Dani Iris ’18
Studio art major, Department of Art
Swansboro, North Carolina
The Center for Craft
BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University alumna Dani Iris, a Swansboro native who majored in studio art, was recently awarded a $15,000 Windgate Fellowship — one of the most prestigious national honors for graduating art students. The fellowship is awarded annually to 10 students nationwide by the Center for Craft in Asheville.
Iris, who graduated May 12, is the first student from Appalachian to receive this award. She said she learned about the opportunity through Jeana Eve Klein, associate professor of fibers in the university’s Department of Art, who encouraged her entire class to apply.
Klein said she was thrilled, but not surprised, that Iris was awarded the fellowship.
“Dani is exactly the kind of emerging artist who deserves this award,” Klein said. “She is incredibly hardworking and makes thoughtful, thought-provoking work that is both technically proficient and conceptually mature. I can’t wait to see how her career takes off with this kind of incredible start straight out of school.”
Iris said she wouldn’t have applied without Klein’s constant encouragement.
“It sounded cool, but didn’t seem like anything in my realm of possibility,” Iris stated. “Jeana has been an amazing teacher and really pushed us (Jeana’s class) to apply. She has just been a great resource and so willing to share her knowledge.”
According to the Center for Craft’s executive director, Stephanie Moore, the fellowship has been a launching pad for emerging artists over the past 13 years.
“The Windgate Fellowship provides critical financial support as a bridge between college and graduate school or life as a working artist,” she said. “It instills confidence and fosters bravery to take risks and the chance to seek and engage in career-enhancing opportunities.”
During the first round of the application process, the Appalachian scholarship committee chose two students to move on to the fellowship application. The Windgate committee then narrowed its search to 120 student artists before selecting the 10 winners.
Iris initially attended Appalachian from 2005-10 with a concentration in painting, but withdrew her senior year. She had planned to return the following year, she said, but postponed again due to personal reasons. While away from school, Iris said she took a break from painting and focused on sewing.
“I’ve always loved embroidering and sewing from when I was kid,” she recalled. “After I had my daughter, it was much easier for me to embroider and sew with her on my lap.”
When Iris re-enrolled in 2016, she realized that she could combine both of her passions and changed her concentration from painting to fibers. She also began exploring the combination of quilting and painting influenced by her personal experiences.
For the Windgate application, Iris submitted six pieces. One piece, “Make Do and Mend,” was a quilt painted with a portrait of Iris and her daughter.
In March, Iris said she was shocked to receive a call from the panel of judges letting her know she had been awarded the fellowship. According to Iris, the judges shared that they were inspired by her work and they had fallen in love with her daughter.
Iris plans to use her award to purchase a Juki Long Arm Quilting Machine and a 10-foot GQ Quilting Frame to help her create and experiment on her own. She has also signed up for the Textile Society of America and Surface Design Association conferences, along with a two-week course at the Penland School of Crafts.
About the Department of Art
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Art at Appalachian State University prepares students to explore art, identity, expression and creative problem-solving while challenging them to go beyond their previous limits by discovering new connections to culture. The department offers degrees in art and visual culture, art education, graphic design, studio art, photography and graphic communications management, with minors in art history, studio art, photography and graphic communications management. Learn more at https://art.appstate.edu.
About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.
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