Scholarships Awarded to Art & Design Graduate Students – curious arts

The U of A is thrilled to congratulate three Art & Design graduate students who recently received scholarships for their diverse and varied pursuits.

Bahaa Harmouche

Bahaa Harmouche (MDes, Visual Communication Design)

Bahaa Harmouche, a Masters of Design student in Visual Communication Design, is the recipient of the Mahkzoumi Graduate Scholarship in Lebanese Studies. “To be honest, I never thought I would get it, and it was an amazing surprise,” says Harmouche about the annual scholarship that is only awarded to two recipients a year.

Harmouche explains the reason he was surprised is because of the controversial nature of his work. Born in Lebanon, his research is about how to work towards social cohesion between gay youth living with HIV and the gay community who marginalizes them, a sensitive subject that is still a taboo in Lebanese culture. So to receive a grant from a Lebanese organization for this work meant a great deal to Harmouche who sees it as an early break through of discrimination (at least in academia) in Lebanon.

Harmouche’s work has included digital storytelling projects with messages for the LGBTQ+ community encouraging social cohesion.

With the help of this grant, Harmouche plans to work towards a PhD in the future, working closer with minorities on this subject and social issues. A self-described “social designer,” Harmouche aims to redefine what design is nowadays: “not to design for the fun of it, but to design for purpose, and to address needs for the well-being of our communities.”

Myken McDowell (MFA, Printmaking)

Myken McDowell, a Masters of Fine Arts student focusing on Printmaking, is a recipient of the 2017 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant

With an interest in Super-8 films from the late sixties/early seventies, McDowell has been studying Super-8 footage of family life — birthday parties, dads coming home from work, road trips, kids playing dress-up — and uses this footage to create photographic prints and videos of her own.

She explains, “I am very interested in personal archives, and how these records of childhood and domestic life can shape our sense of who we are and how we understand the world.”

For McDowell, watching Super-8 films is the start of a multi-step artistic process that involves carefully selecting stills from the original film, manipulating them digitally, producing a series of photo-based prints, and then scanning the prints to make a video.

An example of McDowell’s photopolymer prints.

“It’s expensive to work this way—a minute-long video equals about 700 hand-printed frames,” says McDowell. “This scholarship means I get to continue making the type of work I want to make—maybe even a video that’s more than a minute long!”

Michiko Maruyama (MDes, Industrial Design)

Michiko Maruyama is another recipient of the 2017 SSHRC grant. A Masters of Design student in Industrial Design, Maruyama also has a degree in Medicine from the University of British Columbia, and is currently doing her residency in Cardiac Surgery in Edmonton while simultaneously pursuing her MDes degree.

While pursuing her undergrad degree here at the U of A in industrial design (where she focused on toy design and children’s furniture), Maruyama was diagnosed with a rare disease requiring surgery and radiation, but still managed to not only complete a medical degree from UBC, but also continue her art and design studies, develop an “art meets medicine meets education” website (Art of Learning), and produce a number of creative projects that have received recognition across multiple disciplines.

Maruyama work has included a series of children’s books using a style of traditional Haida artwork, the first of which (“Dirty Paws”) teaches kids important lessons about the spread of bacteria and viruses, and the importance of washing hands. In the field of toy design, Maruyama’s “Ostomy Doll” — a cute and cuddly teddy bear designed to teach children with gastronomies how to take care of their ostomy — was presented at the Canadian Conference on Medical Education in Quebec.

Maruyama’s “Ostomy Doll” project also involved conducting research to evaluate each toy for their effectiveness as a communication tool, educational resource and entertainment value. *Image from

The SSHRC grant enables Maruyama to continue combining her love of medicine and design in innovative ways where plans to create and improve of surgical tools and equipment. More of Maruyama’s work can be found on her website, “Art of Learning.

Congratulations to all three of these recipients!

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