Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi School Artists in Many Media Shine in KIUEL Showcase

The goal: "Provide opportunities for Viterbi undergraduate students to develop outside the classroom"
Newly Paul
April 22, 2009 —

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Michelle Dee: “When I was choosing USC, they said there would be an art exhibition for undergrads and that was a huge reason why I chose this place”
For two days every April, the Viterbi School of Engineering showcases its students’ visual side. Visitors to the Viterbi Museum in Ronald Tutor Hall are treated to paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture produced by the same minds that generate complex computer codes or new biomedical devices the rest of the year.

Held on April 6 and 7 this year, the event, known as the KIUEL (Klein Institute for Undergraduate Engineering Life) Showcase, drew over 100 attendees and 30 entries from 10 participants, including three faculty members. “The purpose of KIEUL is to provide opportunities for Viterbi undergraduate students to develop outside the classroom,” said Marianna Kolonelos, assistant director, Viterbi Student Support Programs. “For Showcase we display the different artistic talents of undergrads and faculty members to show there’s more to engineering than what they do in classrooms.”

The exhibition definitely drove home the point. From landscape paintings to portraits and from stained glass work to photography, the entries reflected the talent of budding engineers.

Some entries at the exhibition are created specially for Showcase, while others could have been created at some point in the past by the artist. “We treat this like an art gallery,” said

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Mona Kamal of CEE won 'best technique' prize for her floral paintings

In its third year now, KIUEL first began in March 2006 with donations from Ken Klein, a Viterbi alumnus. Since then it has been adding to the quality of life at Viterbi by organizing programs to promote leadership, interaction with engineers from different disciplines and other USC schools and helping engineers discover ways of contributing to the community.

Apart from art, KIUEL 2009 had music and dance performances. In the past years the event screened short films made by students. “This edition of Showcase varies slightly in the type of submissions, because this year we had an art focus and less of film and music. But we had our first dance performance this year, which was great,” said Kolonelos.

The items that make it to Showcase depend on the interest of faculty members and students and also the dates of midterms. “It can be anything that shows artistic ability. We have never had to turn away anything. It’s art so it’s very open,” said Kolonelos.

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Good news bear was one of 30 entries. Click on the image to see a Showcase slideshow.
The entries that get the most number of audience votes are awarded. This year, there were three categories in art:  Best technique, most creative and most inspired. Mona Kamal from the Astani Civil and Enviironmental Engineering department bagged the first, with her floral canvas painting.  The award for the most creative work went to another budding civil engineer, Olivia Lu-Hill. The award for most inspired work went to Christina Crone from mechanical engineering for her ink and paper works.

Another art was not neglected. Break Through Dance, a Viterbi School troupe,  "performed for several minutes outside the Ronald Tutor Hall. People passing by stopped to watch them, bikers got off their bikes to watch the show and others applauded from the nearby buildings. It was nice to show engineers can dance too,” said Kolonelos.

Break Through Dance includes Stephanie Chen from industrial and systems engineering, Brent Foretich from chemical engineering, Kelly Suzuki from environmental engineering and Shanling Yang from aerospace engineering.

For the musical performance, Tripti Gupta from the biomedical department played the sitar, a stringed instrument popular in India.

Of course there were minor glitches. But the show on the whole was a success. “One of the participants was late for the performance and we all suspected he might be stuck in the lab,” smiled Kolonelos.

Michelle Dee, a chemical engineering student who took part in the event said art was very necessary to her life. “When I was choosing USC, they said there would be an art exhibition for undergrads and that was a huge reason why I chose this place,” she said. “I knew that any kind of engineering school would have lots of studies and not much time for humanities or arts classes, so this is cool,” she added.

Dee had submitted an ink on paper sketch of JK Rowling, her favorite author and another sketch of Al Capone, which she copied from a black and white picture of him. “The ink on paper was a new thing for me, as I usually draw with pencil. But I like how it turned out,” said Dee, who made the Al Capone sketch especially for Showcase.

Everyone who came to the Viterbi museum was impressed and surprised with the works on display, said Kolonelos. She said reactions ranged from, ‘Gosh, this is the professor I’m going to see in two hours...I did not know he did this’ to ‘Wow she is in my class and I did not even know she had this talent’.

“I think it inspires those who come here to want to do something artistic. It develops an appreciation for people’s efforts,” said Kolonelos.

She said a lot of planning goes into organizing KIUEL each year. A month or so before the event her team spreads the word and has students submit their intention of submitting artwork or putting up a performance. Once that’s done, they determine the schedule of performances.

Showcase is just one of the many KIUEL events. Others include a leadership retreat, held usually in January, on a weekend before classes begin. This year 30 students went to an area in Big Bear and developed their leadership skills by working in teams and listening to talks by professionals and team building experts. Then there was a speaker series in which speakers of various professions and backgrounds were invited to speak to groups of engineering students.

As part of the Go Global fair, KIUEL will be organizing a senior design expo in May, to help students present the projects they have been working on all year in front of faculty and industry experts.

story and pictures by Newly Paul