Christal Brown teaching

Sherrill Roland ’09, ’17 MFA awarded the Fellowship in Documentary Arts from Duke University

SHERRILL ROLAND has been awarded the Center for Documentary Studies’ 2018-19 Post-MFA Fellowship in the Documentary Arts. He will be in residence at the Center for Documentary Studies for 10 months. He is the founder of the acclaimed Jumpsuit Project, intended to raise awareness around issues related to incarceration. Rolland created the Jumpsuit Project after a wrongful conviction just as he had started his last year of grad school in 2013. He was exonerated of all charges in 2015 and returned to UNCG to complete his degree. For his MFA thesis project, Sherrill wore an orange jumpsuit every day and documented his interactions with the public until his graduation in spring 2017. Rolland has shared The Jumpsuit Project around the country with speaking  engagements and performances at many educational institutions and museums. Read more here.  (image by Todd Turner)

Follow Rolland’s project by visiting the following links:

@JumpsuitProject on Twitter
the.jumpsuit.project on Instagram.


UNCG Alumna Beth Leavel nominated for TONY Award

UNC Greensboro Alumna Beth Leavel, MFA ’80 has just received another Tony nomination, this one for her role as Dee Dee Allen in the hit Broadway musical, THE PROMThe nomination was announced this morning by The American Theatre Wing.

Ms. Leavel holds a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for THE DROWSY CHAPERONE in 2006.   THE PROM is her twelfth Broadway show.  She debuted in 42ND STREET in 2001 and other credits include YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, MAMMA MIA, BANDSTAND and ELF.

Beth Leavel attended Meredith for her undergraduate degree in social work, but she had been bitten by the acting bug and decided to pursue graduate work in theatre.  She says her selection of UNCG’s MFA program was a great decision.

A group of UNCG Trustees and supporters saw THE PROM in mid-April and after the show Ms. Leavel joined the group for a private talkback.  She credited UNCG Faculty with helping her find her voice and her passion.   She says it was important to be surrounded by “like minds and supportive teachers”.

In THE PROM,  Ms. Leavel plays one of four fading Broadway stars in desperate need of a new stage.  They travel to a small town in Indiana to help a student bring her girlfriend to the prom, and in hopes of using their involvement in the cause to help jumpstart their careers.

Her show-stopping solo is “The Lady’s Improving”(watch it here),  but it’s almost impossible to imagine Beth Leavel getting any better.  Congratulations Beth!

THE PROM opened at the Longacre Theatre on November 15th, and the show has a total of 7 Tony nominations.  Winners will be announced during the 73rd Annual Tony Awards Presentation on Sunday June 9th, televised on CBS.

Photo credit:  Publicity photo from THE PROM

Michelle Mason ’18

“KATS: The Meerkat Musical” and “Indiana Bones and the Kingdom of the Camarasaur” are examples of presentations at Greensboro’s Science Center, where actors educate and entertain a vital audience: children. Michelle Mason ’18 contributes to our community by using her acting skills to connect with kids.

UNCG’s School of Theatre has long valued young audiences. The North Carolina Theatre for Young People (NCTYP) productions are a signature piece of the MFA Theatre for Youth program and represent the importance UNCG places on the arts as a pivotal community connection. For decades, families have made the NCTYP performances a part of growing up in Greensboro.

How do college actors accumulate their tools for the craft of acting? A variety of teaching methods and performance opportunities, integrated with guidance and supervision by world-class faculty provided Mason with chances to hone her skills. A scholarship from the International Honors College Travel Fund helped her broaden her vision of the world through study abroad, piquing her imagination and artistic growth, exposing her to global perspectives and performance approaches. Associate Professor Michael Flannery describes Mason’s experience at UNCG:

“Michelle Mason participated in every part of UNCG Theatre during her four years here. She was in main stage shows, studio shows, theatre for young audience tours, directing class scenes and students’ workshops. Her broad experience here is what we hope for every one of our students.”

Mason took advantage of opportunities to apply her actor training at the Greensboro Science Center and was also recently hired by “Reserving Royalty,” a birthday event company in which characters interact with children.

UNCG provides a myriad of opportunities for cultural enrichment as an active partner contributing to the vibrancy of the larger community. With the state’s largest College of Visual and Performing Arts and 75 percent of alumni remaining in-state, UNCG arts graduates significantly impact the quality of life in North Carolina communities. Students are transformed by their college experience and become active contributors in our schools, studios, museums, cultural centers and recreational facilities.

According to the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, youth involved with theatre are less likely to drop out of school and more likely to score well on standardized tests. Youth with disabilities can improve their academic performance and communication skills through theatre. Interest in the arts can begin at home, at school or at a science center. A make-believe interaction with a birthday event character may ignite the spark of imagination that results in lifelong creativity.

