Alumni Board awards announced

The recipients of the annual Alumni Board Awards include (left to right) Adrian Armstrong, Lt. Col. Cristina Moore Urrutia, Katie Williams, and Patrick Grim and Terri Watkins. Courtesy photos.
The recipients of the annual Alumni Board Awards include (left to right) Adrian Armstrong, Lt. Col. Cristina Moore Urrutia, Katie Williams, and Patrick Grim and Terri Watkins. Courtesy photos.

Alumni Board awards announced

calendar icon28 Feb 2024    

Lincoln, Neb.--The Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Alumni Board has selected the recipients of its annual alumni awards. The awards will be presented on Friday, April 26 at the college’s annual Honors Day celebration. The dinner is by invitation only.

This year’s awardees include:

• Alumni Achievement Award in Art:
Adrian Armstrong, B.F.A. 2014

Born in Omaha, Armstrong graduated with a B.F.A. in studio art (printmaking) in 2014 and since then has managed an ever-expanding and vibrant exhibition schedule. His multidisciplinary practice encompasses drawing, painting, installation, sound and other mixed media elements and documents the contemporary Black experiences in the United States. He is deeply interested in questions of how Black experiences intersect with the history of photography, portraiture and collage.

Using friends, family members, and acquaintances as subjects, Armstrong’s single and multi-figural works probe the influence of place and popular culture on the formation of self-image, community, connection, tenderness, and love. More specifically, he is interested in the complex ways race informs how we assign value to and interact in the spaces we occupy.

He earned a semi-finalist position in the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Triennial Portrait competition. Ten of his pieces were featured in ArtBasel Miami’s Chateau CIROC. This exhibition/event is an experiential platform to celebrate and empower Black Excellence. The team at CIROC unveiled it during to not only give a platform to artists and their ongoing work but to provide them a home where diverse voices are seen, heard, felt, and most importantly, celebrated. Several of his pieces were featured in “House of Crowns,” a collaborative exhibition between Phillips Auction House and Super Position Gallery New York. He was featured in a solo exhibition titled “There Are Black People in Nebraska?” at Big Medium in Austin, Texas.

• Alumni Achievement Award in Music:
Lt. Col. Cristina M. Moore Urrutia, B.M. 1995, M.M. 1998

Lieutenant Colonel Cristina M. Moore Urrutia serves as Commander and Conductor of the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West at Travis Air Force Base in California. The 60-member unit, composed of 10 musical ensembles, performs more than 350 missions annually throughout a five-state area of responsibility as an ambassador of the Air Force and Air Mobility Command. The unit’s mission is to honor our nation and its military, inspire patriotism while invigorating the resilience of Airmen and their families, and connect with both the American public and vital regional and national partners to build trust and advocate for our nation’s strategic defense priorities.

Beginning her military career as an enlisted member of the United States Army in 1992, Lt. Col. Moore Urrutia served as Principal Horn and Associate Conductor of the 43rd Army Band of the Nebraska National Guard. She then joined the United States Air Force, receiving her commission as a Distinguished Graduate of Officer Training School in April 2001, and was subsequently assigned to the United States Air Force Band of Liberty, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. In 2004, Lt Col Moore Urrutia was handpicked to be the Director of the prestigious Singing Sergeants at The United States Air Force Band, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., where she was also the Assistant Conductor of the Concert Band and Symphony Orchestra. Prior to her current position she was the Commander of the United States Air Forces in Europe Band, Ramstein Air Base, Germany which fortified relationships and expanded partnerships across Europe and Africa.

