Student Profile: Tremain Smith

Artist Tremain Smith is in the first cohort of students in the new Teaching Artist Certificate program. Smith earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and has also studied at Carnegie-Mellon University, Tyler School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. An artist all her life, Smith took some time away from art and worked as a community organizer in West Philadelphia for over 10 years. Then, realizing she couldn’t abandon her first love, she went back to art and began her professional career as an artist. “After 15 plus years in the studio, I have come full circle again to the point where I want my art practice and my social and community concerns to converge,” she said.

Smith wants to promote artistic expression as a means to move and empower people of all generations and backgrounds, and believes she can do this through teaching. “I would like to use my skills as an artist to influence others not only through the impact of viewing my artwork, but also by helping people tap into their own creative potential and process.”

Although Smith has been conducting art classes and workshops for years, a recent teaching opportunity and inter-generational project moved her to want to teach more and with greater skill. She said she has already used the knowledge gained in the Certificate Program to improve her effectiveness in teaching art. “My interactions with my current students deepened because of the understanding I now have of their developmental processes,” she said.

Smith has especially enjoyed the Child Development/Human Behavior course where one project was the critical evaluation on the development of a child through an interview process. “I evaluated my 12-year-old son and learned quite a bit about him,” she said.

In her own work, Smith uses a mixed-media technique composed of layers of oil glazes, collaged elements and transparent beeswax fused by an open flame or an iron. She seals wood panels with wax and applies color by adhering cloth and paper with transparent wax and alternating this with layers of oil paint. This basis serves as a departure point – from there, she moves freely.

Smith has shown in group exhibitions locally, nationally and internationally and has had 25 solo exhibitions in the last eleven years, including solo shows in Chicago, Santa Monica, Calif., Scottsdale, Ariz., Atlanta and New York, as well as Philadelphia. He work is part of collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lancaster Museum of Art, and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, among others. She has also received a Leeway Foundation Window of Opportunity Grant, served as an Artist-in-Residence and taught at several area schools.

Complimenting her professional success as a working artist, Smith believes the Teaching Artist Certificate Program is leading her towards a fruitful future in teaching art. “The two paths enhance each other and I have already been inspired by the program,” she said. “It is well worth the investment of time and money. It has renewed my excitement about education in general and given me the belief that all education leads to something new and expansive.”

Visit to learn more about Smith’s work.

Student Profile: Diane Koss

Diane Koss is a 2008 graduate of the Continuing Education Print + Web Design Dual Certificate program. Also a graduate of the College of New Jersey, she majored in Fine Arts with concentrations in Photography and Jewelry.

In 2007, Koss became the owner, designer and creator behind the plush toy company, Cutesy but not Cutesy. Her Heartfelt Monsters have their own individual personalities and stories that come with them. Each monster also has a plush heart sewn into the interior of its body. Since the heart is slightly firmer than the rest of the body, it can actually be felt when the monster’s body is squeezed.

Koss said her hand-stitched designs are almost like sculpture and suit her as an impulsive artist. “I don’t use any patterns or sewing machines, and I rarely pre-plan my ideas using sketches,” she said. Koss just grabs her scissors and begins cutting, giving the monsters personalities as they come to life in her hands.

As an artist, entrepreneur and small business owner, Koss used the UArts Certificate Programs to get a jump start on marketing her new business. She was able to use course assignments to create a brand for herself, including a logo, business cards, catalogs and potential package designs. “It also allowed me to brainstorm about future marketing projects like short animations, websites, catalogues, and possibly even a children’s book,” she said. “Without the skills and confidence that I gained in the Certificate Program, I feel I would be light years away from completing these goals.”

Koss said her interactions with CE faculty felt more like co-workers, peers or friends rather than simply instructor and student, and the opportunity for constructive critiques from real-world professionals gave her confidence as a designer. “If I had the opportunity to speak to a student considering the Certificate Program, I would say that it can only benefit their career,” Koss said. “It doesn’t matter if they are straight out of college, have never done any design work before, or are an active professional in the field, I think everyone is able to benefit in some way from the courses in this program.”

