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An Appetite for Art

Members of the MICA Community Have Just the Right Palate—and Just the Right Palette—for Food-Related Creations

Posted 01.01.13 by mica communications

A cake created by Zoe Lukas ’99 (painting).

There are many similarities between art and food. Both are the products of creativity, both can bring people great joy, and both give members of the MICA community outlets for their skills and talent.

 

 

 

 

Piece of Cake

For Zoe Lukas ’99 (painting), cooking comes as naturally as a form of art. Always comfortable in a kitchen, Lukas apprenticed at a bakery in downtown Philadelphia after leaving MICA. When her husband Brennen got laid off from his job in 2008, the couple started creating and selling cakes from their home, and in 2009 Whipped Bakeshop, their bakery,opened its doors.

Throughout the journey, Lukas didn’t forget her artistic background, nor the training she received at MICA. “We focus on the artistry of what we do,” she said. With wedding and custom cakes in particular, “a lot of thought goes into the design,” she said. “The artistry and the craftsmanship really dovetail to make something beautiful and special for the couple.”

Lukas isn’t the only MICA graduate to turn cake-making into a career. Graham Coreil-Allen ’10 (Mount Royal School of Art) arrived at MICA after working as a project manager for an architectural hardware manufacturer. After graduating, he found a job that utilized all his experiences: serving as the operations manager for Charm City Cakes.

His project management experience came in handy for running the dayto- day operations of the Baltimore bakery, which served as the setting for the Food Network reality show, Ace of Cakes, from 2006 through 2011. But his art background was just as important.

“I consider our cakes to be art,” he explained. “We come up with a cake idea, and then I work out the logistics to see that the cake is made to perfection.” Coreil-Allen isn’t the only MICA alumnus to work for Charm City Cakes. The artistic director, Katie Rose ’05 (general fine arts), is also a MICA alumna, while Anna Ellison ’05 (graphic design) and former student Katherine St. Paul Hill also work for the bakery.

Coreil-Allen credits MICA for helping him perfect his skills. “Being able to collaborate with people and realize creative visions is one of the skills I was able to hone at Mount Royal,” he said.

Drool-Worthy Food Entrepreneurs

While Nick Brooks '10 (graphic design) was at MICA, he realized he wanted to add to the Bolton Hill dining options. So in February 2011, he opened Bolton Deli with fellow graduate Cris Cimatu '11 (illustration) and current student Matt Tabin as minority partners in the venture.

This wasn't Brooks' first foray into the food business. For a short time, he was also a co-owner of the Bohemian Coffeehouse on Charles Street. "Owning a restaurant is a never-ending source of creative problem solving," Brooks explained. "At the core of what we learned in graphic design and at MICA was problem solving."

His MICA experience also came in handy as he sought to create a visually appealing and friendly space. "I wanted to create a space that didn't exclude anybody from feeling comfortable," he said. "I think, ultimately, we've done a pretty good job of that."

For some, the road from art to food was a life-changing journey. Anna Sobaski '92 (photography) was head of the art department at Beaver Country Day School in Brookline, Massachusetts, when she was diagnosed with celiac disease-a condition in which the body can't tolerate gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye, among other grains. Most of the gluten-free breads she tried were not appetizing, so Sobaski set out to create a tasty recipe and came up with her first bread mix in March 2004.

Today, she runs Breads From Anna in Iowa City, Iowa, selling 12 glutenfree bread mixes in a number of stores including Whole Foods Market. The skills Sobaski learned at MICA still come in handy, as "I've done all of the photography for my labels and on the website," she said.

Sobaski pointed out there are other similarities between art and bread. "When I made art I created something that didn't exist before," she said. The same is true with her bread. "It didn't exist before, and now it's sold all over the world."

Alisha Mustafa '12 (Business of Art & Design) was developing a fictitious eco-couture apparel business in MICA's online-based MPS in the Business of Art & Design program when she found she had a real talent for baking pies. She had been working at a café in Bloomington, Indiana, when customers began eating up her creations. After talking with her instructors, she switched her business idea and began developing Mustafa Pie Company.

"I'm very thankful that I landed in the program, and now I feel like I have a competitive edge in the new market," said Mustafa, who held eight part-time jobs during the year before she entered the program. Today, she operates her company out of the café she previously worked for, and is in the process of building a mobile pie cart using a $1,000 prize she landed during her thesis presentation so she can sell her pies in the downtown area of Bloomington.

"I know MICA is going to be with me for a very long time. I met incredibly passionate faculty and staff that want to see their students grow and be successful," she said.

LISTEN: Alisha Mustafa talks about being a young entrepreneur on NPR.

 

Brewing Up Great Videos & Designs

Tim Martin '01 (general fine arts) has always dabbled in multiple forms of art, ranging from painting to sculpture to video. So when he was offered a job as the in-house filmmaker for Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewery, he knew it was right up his alley.

"It's all storytelling; it's just a different medium and a different palette," Martin said. Not only does he film video for the brewery's website, but he has created commercials for the company, one of which won two ADDY Awards, given for excellence in advertising.

One challenge Martin has faced is keeping in mind customers' perceptions of beer in order to appeal to new audiences. "As an artist you want to be as creative as possible," he said. "But at the same time, you have to make beer appealing to the audience," he added.

Martin also said his MICA experience helped him become comfortable opening his work up to constructive criticism. "When someone doesn't get your work, you don't take it so hard; criticism isn't always a bad thing," he said. "That's one of the most important things I learned at MICA."

Watch Flying Dog commercials filmed by Tim Martin below:

 

Another MICA alumnus has made a career out of his love for beer. After Colin McSteen '11 (graphic design) left MICA, he went back to his hometown of Minneapolis where he was hanging out with a friend who brews beer. The two discussed starting a brewery but decided it would be more cost-effective to sell beer gifts-such as T-shirts, soap, bottle cap earrings, and other knick-knacks-designed to help people express their love for the beverage.

"Instead of brewing the beer, we're brewing the swag," McSteen explained. He designs all of the T-shirts and is responsible for the company's branding-tasks that his design experience and four years of MICA classes have helped him excel in.

"People respond a lot better to an artistic design than something generic that you would normally associate with beer-related products," he said.

 


Image captions (top to bottom): This Lollapalooza 20th-year anniversary cake, designed by Graham Coreil-Allen '10 (Mount Royal) and others at Charm City Cakes, featured a six-sided carnival stage with gumpaste figures of different memorable acts who had performed at the festival over the years, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Hole, Snoop Dog, The Ramones, and Jane's Addiction. Viewers could see all sides of the cake as the cake-stage-tent actually rotated using an electrical motor;  Nick Brooks '10 (graphic design), owner and co-founder of Bolton Deli, stands inside the eatery just afterthe long renovation process came to completion; a close-up of one of Alisha Mustafa '12 (Business of Art & Design) tasty pies; Colin McSteen '11 (graphic design) made a career out of his love for beer through Swag Brewery, a company selling beer-related items such as the T-shirts above.