Two Students Earn $88K Each in Art Scholarships

Teachers from Southern Door and Sturgeon Bay teamed up for success

High-tech architectural designs and classic paintings with twists of fantasy have earned major scholarship awards for two Door County students. 

The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) has offered the $88,000 Board of Trustees Scholarship – the institute’s largest scholarship – to both Sturgeon Bay High School’s Lilly Cihlar, an aspiring architect; and Southern Door High School painter Emily Purdy.

The scholarship covers $22,000 per year for four years. Annual tuition at the private institution is greater than $39,000 per year.

Emily Purdy. Submitted.

Purdy’s Take on High Art

Sturgeon Bay and Southern Door high school art instructors teamed up to help both students complete and then organize their portfolios, which needed to follow a theme and had to include at least 15 pieces.

Sturgeon Bay’s Cihlar was challenged by instructor Nicole Herbst to take her artistic eye and 3D art skills to a new level, and Southern Door art instructor John McCaulley said he and fellow students helped Purdy to maintain focus as she assembled her portfolio.

“Damnation of Man” by Emily Purdy.

“Her technical skills are very high,” McCaulley said. 

What impressed judges was how Purdy put a fantastic spin on familiar works, conceptually transforming them by adding elements and characters from folklore, McCaulley said. She maintained that focus throughout the works in her Advanced Placement (AP) class portfolio.

“Siren in the Silence” by Emily Purdy.

Working mostly in acrylics, but also some oil and drawings, Purdy put a wild twist on 15 famous masterpieces. In one, the “Damnation of Man,” based on Michelangelo’s composition of “Creation of Adam,” she transformed the painting using a windigo: a cannibalistic creature of Algonquian mythology. In this case, the creature ominously approaches Adam. In another painting, Purdy gave Vincent van Gogh an even more disturbing look than he gave himself in his self-portrait after he cut off his own ear.

“I’ve always been a folklore nerd and an admirer of the High Renaissance artists, so putting them together just felt right,” Purdy said of her unusual series of paintings. “Luckily, the theme has come easily. Nothing brings me greater joy than giving my ideas life on a canvas.”

Lilly Cihlar. Submitted.

Cihlar’s Drive to Make Things Better

Cihlar started building her technical skills when McCaulley was her middle school technical-education teacher at Sturgeon Bay. Then she took an adventurous step as an artist when Brian Pahl helped her to begin welding and Door County Ace Hardware owner Amy Austad LaBott allowed her to sell some of her creations at the Sturgeon Bay store where she works.

Last year, Nicole Herbst persuaded Cihlar to build upon her 3D art, to enter Herbst’s Advanced Placement class and to dive into some architectural design work. This past summer, Cihlar, at considerable expense, spent three weeks attending an intense MIAD pre-college interior-design program.

Herbst encouraged her to try for the MIAD scholarship, and Cihlar said her welding hobby gave her the confidence and courage to be the first student at her high school to apply for the award.

“I love building, and I love creating three-dimensional designs,” she said. “Without that, I don’t think I would have been able to make this whole portfolio that was submitted for the scholarship within a couple of months.”

A model designed and submitted by Lilly Cihlar.

A few examples from her project include a model of a backyard deck with sweeping lines and a pool that lights up; a home composed of four separate structures with separate angled rooflines; and a colorful, two-story, sustainably designed, downtown–Sturgeon Bay “dream building” with awnings, a rooftop garden and outdoor seating areas.

In the midst of Cihlar’s intensive work, Herbst showed interest in her design of a house with features that resembled Great Lakes yachts. She challenged Cihlar to bring curves into the design, similar to what she saw Cihlar create in her metalwork.

Cihlar said she was the only student in her AP art class who went back and forth between the technical-education rooms and the art room to complete her project. She used Adobe Illustrator for design work and started building and cutting out windows, walls, roofs and other features by hand.

Herbst shared ideas with McCaulley and worked with both Purdy and Cihlar on assembling their final submissions to MIAD. McCaulley allowed Cihlar to use the Southern Door Fab Lab’s 3D printer and laser cutter and engraver to save time and create parts for her models. Steps in her work suddenly took minutes instead of hours.

Cihlar said she spends a lot of time doing online research, and when she’s out and about, she notices color schemes and designs in buildings – or even parkland – and wonders, “How could I make this better? What would be more beneficial to people who live here?”

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