Cutesy but not Cutesy is based out of the Philadelphia metro area, but Koss’s work can be found in galleries and shops throughout the country and at arts and crafts fairs along the East Coast. Visit or for more information.

Instructor Profile: J. Paul Simeone

With a career that spans 25 years, J. Paul Simeone owns and operates his own state-of-the-art photographic studio in the Mid-Atlantic region. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, fashion boutiques, museums, restaurants, pharmaceutical companies and entertainers.

At the age of nine Simeone received a darkroom kit for Christmas. He immediately became fascinated with the process. However, it was his later interest in music that really inspired his career in photography. “I was fascinated in watching other photographers taking photos at rock concerts, and I started doing the same,” he said.

He has since created a limited edition collection of fine art prints memorializing rock ‘n’ roll legends of the 1960s and 70s including Jimmy Henrix, The Grateful Dead, Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Early in Simeone’s corporate career he worked as Studio Manager and Senior Photographer for the Franklin Mint. His other career highlights include being selected to photograph US Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and other dignataries. He has also traveled the world to create award winning images for use in direct mail, catalog and magazine advertising. He was nominated for the prestigious Sinar Bron Advertising Photographer of the Year Award and is the recipient of several Addy Awards.

In 1999, Simeone was hired by Devon Direct/Euro RSCG to photograph the official “First Sunrise of the Millennium.” Conducted on Pitt Island, New Zealand, he used the first rays of the sun to expose the company’s slogan, “Be first,” into limited edition photographs.

Simeone believes the most challenging part of his job is resolved by experience – being creative on demand. It’s these years of practice and insider-knowledge of the industry that Simeone has to offer his students.

“I enjoy giving back to the photographic community the years of experience that I bring to the table,” he said. “And to teach that to the people who want to learn.”

Visit to learn more about Simeone’s work.

Courses: Studio Photography

Instructor Profile: Alexis Granwell

As a young girl, Alexis Granwell loved making things and would spend a lot of time drawing or building dioramas. Her grandmother was a painter, and she credits studying her grandmother’s mark-making and brushstrokes in the pieces her parents had around the house as one of her earliest influences. Having grown up outside Washington, D.C., Granwell said she was also lucky enough to have visited the National Gallery over and over again. “Seeing artwork has always been an inspiration for me,” she said.

Graduating with a BFA in Painting from Boston University, Granwell then earned an MFA in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. Recently, Granwell has been most interested in working somewhere between painting and sculpture. She is inspired by urban decay and intrigued by the cyclical aspect of structures falling apart and being rebuilt. “I study and collect arrangements of trash and weathered objects that fill the surrounding neighborhood by my studio,” she said. “These eroded items fit together to create their own language of strength and fragility.”

In her 3-D work, Granwell often incorporates found objects with objects she has constructed or cast out of paper. She is interested in the boundaries between the beautiful and the abject. “The forms themselves are made from materials that can be easily broken during construction and they will degrade over time.” She sees these sculptures and installations as events still occurring.

Granwell has exhibited work in group shows locally and regionally as well as nationally and internationally. Shows slated for 2010 include The Print Center in Ontario, Canada, and BMW Headquarters International Group Exhibition in Beijing, China, among others. Granwell has also had solo exhibitions in Philadelphia, Arlington, Va., and Vilnius, Lithuania. In 2009 Granwell was awarded a Professional Development Grant from the University of the Arts Division of Continuing Studies and a Keyholder’s Residency Fellowship at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Silver Spring, Md.

In addition to her studio practice and teaching, Granwell has spent the past year curating shows and performing studio visits for the Philadelphia collective gallery, Tiger Strikes Asteroid. She first became interested in curating after exposure to visiting critics and artist panels while in graduate school. As a curator and member of this Philadelphia art gallery, Granwell has become more attuned to the contemporary art scenes in New York and Philadelphia. She believes this knowledge enriches her curriculum. “The concept of artist as curator is another way to prepare and educate students about the diverse global art market,” she said.

