Category: CFAD Alumni

UCO Musical Theatre Receives National Recognition

“Those of us who have witnessed the polished professionalism of our productions will not be surprised by this recognition.”

– Steve Hansen, Dean

College of Fine Arts and Design

The University of Central Oklahoma has again been recognized on the national stage for the outstanding quality of the Musical Theatre Program. The online theatre community “Performer Stuff” recently featured UCO in their article series “The Top College Theatre Programs You Might Not Know, but Should.” UCO Musical Theatre has previously been recognized as one of the top 10 programs in the nation by “OnStage Blog” in both 2017 and again in 2018.

“Those of us who have witnessed the polished professionalism of our productions will not be surprised by this recognition,” said Steven Hansen, M.F.A., dean of the UCO College of Fine Arts and Design. “As accolades continue to pour in, we will soon lose our moniker as a “hidden” gem, and take our place in the forefront of nationally recognized Musical Theatre programs.”

“Performer Stuff” is a national online community created as a resource for performers, educators and industry professionals. Their feature article lists several reasons for awarding UCO Musical Theatre a top nod this year. Among them are specialized and rigorous training by leading arts professionals; regular collaborations with local professional companies that offer students professional credits with the Actor’s Equity Association Union as well as successful alumni who can be found throughout the professional performing arts world.

“We live in an area where Musical Theatre is prevalent,” said Greg White, Ph.D., head of the UCO Musical Theatre Division. “There are three competitive programs in the metro area alone while Texas only has three in the entire state.

“One thing that sets us apart from other programs is the incredible collaboration between different departments within the UCO College of Fine Arts and Design. Our students have the opportunity to work with our Dance Department to refine dance techniques or they can take advanced acting courses in the Theatre Arts Department while also working directly with our talented voice faculty in the School of Music.”

Faculty within the College of Fine Arts and Design also stay at the top of their craft as professionals working within their collective industries.

“I want to congratulate our amazing students, staff and faculty mentors across schools, divisions and departments who’s collaborative efforts alchemically combine to create gold,” Hansen added.

#CFADWorks: Julianne Annesley

We’re proud of our Oklahoma teachers! Local music educator Julianne Annesley shares how the UCO College of Fine Arts and Design prepared her to train the next generation of musicians.

During her time at the University of Central Oklahoma, Annesley was a part of the Wind Symphony, Marching Band, Orchestra and Cantilena Women’s Choir. She was also selected by audition for the National Flute Association Collegiate Honor Flute Choir in 2009 and 2010. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Music Education (Instrumental) with a minor in Vocal Performance in 2011, Annesley has dedicated the last eight years to directing band and orchestra, as well as teaching music appreciation.

Annesley was recently recognized for researching and reviving Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School’s alma mater song. Because of her efforts to promote school spirit through music, the school has begun several new traditions, including musical performances at the freshmen welcome event and Veterans Day Assembly. Read more about Annesley’s work at

Today, Annesley teaches at three Catholic schools in the Oklahoma City metro while also working to complete her Masters of Music Education. She is currently a member of the Oklahoma Flute Society Adult Flute Choir, serving as a Delegate on the Executive Board and as the Honor Flute Choirs Assistant.

As students are dissuaded from pursuing their passions in arts-related fields, we’re flipping the script on “starving artists” and highlighting the breadth of success our alumni have achieved as musicians, artistic directors, talent managers, dancers, actors and so much more. As our alumni can attest, #CFADWorks!

Are you a CFAD alum? We’d love to hear from you! To get involved, just post a selfie or video of you at work to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Use #CFADWorks, and we’ll share your story! Thank you for inspiring our students and the future generation of creators!


#CFADWorks: Eric Chambray

In the dressing room for “Le Rêve,” dance alumnus Eric Chambray shares his journey from the UCO College of Fine Arts and Design to the Las Vegas stage.

After studying dance at the University of Central Oklahoma, Chambray began his career with Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Tokyo Disney. For the past 10 years, Chambray has stunned audiences with feats of strength, acrobatics, aerial dance, diving, martial arts and more as a part of “Le Rêve,” performing in an aqua theatre-in-the-round at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Those outside of Las Vegas may have also seen Chambray and the “Le Rêve” dancers on America’s Got Talent and in the film Paul Blart Mall Cop: 2.

