“I’m an artist,” proclaimed Shauna Merriman, the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Speaker, in her address during the college’s 42nd Commencement Ceremony.
Merriman grew up in Ridgecrest and studied at the college following graduation from Burroughs High School in ’92 not knowing what she wanted to study – only that she valued a high quality education in academia and needed time to find where her heart lie in her own way. “I needed the freedom and space to hang around for a while and figure it out, and could relatively easily make the time and money to take advantage of the extremely high quality education at Cerro Coso,” she said. “Here, there isn’t the financial pressure of a 4-year institution, and need to declare a major so quickly out of high school.”
In 1997, she transferred to the New York State School for Ceramics at Alfred University where she earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, followed by her Master’s in Fine Arts from the Ohio State University. “I found that it was a big advantage to be an older transfer student with diverse experiences. Not only had I discovered a lot about myself, I was open, eager, and really well-prepared as a student and evolving thinker,” she said.
Merriman has worked as an artist since, teaching in academia and exhibiting in both group and solo shows across the country as well as in Germany. “Imagination and play aren’t just for the arts—they’re in all disciplines and relationships, and I think paramount in finding one’s passion for meaningful work,” she told the crowd.
She recently returned from living in Dresden, Germany, for 3 years, where she taught at the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden, exhibited at places including: City Art Museum of Dresden and E-Werk, Feiburg, and had a solo exhibition at Mastul Galerie in Berlin.
She maintained her studio practice as part of an artist-run initiative and exhibition space (g-8 Project Space and Studios), a non-profit, Dresden cultural institution that curates exhibitions and hosts international Artists in Residence, where she was also an organizing member. During this time, Merriman also completed a German Master studies in Art. “I am really thankful for the educational foundation that I have been given by this institution to build upon,” she said of Cerro Coso.
A recipient of an Individual Fellowship Award of Excellence from the Ohio Arts Council, through which she was also awarded an Artist in Residency in Dresden, prior to her move there, Merriman currently teaches ceramics and sculpture at the University of Connecticut and Connecticut College.
“However big you dream, whatever your vision, know that you have the best possible start, coming from Cerro Coso. You are in a really good position with many options,” she concluded.
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