Visit to learn more about Granwell’s work.

Courses: Drawing, Studio Painting

Instructor Profile: Nicole Tranquillo

Born in Reading, Pa., Nicole Tranquillo fell in love with music, poetry and dance when she was very young. In junior high, Tranquillo had already been classically trained in piano for nine years when she picked up the acoustic guitar. When she then started writing and performing her own music, she realized she wanted to pursue music professionally. “I had always written poetry from a young age,” Tranquillo said, “but once I realized I could combine my words with melodies, everything clicked.”

Tranquillo’s guitar teacher encouraged her to write her own music and perform at local open mics and area events. Tranquillo had the opportunity to sing for Tom Ridge at the Capitol when he was governor, and remembers it as a big moment for her as a young performer. Although she didn’t realize it at the time, one of the things that motivated her to continue with music was seeing the looks on the faces of young girls who came up and asked for her autograph. “I think having a positive impact on children and being a good healthy role model, especially for young girls these days, is what has inspired me to write, sing and perform,” she said.

Attending the University of the Arts’ Voice program, Tranquillo had the opportunity to expand her repertoire by exploring different types of music and performing in various styles. She was featured in bands such as the Transfusion Ensemble and the University of the Arts Big Band. She also sang with salsa, world, jazz and a capella ensembles. When Tranquillo graduated with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance, she had performed in venues such as the Kimmel Center, the Merriam Theatre, the TLA and World Cafe Live.

While a student at UArts, Tranquillo was a Season 6 American Idol Top 24 Finalist and performed “Stay,” to a national TV audience. Since then she has performed and collaborated with many established artists and producers. “I think what I find most interesting about the music business is the people I come across in my work,” she said. She has been singing with Dice Raw of The Roots Crew and opened for The Roots on their 2008 tour stop in Pittsburgh as well as the Roots Picnic held at the TLA.

As an instructor, Tranquillo likes that when students enter her classroom they know they are safe and no one is judging them. She said her students are “removed from any negativity and all the people that have ever told them they ‘Can’t.’”

Visit to learn more about Tranquillo’s work.

Courses: Voice

Instructor Profile: Lucía Farías Villarreal

Lucía Farías Villarreal loved art classes as a child and in high school took private art lessons in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. But it wasn’t until after she took some time off to study painting and printmaking for a semester at Glassell School of Art in Houston that she decided to make art her career.

Introduced to the book as an art form at Glassell, Farías Villarreal made her first simple book in one of her painting classes at the Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico. “After this day I went home and made a variety of blank books with the little information I had,” she said. “Then and now the book arts field in Mexico is very, very limited.”

Having the chance to study abroad again, she spent a semester at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and was able to take free classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Farías Villarreal signed up for all the classes she was allowed to take and got hooked on book making.

In the summer of 2003 while taking painting and glassblowing classes at the University of the Arts, she met an MFA book arts student who took her on a tour of the graduate bindery and studios. “I never thought there was such a thing as an MFA in Book Arts,” she said. Farías Villarreal enrolled in the UArts Book Arts/Printmaking MFA program the following year.

Farías Villarreal has been a bookbinder for Alusiv Communication Design in Philadelphia, made hand-made books for photographer Judy Gelles and worked as a production assistant for Jace Graf at Cloverleaf Studio in Austin, Texas. Currently, she manages her own bindery, Oveja Verde, and teaches foundation classes at Universidad de Monterrey as well as bookbinding workshops locally. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

“I can say the most challenging thing in my artwork is finding the right size and colors for my one-of-a-kind pieces,” she says. “The idea might be very clear but for some reason my ideas are always in black and white.” Farías Villarreal really enjoys the craft of book making. Since 2008 she has run her own bookbinding studio and says that in her shop, if something is not very close to perfect, it has to be redone. “I guess when it comes to book making being anal is a good thing,” she said.

When it comes to teaching, Farías Villarreal’s attention to detail also comes in handy. She organizes her workshops with clear step-bystep instructions. “I try to make the class easy and clear for everyone, so when the time comes for them to reproduce the books at home, they remember exactly what they should do.”