With the support of caring faculty and international insight, Mason brings fairy dust to encourage our youngest citizens to engage and empathize – inspiration for tomorrow’s vibrant communities.

Story by Zoe Dillard, Donor Relations

2016 Art School Alumni Carmen Neely Exhibition at Jane Lombard Gallery, New York


Carmen Neely’s work—a combination of painting and found objects—is imbued with deep intention and awareness of her identity as a young black woman making art in the twenty-first century. “The mark”, revered and mythologized as the purest form of artistic intention in the art historical canon, becomes an act of subtle subversion in Neely’s paintings. Her own sexuality and female body appropriate the traditionally masculine gesture, and turn painting into an act of femininity. With each brushstroke, she pushes back against the status quo, inserting herself into a larger dialogue about signification in contemporary abstract painting.

Extract from Jane Lombard Gallery

Art Alumni Kyle Webster – awarded the Fellow Award 2017

Kyle T. Webster’s name is synonymous with digital painting.  This bold statement was true even before he joined the Adobe team in 2017 and released his custom brushes to every licensed user of Adobe Creative Cloud.  The drop down menu of brushes in adobe applications now include his simulated media based brushes ( oh and his name ).  These are the brushes that so many have used, purchased, and cherished for over 10 years; one million users, 1600 custom brushes.

How did he ever find the time to make so many? Why does anyone need 1600 brushes?  The answer to both is easy….urgent necessity and endless curiosity.  Drawing and painting is a fundamental need of humanity, for many it is the core of the creative process, a springboard for the ideation process and also the end of a tireless creative journey.  For Kyle it is like breathing. Kyle has always been looking, observing, and searching for new ways to make and express his observations.  As a student, he was always in the studio, not just the digital studio but in the life drawing, the painting studios, really every studio.  He was searching for connections and opportunities to make and see more.  He makes brushes because he needs them to make new marks and they thrill his creative adrenaline and spark new possibilities…  endlessly.

He shared them with the world generously and humbly, often having free give aways along with bargain bundles for sale and downloading.  One million users later, he had Adobe’s attention and had already found his way into the hearts and creative practices of many.

Kyle is now developing with Adobe a touch surface digital painting project named Gemini which integrates vector and pixel brushes and revolutionary live brushes that show real time blending and media interaction.  Gemini was announced at the Adobe Max conference last month with Kyle T. Webster as the keynote performing a live demo of digital painting. It is to be released in 2019 and to use Kyle’ s words…its bananas!

His innovations have generated an ecosystem of digital brushes which inspire, inform, and sustain creatives from many disciplines.  He has been invited to present to Pixar, IDEO, and the national AIGA where he was given the very prestigious Fellow award in 2017 which recognizes designers who have made a significant contribution to raising the standards of excellence in practice and conduct.

Conduct…..  His recent illustrated children’s book, Please say Please, lays a beautiful foundation for inspiring considered conduct; something we are is desperate need of today.  Kyle has consistently done this through his generosity and community engagement.  Earlier today several students said, “ I love Kyle….he came to my high school and talked with us about careers in art and digital painting.”  Kyle has always given to the people around him, his time, his energy, and his insights which are significant.  He is a creative citizen par excellence!  He is an Adobe Design Evangelist, an Illustrator Wizard, and a Design Gangsta!

Kyle Webster is everywhere. We see his work in grocery store on the beer aisle with the standout design work for Foothills IPA.  His work can frequently be found in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Entertainment Weekly, Scholastic, Nike, IDEO, and many other distinguished editorial, advertising, publishing and institutional clients. He is on our phones with two top 50 mobile games, White Lines and Plates, which offer smart, addictive play, for a mere 99 cents each!

Moments like this, welcoming back an alumnus of distinction to share their work and accomplishments with our students today, is the cherry on top of all the hard work of teaching.  I will always cherish the memory of arriving for class and seeing Kyle with his charismatic smile and sleep deprived eyes.  The screening of his first animations which are now both classics, Sleepy Head and Auto Portrait, will stay with me and many others forever for their playful and intelligent portrayal of the human condition.

The first line in Kyle’s bio is < Kyle T. Webster was lucky enough to grow up overseas in Singapore, Cyprus, Pakistan, and Taiwan, where there was always something interesting to draw.>  I would like to parallel this with UNCG is lucky to have Kyle as an alumnus and member of our creative community.  His inventiveness and conduct is a credit to this institution and a challenge to all to believe in power of creative curiosity, generosity, and the benefits of best conduct.  I know that his stellar career will continue to provide him with limitless interesting things to draw and I look forward seeing it all!

Congratulations Kyle T. Webster!