Selected for her first command in 2007, Lt Col Moore Urrutia has served multiple command tours, leading musical ensembles before U.S. Presidents, foreign Heads of State, and many other senior civilian and military leaders at such prestigious locations as the White House and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan, and Maidan Square in Kyiv, Ukraine. She led the U.S. musical support for the 200th Anniversary of relations between the U.S. and Thailand, the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, the 70th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, and multiple events across Europe for the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II. Lt Col Moore Urrutia has deployed to Central and South America on the USNS Comfort as part of Operation CONTINUING PROMISE, aided humanitarian efforts for Afghan evacuees during Operation ALLIES REFUGE, and has leveraged engagement opportunities throughout Africa and Asia, using music to bridge cultures and further U.S. strategic partnership building objectives across six continents.

A native of Kimball, Nebraska, Lt Col Moore Urrutia graduated with high distinction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1995 with a Bachelor of Music degree in French Horn performance and a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting in 1998.

Lt. Col. Moore Urrutia's professional affiliations include the Conductor's Guild, the American Choral Director's Association, Women Band Directors National Association, and the Phi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society.

• Alumni Achievement Award in Theatre and Film:
Katie Williams, B.F.A. 2012

Katie Williams works in the visual effects industry as a digital paint supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic’s Vancouver studio. ILM has been a mainstay in VFX for the last 49 years, receiving numerous Academy Awards, Emmys, BAFTAs, VES Awards, and Academy Sci-Tech Awards. Since joining ILM in 2019, Williams has contributed to over 35 film and television productions including “Star Wars: Episode IX,” “Black Widow,” “The Irishman,” and “The Mandalorian.” Williams advanced to a lead artist role in 2021 and later became a department supervisor in 2022. As a digital paint supervisor, she manages a team of artists across film, television, and commercial projects.

Williams graduated from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film’s Film and New Media program at UNL in 2012. While at UNL, she simultaneously earned a Bachelor of Science, majoring in both Biochemistry and English and minoring in Mathematics and Chemistry. Following graduation, Williams relocated to Canada, where she attended Vancouver Film School and studied 3D Animation and Visual Effects.

Williams began her visual effects career by working in stereo conversion at both Prime Focus World and Gener8 Digital Media Corp. In 2015, Williams joined Digital Domain as a rotoscoping and paint artist. DD is an innovation-forward visual effects studio with more than two decades of feature film, episodic, commercial, and mixed reality experience. Williams worked on a handful of notable feature films including “Deadpool,” “Ready Player One,” and “Furious 7” before accepting a lead role. As a lead, she managed a rotating team of artists and outsource vendors across projects such as “Power Rangers,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Captain Marvel.”

• Award of Merit:
Patrick Grim and Terri Watkins

Dr. Patrick Grim and Dr. L. Theresa Watkins created two annual funds in the School of Art, Art History & Design to encourage young artists. The first is the Elgas Promise Award, which recognizes an outstanding studio art student who is in their first or second year and has earned fewer than 40 credit hours in studio art. This was specifically created to recognize young, promising artists as nearly all other awards focus on students late in their studies.

The second is the Elgas Project Grants. These grants, for up to $800 each, are available to undergraduate students to fund the creation of more expensive and ambitious projects.

Both awards are named for Patrick’s father, Elgas Grim, who graduated from the University of Nebraska art department in the 1930s.

The Elgas awards and Elgas Project Grants were first awarded in the spring of 2014, so this year marks the 10th anniversary of these important grants.

• Student Leadership Awards:
Ebben Blake, Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. Blake graduated in December with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in emerging media arts. They were an exemplary leader in both academic and student life. He worked with faculty on research projects, attended national conferences and professional events, and studied abroad in London. Blake was a creative technologist intern with the NEA-funded Black Public Media Artist Residencies in the summers of 2022 and 2023. They were selected by their faculty and peers to represent the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts on a panel at the 2022 Infinity Festival in Los Angeles.

Jewelya Coffey, School of Art, Art History & Design. Coffey is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting. She has served as a member of the Graduate Student Advisory Board and as the College Faculty student representative. She has also served as President of the Visual Artists in Practice Club. She has revitalized the school’s student-run Medici Gallery. Under her leadership, the gallery has become a source of new artwork, great energy and a revitalized community.