Visit to learn more about Farías Villarreal’s work.

Courses: Album Style Bookbinding Weekend Workshop, Flat Case Album in a Clamshell Box Bookbinding Weekend Workshop

Instructor Profile: Mia Rosenthal

Growing up with parents who owned a frame shop and art gallery, Mia Rosenthal has always been surrounded by and interested in the arts.

In college Rosenthal’s interests lead her to graphic design. She thought the field was the perfect combination of marketability and creativity. However, she majored in Illustration so she could study drawing and at the same time learn graphics software. Rosenthal graduated with a BFA from Parsons School of Design and then worked in New York City as a graphic designer for six years.

When Rosenthal decided to go to graduate school, she specifically wanted to study painting techniques. Almost immediately after she began her MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, she quit painting and started drawing. “My drawing is very much about organization of information, whether it be drawing from observation or from images I find in books or online,” she said. “I consider my drawing sort of ‘drawing in the age of Google.’”

Admittedly influenced by technology in her drawing work, Rosenthal believes her design background has also been beneficial to her as an artist. “Being able to color correct and manage my own images, and create my own website really helps,” she said.

Working in the studio or in front of a computer can be quite a solitary experience, so Rosenthal enjoys teaching and being in a classroom environment. Since she’s a very visual person herself, she understands when someone needs a concept presented in a second, or even third way. “I understand when working with other visual people that just hearing something or looking at lines of code might not immediately make sense,” she said.

Aside from teaching, Rosenthal also works as a Gallery Assistant at Gallery Joe in Old City, Philadelphia. Although she said it may seem counter-intuitive to leave New York in order to pursue a career in the arts, she appreciates the support that comes from a small and close-knit artistic community such as in Philadelphia. “I love the balance I get to have in my life: drawing, working in a gallery, teaching and freelance projects, it’s very well rounded.”

Visit to learn more about Rosenthal’s work.

Courses: Adobe Dreamweaver, Web Design I

Instructor Profile: Greg Pizzoli

Studying English literature at Millersville University, Greg Pizzoli minored in Fine Art and first took a screen printing class the last semester of his senior year. He immediately fell in love with the process and has been constructing his life around making work ever since.

After graduating, Pizzoli became an AmeriCORPS VISTA Volunteer and served first as Program Director at Island Arts Center, a non-profit community art center in Newport, RI, and then a second year at the Center for Intergenerational Learning at Temple University.

Pizzoli described his time in Rhode Island as a learning experience that taught him a lot about how to keep himself and others motivated to make work. “Printmakers such as James Quigley from Providence, Seripop from Montreal and Zeloot from Den Haag [Netherlands] were all incredibly nice and helpful and their encouragement really kept me going at times,” he said.

Now, Pizzoli is a 2009 MFA Book Arts/Printmaking graduate from the University of the Arts. He has shown work in the Netherlands and Canada as well as San Jose, Chicago, East Lansing, MI, and locally.

In 2009 he exhibited in the 83rd Annual International Competition: Printmaking at The Print Center in Philadelphia as well as at the Athenaeum’s Enchanting Simplicity: Children’s Book Art Past and Present.

His work ranges from the political—a street art project personalizing Philadelphia’s homicide rate with the name, age, race, sex and death date on a sticker that says, “Hello My Name Was,” for all 406 people murdered in 2006—to a quirky review guide of 30 local pizzerias made in collaboration with Ansley Joe called, The Pizza Book: An Illustrated Guide to Philadelphia’s Best and Worst Sites.

Pizzoli likes solving problems, telling stories and making things by hand. “I prefer to have about a million (sometimes more) projects on my plate at once,” he said, “because I find that all the different processes like illustration, design work, printmaking, installations, writing and teaching (to name a few) all inform each other in exciting ways.”

Visit to learn more about Pizzoli’s work.

