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Artist in progress: Holinka shares college pursuits in solo exhibit

Jessica Holinka displays one of the ceramic items that will be part of her exhibit at the Nobles County Art Center.1 / 2
Posters created for one of her graphic design classes will be part of Jessica Holinka's art exhibition.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — A student pursuing a degree in art usually culminates his or her collegiate career with an exhibit in the on-campus gallery.

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But Jessica Holinka wanted to do something different to showcase her artistic endeavors. She didn’t want to just share the fruits of her labor with her fellow students and professors. She wanted to get feedback from her friends, family and larger hometown community.

An exhibit of Jessica’s work opened Aug. 3 at the Nobles County Art Center, 407 12th St., Worthington. The daughter of Dave and Gail Holinka of Worthington, Jessica is currently completing the last requirements of a degree in graphic design with an emphasis in photography at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

For the 2008 graduate of Worthington High School, a career in art was a natural path for her to follow. Her mother is an art teacher at WHS and also teaches at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

“I was always coloring and doing arts and crafts with my mom, because that’s what she was always doing,” recalled Jessica. “I took art in middle school, but it wasn’t until high school, when I had classes with Mrs. (Tricia) Mikle, that I decided I wanted to go into graphic design. I took all those classes with her in high school.”

But Jessica never contemplated going into art education like her mother. She prefers a more hands-on vocation.

“But she loves that I was following in her footsteps, you know,” added Jessica. “Now it’s like, ‘Jessica, how do you do this? How do you do that? Now you can do this for me.’”

Jessica’s concentrations are graphic design and photography, but the pursuit of a degree required her to delve into all sorts of artistic endeavors.

“You have to take all kinds of different classes before you could even get into the advance graphic classes,” she explained. “Some people took printmaking, although I never took that, and there’s screen printing, but I chose to focus on photography and graphic design. They call it a concentration. My main emphasis was graphic design, and my concentration was photography. I’ll have taken five photography classes by the end of it and completed 32 credits in design.

“And then, of course, you also have to take art history,” added Jessica with a less-than-enthusiastic sigh that indicated it wasn’t one of her favorite courses. “I passed — that’s all that matters. It’s not very many people’s favorite class, unless you’re majoring in it. Three-hour art history classes at night tend to be a little long, and there’s a lot of memorization.”

While she just endured art history, Jessica found in another class a passion for a specific aspect of design — typography, the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible.

“I really loved typography,” she said. “That was one of my favorite classes, seeing text as its own element rather than just being its own typeface. There’s the spacing, making sure there are not rivers in your paragraphs — so many things to think about. I really loved working that into my designs, and the school spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get these typefaces that most people don’t have access to.”

For one of her classes, Jessica had to create a complete graphic design project, just as she would for a commercial client.

“My favorite was the conference material design, which was all hypothetical,” she explained. “We got to choose a conference, and mine was the radio wave conference. You had to do a poster, a catalogue, a take-away item, a nametag badge — all these different pieces inside this project. I created my own little logo guy with headphones on and worked it in throughout the whole project, just like I was working for an actual company. It was the best project that was a real-world experience thing. It was my best piece, I think, after I pulled three all-nighters to get it all done. I didn’t leave, didn’t sleep, but it’s worth it in the end when you get a real strong piece rather than sleeping and getting a not-so-good piece. I’m very happy with it.”

Another memorable class for Jessica was life drawing — complete with nude models.

“I didn’t think I would like that, but I really enjoyed it. It was a very different experience,” she said, recalling the first day the students began to sketch the models. “Really, this is happening right now? But after three weeks, it’s normal. I’m going to class to draw naked people.”

All of Jessica’s projects from her college career will be represented in the exhibit, although the examples from the life drawing class are “ones that are not so risqué,” she assured.

“I’ll be having my graphic design posters, and some of my ceramics are in there — drawings, paintings, everything I did in the last five years of school — all compiled into one big show,” Jessica detailed. “I’m going beyond what I needed to do. My mom said, ‘You’re versatile, and you want to showcase everything you can do.”

Consequently, Jessica’s exhibit will be a departure in several ways from the standard senior show.

“Usually (preparing for) your senior show is an actual semester-long thing,” she explained. “For that semester, you just build your show, and you show 10 works, which is sectioned out with 10 students at a time that also did it.”

But the timing for Jessica’s show didn’t work out right for that, so she asked for — and was granted — permission for a change of venue to her hometown gallery, a solo exhibit rather than a group effort.

“I thought it would be a really good experience, to show my work there in my hometown,” she said, adding that it also gives people a chance to see what goes into getting a degree in art.

Besides the exhibit, Jessica needs to complete an internship to get her degree, and she is currently doing that in the graphics department at the Daily Globe. With a couple of part-time jobs and fitting in time for boyfriend Alex Pass, it’s all made for a busy summer.

“I work at the Country Club as a waitress and bartender — I’ve done that for four summers now,” she said. “I’ve also helped with summer school at Prairie Elementary for the last four summers. It’s a different experience, not what I went to school for, but I love kids, and helping them better themselves has been a good experience for me.”

With the end of her college career in sight, Jessica is starting to seriously contemplate career possibilities.

“My dream job would honestly be to have my own business,” she shared. “I’ve already done some stuff for friends, and that would be my dream job — to be able to do exactly what I wanted to do and interact with people and design for people the way they want, working with the clients.”

She’s anxious to get some feedback from her potential clientele during the show.

“I’m nervous, just for the fact I’m showing everything that I’ve done to the public,” she said, “but I’m excited to have people see what I’ve done throughout the last five years and really start my career.”

  The exhibit will continue through August. Hours are 2 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, phone 372-8245.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers

can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

(507) 376-7327