Winning design captures connections to VCU Libraries during the pandemic

April 5, 2021
Four line drawing of people connected by headphone wires interacting on four VCU Gold squares on a teal background.

Alumna Kiersten Marshall, BFA, '20/A, is the winner of a $500 prize for the third annual Friends of VCU Libraries (T-shirt) Design Contest.  

The Richmond-based artist graduated in May, 2020,with a graphic design major. She planned to work as a user experience designer. “Graduating in the middle of a pandemic, though, it made everything a lot more challenging. I ended up taking some time to focus on myself and my interests in design until I was able to secure a graphic design job.” She is now working for the advertising company Stream for which she designs print and digital ads.  

Marshall, 23, feels a close connection to VCU Libraries. “When I was on campus, the library was a place for me to go and feel connected to my community. Instead of studying alone in my room, I enjoyed going to the library to be surrounded by other people. It helped me feel motivated and inspired to be surrounded by other people that were working to achieve similar goals as me. This obviously looks different in current times with things primarily being online, but I wanted the design to encompass the struggles of not being around others as much as we used to but also establishing that concept of connection that the library brings.

“I depended on the library to have a place where I could be productive at any hour of the day since people were always studying at 3 a.m. I also utilized The Workshop, the makerspace at Cabell,  for my art projects. It was also a great place to meet with classmates or friends to collaborate.”

The Friends contest invites students and recent alumni (2016 - 2020) to submit designs for a T-shirt.

The design prompt was: What is your interpretation of the VCU Libraries? 

The selection committee agreed that Marshall’s interpretation conveyed the atmosphere of VCU’s two academic libraries during the pandemic. The judging committee included representatives from the Friends of VCU Libraries Board, VCU Libraries and VCU School of the Arts faculty. 

“It was inspiring to see student and alumni engagement with the VCU Libraries reflected in the artworks we received,” said selection committee member Hope Ginsburg, associate professor in the Art Foundation Program in the VCU School of Arts. “The selected design speaks to the importance of exchanging knowledge in community, for which the VCU Libraries provides a platform–even during these challenging times.” 

Friends board member Murtaza Khan (BS, '17/B) said the diverse submissions revealed varied perspectives on the library experience. “Seeing the diverse artistic expressions allows one to understand numerous aspects of the library that make it valuable to each person.” 

Marshall’s winning drawing, in addition to being printed on a T-shirt, the art may also be used for other VCU Libraries materials such as thank-you cards, tote bags and a Cabell Screen exhibit. The artist retains copyright.

T-shirts are being sold online via Bonfire. All sale proceeds benefit VCU Libraries.


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