Born and raised in Miami, in a Mexican immigrant family and an inclusive queer Latinx community, Summer 2022 Student Leadership Award winner Melissa Fernandez (BFA 22 Illustration) embodied leadership at ArtCenter with their commitment to activism, community building and addressing inequities.
“Build your own frameworks—ones that are rooted in community care,” Fernandez said in their speech at Summer 2022 Graduation. “Build the communities and resources that encourage all of us to thrive.”
Collaborating with other students across intersections of identities, Fernandez worked as a Teaching Assistant, a Center for the Student Experience office worker and social media designer, and a community organizer for Antiracist Classroom, Outcenter and ArtCenter Student Government.
As an Illustration student with a Creative Writing minor and a Designmatters minor in Social Innovation, Fernandez created comics, digital paintings, animation and education campaigns that received national attention. Fernandez organized events at the College prioritizing mental health, joy, respect and warmth, and encouraged other students to imagine an antiracist, liberating and loving world.
They ended their Graduation speech with their powerful poem “Community is Love, Design in”:
Community. steps lingering across framed slants creating silhouettes of aspiration
deers peering, tracing our trails
listening to printers beeping, fingers clicking,
paper threads splitting, and brushes embracing the wavering patterns of illustration boards.
8 a.m. catching the bus, seeing remnants of home, melanin-rich, thick accents announcing “Buenos Días!”
2 p.m. the astounding aroma of French fries and jittery tote bags piling in the elevators. 7 p.m. summer
sun setting beside
science slideshows settling. Late-night carpools cushioned by soft giggles.
Slow blinks, streaky visions that lead to envisioning. Dreaming in abundance alongside us, we in
Our ancestors' guidance “To cultivate a practice, a process of joy and kindness. abolish what harms, to
leave behind what is not gentle”
Design that is tender with love.