Courses: The Screen Printed Poster, Zine

Instructor Profile: Amanda Elizabeth

Amanda Elizabeth teaches Jewelry in Continuing Education and the Pre-College Summer Institute. A graduate of the University of the Arts with a BFA in Metals/Crafts, Elizabeth has also studied at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC and Peter’s Valley Craft Education Center in Layton, NJ.

Currently working out of her studio in an old lead factory, Amanda Elizabeth Jewelry started in 2004. While Elizabeth dreams of one day hiring a staff and owning a larger studio to see more of her visions come to life, she has spent the last few years developing her jewelry line and finding her voice. “The simplicity of form and subtle movements that occur within nature drive my work,” she said. “I work for my jewelry to interpret the nature that surrounds us; I am inspired by the intricate structure of plants which I then abstract into broader shapes and simple lines.”

Elizabeth loves that every project is a problem solving game, and finds the evolution from original design to finished product exhilarating. She also loves teaching so that she can meet new people and see their new twists on a process that has been around for thousands of years. “I have had neonatologists, architects, ballerinas, nurses, chefs and bartenders bring their life experiences to the table and try their hand at something completely new,” she said.

Elizabeth received the Emerging Artist award from the Peter’s Valley Craft Fair in 2008. She has also won the ArtForms Gallery Tenth Annual Emerging Artist Competition, the William E. Ridgeway Memorial Award in Jewelry and Metal Design as well as the InLiquid: DiscrimiNATION competition.

In 2008 alone, her jewelry was featured in Labella Brides, Philadelphia Brides Magazine, Inside Weddings, Special Events Magazine, Metalsmith Magazine and American Style Magazine.

Most of Elizabeth’s work is comprised of limited edition and one-of-a-kind pieces. “I have a passion to create jewelry that in transcending time also nods to vintage and modern art,” she said. “It is important to me that my work is wearable and desirable, that it satisfies that craving for something different and unique.”

Visit to learn more about Elizabeth’s work.

Courses: Jewelry Design + Metalsmithing, Jewelry Design: Chains and Charms

Instructor Profile: James Moore + John Staack

Located just 10 blocks from the Allegheny Avenue exit off I-95, Staack Woodworking is a huge, professionally-equipped facility with multiple workstations. Free on-street parking is available, Home Depot is within walking distance and a production studio outfitted with modern tools and equipment is on-site.

James Moore earned his BA from Temple University with a concentration in Arts. While at Temple he worked as a finisher for Maxwell and Kelly, a small company that specialized in solid cherry furnishings. There, he met John Staack. When Mike Maxwell relocated to Virginia, Moore began a nearly five-year working apprenticeship with Michael Hurwitz.

Since 2001, under the name James Moore Furniture, Moore has designed and built one-of-a-kind furniture pieces and cabinetry for commercial and residential settings. He was even featured as an emerging artist in Art and Antiques magazine. Moore is currently represented by Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia.

John Staack fell in love with furniture and woodworking at the age of 15 when he worked in an antique shop repairing and refinishing antique furniture. A graduate of the Woodworking program at The University of the Arts, Staack is Founder and Owner of Staack Woodworking. He designs and builds custom furniture, residential and liturgical furnishings. Designing in Auto Cad and running a computer automated router system, he incorporates modern technology while utilizing traditional techniques.

Staack has completed projects for Society Hill Bed and Breakfast and The White Dog Café, as well as Rodeph Shalom, Holy Trinity, Trinity Church and St. Martin’s in the Field. He is a member of the Philadelphia Furniture Society and Partners for Sacred Places. His work has been published in the book Historical Sacred Places of Philadelphia.

Moore and Staack both enjoy sharing their woodworking skills with others, watching student’s ideas develop and helping them figure out their technical problems. While Staack says his greatest strength as a teacher is his depth of understanding for the material and his ability to simplify it, Moore says patience is his biggest virtue as an instructor. “I also enjoy the adrenaline boost in teaching and supervising students while they work with heavy machinery for the first time,” Moore said.

Visit to learn more about James Moore, John Staack and Staack Woodworking, LLC.

Courses: Woodworking: Design + Build, Woodworking: Process + Technique