ArtCenter Alumni Awards

feature / alumni / college-news
July 08, 2024
By Jamie Van Bergen

About Alumni Awards

The Alumni Awards provide an opportunity for ArtCenter to publicly recognize the talent, service and influence of our alumni.

2021+ 2022 Alumni Awards

ArtCenter's Alummi Awards Ceremony

"It's been about five years since we've had this ceremony, so this is an important evening to bring our community together, to unite us," said ArtCenter president Karen Hofmann in her opening remarks at ArtCenter’s Alumni Awards ceremony honoring two generations for pandemic-delayed awardees from 2021 and 2022. "I'm incredibly proud of where we've been and what's to come."

The intimate gathering in the newly reimagined Mullin Transportation Design Center was filled with moving tributes to seven extraordinary pioneers of art and design. From 2021, awardees included: Hiroshi Sugimoto (BFA 74 Photography), Bruce Heavin (BFA 93 Illustration), Yves Béhar (BS 91 Product Design) and Mariana Prieto (BS 12 Product Design). And 2022’s honorees included:  Bob Gurr (BS 52 Transportation Design), De Liu (MS 15 Industrial Design) and Azeez Alli-Balogun (MS 18 Industrial Design).

This is an important evening to bring our community together, to unite us.

ArtCenter president Karen Hofmann

Awardees were introduced by prominent artists and designers from within ArtCenter’s creative community. And, for the first time, the ceremony included artful video portraits for each set of awardees created by two award-winning filmmakers and alums: Matthew Rolston for the 2021 recipients and Rahat Mahajan for 2022. 

Gurr's (BS 52 Transportation Design) speech upon accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award offered a particularly potent moment. The 92-year-old Imagineer behind 100 magical Disney theme park attractions, shared how he was expelled from several schools as a kid, including "for drawing cars and plans on my arithmetic paper.”

"Convention and rules, nope, just follow your heart," Gurr added with tears in his eyes. "I did it all my way and you should, too."

The theme of unconventional pathways through education continued through the work and remarks of Alli-Balogun as he accepted the Young Innovator Award. 

As Head of Design at the XQ Institute, Alli-Balogun develops products and ideas designed to make high school education more equitable. He's also the co-founder and President of Aroko Cooperative, where he harnesses his passion for design to drive social impact by highlighting African and Indigenous cultures.

"Design is more about making things; it's an act of hope and resilience," said Alli-Balogun. "Design is about seeing the world in all its complexity and imagining what could be — building bridges of understanding and respect."

Liu, Distinguished Mid-Career Achievement award recipient, was unable to attend. The Xiaomi co-founder sent a letter, which was read at the reception by Industrial Design Chair Lan Yu, who is De Liu’s sister-in-law. 

Renowned multi-disciplinary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, also sent a letter of appreciation in his absence, as did entrepreneur/product design extraordinaire Yves Béhar, 2021 Distinguished Mid-Career Award winner.

Prieto, 2021 Young Innovator Award, stepped up to the podium with big news. The designer and social innovator founded Design for Wildlife, collective working with wildlife conservation organizations, with the goal that it would fail — meaning that it was no longer needed. 

"I'm pleased to announce today, on World Oceans Day, that we have closed Design for Wildlife because it was successful," said Prieto, a remark met with cheers and applause. "We can make a difference, and design is a huge part of that."

Aitken introduced 2021 Outstanding Service Award winner, Bruce Heavin, with great affection. "Bruce is like no other," said Aitken. "He looks at the world in macro-view systems and how things can change for the better.” 

Heavin, who co-founded virtual learning platform,,  spoke of how his struggles to afford ArtCenter inspired him to find "new ways of giving. He then made a call for others to do the same. "This is your prompt to give to further those who further the arts," he said. 

The ArtCenter Alumni Awards are an annual recognition bestowed by the College and the Alumni Office, with input from the internal ArtCenter community and global AlumNetwork of 25,000+ extraordinary individuals showcasing their talent across multiple realms of art and design. By honoring distinguished graduates, ArtCenter is proud to publicly recognize the impressive influence of its alumni.

Past Alumni Award recipients include Kit Hinrichs (BFA 63), Lee Friedlander (Photography), Melodie McDaniel (BFA 91), Syd Mead (BS 59), Shiro Nakamura (Transportation Design), Drew Struzan (BFA 70), Kenji Ekuan (BS 57), Sterling Ruby (MFA 15), Wendy MacNaughton (BFA 99), Ini Archibong (BS 12), Katie Dill (BS 07), Jessie Kawata (BFA 11), Spencer Nikosey (BS 2008) and Kevin Bethune (MS 12).