Watch a few of these captivating performances below:

As students today are dissuaded from pursuing their passions in arts-related fields, we’re flipping the script on “starving artists” and highlighting the breadth of success our alumni have achieved as musicians, artistic directors, talent managers, dancers, actors and so much more. As our alumni can attest, #CFADWorks!

Are you a CFAD alum? We’d love to hear from you! To get involved, just post a selfie or video of you at work to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Use #CFADWorks, and we’ll share your story! Thank you for inspiring our students and the future generation of creators!

#CFADWorks: Mariah Saffa

Hard at work in a 7,000-seat arena in northern Colorado, ACM@UCO alumna Mariah Saffa reflects on her path to a marketing career in the entertainment industry.

After receiving a B.A.T. in Music Business and a minor in Marketing from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2017, Saffa used the skills she gained through real-world industry experience at ACM@UCO in her job as a Digital Marketing Specialist and Radio Accounts Manager at Tyler Media. This role led Saffa to her current position with Spectra, an international venue management and hospitality company that serves the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO. As a Marketing Manager, Saffa directs marketing strategies not only for the venue itself, but also for touring musicians and entertainers, continuing to apply her education in Music Business.

As students today are dissuaded from pursuing their passions in arts-related fields, we’re flipping the script on “starving artists” and highlighting the breadth of success our alumni have achieved as musicians, artistic directors, talent managers, dancers, actors and so much more. As our alumni can attest, #CFADWorks!

Are you a CFAD alum? We’d love to hear from you! To get involved, just post a selfie or video of you at work to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Use #CFADWorks, and we’ll share your story! Thank you for inspiring our students and the future generation of creators!

#CFADWorks: Jessica Craddock

From her picturesque Colorado ranch, College of Fine Arts and Design alumna Jessica Craddock shares her journey to becoming the founder and owner of The Artist Market Co.

After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2010 with a B.F.A. in Painting, Craddock first learned the skills of gallery management while working for notable Oklahoma City artist Suzanne Wallace Mears. She soon opened her own pop-up gallery, an experience which fostered her interest in learning to more effectively market her art. After several years of experience at local marketing firm Public Strategies, Craddock launched her business The Artist Market Co. to teach fine artists the necessary business skills to successfully market and sell their work. As a painter, entrepreneur and business owner, Craddock helps her fellow artists to make a living while doing what they love.

To learn more about Craddock and The Artist Market Co., please visit

#CFADWorks: Kevin Bergquist

As a Graphic Designer at Fulton Brewing Company in Minneapolis, MN, alumnus Kevin Bergquist demonstrates the skills he gained from the UCO College of Fine Arts and Design in his daily work.

Bergquist graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2014 with a B.F.A. in Graphic Design and a minor in Illustration. Since then, he has used his educational experiences throughout his career, working independently as a screenprinter and freelance designer before beginning his current position at Fulton Brewing Company as a full-time Graphic Designer. His daily work involves designing anything from packaging to web graphics to posters for the company, providing ample opportunities to flex his creative muscles.

Last year, Bergquist’s unique illustration process was recognized by the British art and design publication “It’s Nice That.” Utilizing a scanner to distort his designs, the illustrator created a wobbling effect that offered movement and spontaneity to his compositions. To see examples of his work in this style and read the full feature by “It’s Nice That,” visit

View Bergquist’s most recent series of designs below:

Question and Answer with Painter, Erica Bonavida

Written by Kyle Cohlmia, curator of the UCO Melton Gallery

One of my favorite parts of the role of curator at the Melton Gallery is working with living artists. I love the way in which each artist is different; hearing about their unique approaches to the craft is an exciting experience. Additionally, it’s always an honor working with University of Central Oklahoma alumni who know the art department (many of whom comment on the once again experiencing the distinct smell of the paints from the painting room) and received instruction and inspiration from our very own faculty.

Erica Bonavida stands in front of her painting.

