the show, many said they saw it as a way to gain the courage to confront problems and the acumen to address them using design principles.

The students' hope is that Frankly will serve as a way for each participant to speak their truth and to, "speculate recklessly with a greater good in mind."

Audiences can see the student work through a wide variety of forms including apps, community projects, printed artifacts and games. In addition, viewers can learn more about each designer and experience an in-depth look into each project on the student profiles found at

"At a time when so much is unprecedented and uncertain, it is truly inspiring to see this multidisciplinary and community partnership-expanding way to keep our tradition of featuring our talented senior graphic design students' work," said Todd Shields, dean of Fulbright College. "What an incredible, innovative and fun way to showcase their work and the amazing resiliency of the Class of 2020!" 

About the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences: The J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most academically diverse unit on campus with three schools, 16 departments and 43 academic programs and research centers. The college provides the core curriculum for all University of Arkansas students and is named for J. William Fulbright, former university president and longtime U.S. senator.



Kayla Crenshaw, director of communications
School of Art

Andra Parrish Liwag, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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