School of Design hosts 8th annual resident artist


Mara Wheaton

Hval works on a new artwork in the Ritz Gallery during her open studio hours.

Mara Wheaton, Lifestyles Editor (She/Her)


The Ritz Gallery has been bustling this past month as the new Stuart Artist-in-Residence has taken over the space to create work for the open studio event Sept. 29. 

The Stuart Artist-in-Residence program was started at South Dakota State University by Joe and Signe Stuart, who both worked and taught at the university. Signe was a professor of art, and Joe served as the director and curator at the South Dakota Art Museum. 

“Both Signe and Joe recognized how valuable a residency program would be to our rural community,” Diana Behl, associate professor of studio art said. “Through a financial donation, they initiated the development of an artist-in-residence program on the South Dakota State University campus to enrich our community and create opportunities for artists.” 

This residency opportunity started in 2015 and is now on its eighth year at SDSU. With this program, the university hosts a national or international artist for one month.

This year’s Artist-in-Residence is Iowa City-based artist Ali Hval. She is from Birmingham, Alabama, and attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for her undergraduate degree. She graduated in 2015 with a degree in drawing and a minor in printmaking, and soon after attended graduate school at the University of Iowa and graduated in 2019. 

Throughout the last three years, Hval has painted over 30 murals around the United States, including Iowa, Florida and Arkansas. Hval also taught all throughout graduate school and has been teaching for the last three years as well. 

”I love it, teaching,” Hval said. “It’s really nice to be able to remember the basics and the elements because that’s stuff that we can always learn from … It’s nice to have that grounding, etched into you every semester.”

The purpose of SDSU’s Artist-in-Residence program is to not only give an artist an opportunity to spend time on their art, but it also gives students in the school of design an opportunity to learn from a professional artist. 

“They [students] can observe the artist’s project develop in their campus studio space, attend a public artist lecture and a closing open studio event at the conclusion of the artist’s residency,” Behl said. “This is a real-world perspective into the professional activities that an artist engages in throughout their career.”

Students also get the chance to interact with the Hval through classes, critiques and open studio hours. 

Hval has been creating her art on campus since Sept. 6, and her time here will come to a close Sept. 30. 

As an artist, Hval intertwines mediums using paint, ceramics, fabrics and other elements. 

Most of her projects start off with different ceramic components, and from there she will either paint using acrylic based paint, nail polish or occasionally mix eyeshadow into her paints. Rhinestones are also a common material she adds to her ceramic work. 

“I’m interested in bringing these fashionable costume fabrics into my work because they are seen as being really glamorous and glitzy,” Hval said. “I want it to be seen and catch your eye from afar.”

The meaning behind Hval’s art has been partially influenced by where she came from and the environment she was exposed to growing up. Growing up in Alabama, there were “whispers” around Hval about how you were allowed to express yourself. Moving to Iowa City, Hval felt much more open and empowered in her self-expression.

“I want (my art) to feel liberating and free, while also acknowledging what the current events are. A lot of my work has to do with exploring sexuality and sort of sensuality,” Hval said. “I realized that there is a spectrum that you’re on. It doesn’t just have to be black and white, one thing or the other, so I hope that my work walks that line and talks about that spectrum.”

Hval says that her work is playful and feminine with a metaphorical quality to it. There is a deeper meaning that viewers will find as they notice chains and locks weighing down stilettos that Hval crafted out of ceramics.

“This is the first time I’ve really had the time and space to be making work for a month straight, and it has given me a lot of time to sit and reflect on my pieces … it feels very valuable,” Hval said.