Erica is no exception. Now a professional artist working in the OKC community as a part of Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition and Fringe: Women Artists of Oklahoma, Erica is also UCO alum. As a student, she was named to the Dean’s Honor Roll from 2007 – 2014 and received the Freshman Achievement Scholarship in 2007.

Her large-scale, realist paintings invite the viewer to look at textiles from an intimate vantage point. The detail of texture and colorful fabric might remind you of a personal memory or relic from your lifetime. In addition, the fluidity of Erica’s lines creates a concentrated sense of movement, as if you could actually touch or feel the objects she has painted.

Erica created a new painting titled “The Dressing Room,” directly inspired by two costumes from the UCO Costume Shop. This collaboration is notable, as visitors will be able to see the artform of costume design highlighted through oil painting.

I asked Erica some specific questions about her work and time at UCO. To learn more about her content, process and past & current inspirations, read our Q&A session below:

Kyle Cohlmia: Your style is unique to other still-life painters I have seen in Oklahoma. How did you start painting textiles? In addition, how has your style developed since you were in college?

Erica Bonavida: My choice of subject matter regarding still-life was inspired by an undergraduate painting assignment to paint a still-life of something you are obsessed with. I had spent so much time on the fabric portions of the previously assigned still-life that it occurred to me that I was completely fascinated by the idea of capturing the nuances of fabric. It took off from there and become the subject of my senior work and subsequently my professional work. Over time my style has become more refined, more detailed, and developed into my own particular view of realism without being necessarily photorealistic.

KC: Oftentimes your paintings are of an object or piece of fabric/textile that looks as if it’s recently been used, worn, laid in, sat on, etc. Do you have stories of these pieces and how they came to be as you paint, or do you like to keep the narratives up to the viewer?

EB: Absolutely! There are many stories behind the fabrics, especially the worn ones, that I paint. Many of them come from my own childhood such as a worn and tattered quilt, handmade dresses, and vintage baby clothing. I like to elude to their history with the title of the work but I also leave it open enough that the viewer can relate their own narrative to the piece. My hope is that it elicits a response that recalls a tactile experience from the viewers own history.

KC: I love the sense of movement in your pieces. What are some techniques you use to create the lines and shadows that reference the texture and wornness of the fabric you paint?

EB: Movement is a very important part of my work. I have a sculpture background in addition to painting and I find fabric to be an interesting way to marry those aspects of 2D and 3D. I spend a lot of time arranging the composition to give it movement and to show off every facet of a particular textile that I am attempting to capture. I spend a lot of time observing the textiles and studying how they are woven to give a particular texture. Each requires a unique approach in order to capture that texture with paint. I consider them to be puzzle to solve and that keeps the process fresh and interesting for me.

KC: Similarly, what is your process like? Do you take photographs of what you paint first? How long does it take you to complete a typical painting?

EB: My process begins with the selection of the fabrics. I look for textiles that coordinate in subject matter and color palette while offering a variety of textures. From there I set up a still-life and seek to show multiple views of the chosen fabrics. I like showing the backside of things. I think it’s interesting to see how things come together. The process of setting up the still-life can take as little as minutes or as much as days. I take many photos and choose my favorite composition to work with. I paint from the photograph but keep the subjects close by for reference. Once the majority of the painting has been done from the reference photo I put it aside and make visual changes based on intuition.

KC: This can be a tough question to answer, as there are so many great artists out there, but who are a few of your personal influences from the artwork?

EB: I’m influenced by a lot of artists. I spend a lot of time just looking at work that’s being produced right now. Everything from traditional still-life, figurative work, murals, to abstraction. Right now, I’m loving just about everything that comes out of RJD Gallery in New York. One of my favorite artists showing there is Jackee Sandelands-Strom. She has incredible acrylic paintings of tattooed hands. I follow the photorealist work of Frank Oriti as well as Omar Ortiz. I also adore Shana Levenson. I’ve only recently found her work but I really enjoy how she uses pastels in her lace dress paintings. I can really relate to how she views color. One of the artists I’ve followed the longest is Anne-Marie Kornachuk. I could see myself integrating a figure in a similar way.

KC: Can you describe a favorite memory from your time at the UCO Art Department? What skills did you develop at the school that helped you become the success you are today? 

EB: Some of my favorite memories of my time at UCO are the late nights and long afternoons in the studio painting alongside my classmates. It was the first time in my life I had had the opportunity to spend that much uninterrupted time honing a skill and I loved the easy-going atmosphere and camaraderie when others were around. The most useful thing I learned that has served me well as a working artist is how to be professional, pay attention to detail, and prepare for everything. The final semester really sets you up with the practical knowledge on how to install your work as well as how to make the process as smooth as possible.

KC: What is one piece of advice you would give graduating art students who are interested in pursuing a life as a professional artist?

EB: Go in to your career with the understanding that you are an independent business and your art is your goods. Brush up on how business works. Learn as much as you can about marketing. Understand your clients and build a cohesive brand.

Erica Bonavida will be exhibiting in the Krottinger Family Gallery Nov. 1-Dec. 15. The opening reception is 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8. Special thanks to Alyssa Couturier-Herndon from the UCO Costume Shop who helped coordinate the lending of costumes for Erica’s inspiration of her newest piece “The Dressing Room.”

For a complete listing of UCO College of Fine Arts and Design events and performances, please visit

#CFADWorks: Erin Clemons

Backstage at “Hamilton: An American Musical,” UCO College of Fine Arts and Design alumna Erin Clemons finds a moment amid the whirlwind of rehearsals to share her journey since gradation.

After receiving her Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2011, Clemons moved to New York City to begin her career on Broadway. In “Les Misérables,” Clemons touched the hearts of thousands in the tragic role of lovelorn martyr, Éponine. Clemons also performed for audiences across America in the “Les Misérables 25th Anniversary U.S. National Tour” and as Janelle Woods in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical First National Tour.”

Returning to the Broadway stage, Clemons is currently starring in “Hamilton: An American Musical.” This critically-acclaimed musical boasts hundreds of accolades, including 11 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Clemons is a member of the ensemble, and she has also portrayed Angelica Schuyler, Eliza Hamilton, Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds.

Clemons remembers UCO as an environment where she was able to hone her craft under the guidance of professionals that have evolved into lifelong friends and mentors. For tickets to see her performance in “Hamilton,” visit

#CFADWorks: Milena Govich

On the set of primetime medical drama “Chicago Med,” UCO College of Fine Arts and Design alumna Milena Govich pressed pause on a busy week of directing her first network television episode to send an update to her alma mater.

Upon graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1999 with degrees in Vocal Performance and Pre-Medicine and minors in Dance and Violin, Govich’s launch to stardom began on Broadway. Appearing in shows such as “Cabaret,” “The Boys From Syracuse” and “Good Vibrations,” Govich’s acting chops were quickly recognized, and she transitioned into a prolific career on television.

After landing the recurring role of Assistant District Attorney Jessica Rossi in the Dick Wolf series “Conviction,” Govich soon became the first and only female detective on the Emmy-winning series, “Law & Order.” Households across the nation tuned in to see Govich as Detective Nina Cassady, the spitfire rookie eager to prove herself on the force. Following “Law & Order,” Govich appeared on the wrong side of the law as Lori Stevens in the MTV original drama, “Finding Carter.” Her impressive career boasts roles in nearly one hundred television episodes, including those in “Love Monkey, “Rescue Me,” “K-Ville,” “The Defenders” and “Make It or Break It.”

Selected as one of only eight filmmakers in the American Film Institute’s prestigious Directing Workshop for Women, Govich has found success as a director as well. She is also a part of the Sony Pictures Television Diverse Directors Program. Her award-winning short film, “Temporary,” has been featured in festivals across the country. Her latest project, “Unspeakable,” premiered at South By Southwest in 2018, and Govich has directed episodes of “Chicago Med” and “Chicago Fire” that will appear this season.

In 2017, the University of Central Oklahoma honored Govich for her accomplishments by presenting her with the Distinguished Alumni Award. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and producing partner, writer David Cornue.