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Art at The College of St. Scholastica: Alumni Spotlight

Featured Alumni

Alyssa Swanson

Pronouns: She/HerAlyssa Swanson


Year graduated from CSS: 2016

Major/Minor: Art Major, Psychology and WGS Minor

Impact of your time at CSS: An unanswerable question really. CSS Art challenged and inspired me. It obviously made me a better artist, but not just in the skill level but in understanding what it means to be an artist professionally and theoretically. It gave me opportunities to be a leader. The intimacy of the program allowed me to really make it what I needed so I was prepared to go to grad school. It gave me so many connections in the Duluth community, which in turn taught me how to form them outside of Duluth, too. The list goes on and on. 

Current job/role: Art Teacher at Proctor High School and Adjunct Instructor at St. Scholastica

Something you love about what you do: I love finding the things that connect individual students, especially the reluctant ones, to art. I especially love showing them things they don't believe are art and having conversations about why they think it isn't and explaining why it actually is. I also love learning about how to make challenging art skills and concepts accessible for kids with learning disabilities- it's helping me be a better teacher for everyone. And I love teaching ceramics!  

What do you like to create currently? These days, I split my time pretty evenly between realistic pet portrait commissions and conceptual, abstract, fiber art. They are total opposites and sometimes I am a little confused about how both come from the same person- but I am happy I've given myself the permission to do both because they both bring me a lot of joy. 

Outside of work, what are you passionate about? Ha! Everything it seems like? This is a hard question. I think if I were to sum up my passion outside of work and art... it would be giving my 4 furbabies their best life and being outside and in touch with nature as much as possible by gardening, foraging, hiking, biking, running, camping, skiing and snowboarding, all that fun stuff. That seems like me in a nutshell. 

I have some awesome classes coming up at the Great Lakes Aquarium, connecting art and nature! Some classes are for young kids, some are for 13+, information here:   This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

I also was selected to be the featured artist for the Little Big Show at MacRostie Art Center in May! 

Examples of Alyssa's work can be found at


Name: Whitley MikePhoto of Whitley on the Ocean

Pronouns: she/her

Year graduated from CSS: 2013

Major/Minor: Art Major, Communication Major

Impact of your time there:

While at CSS I was an avid part of the art department and volunteered for and published the Freshwater Arts Journal, as well as was a featured in the journal itself. I acted as CSS Theatre Manager and volunteered my skillset as a graphic artist and photographer to create promotional materials for productions. I interned for the CSS Media Department, and developed a role to tell the story of student life on the college’s social media channels, a strategy still being used today. I additionally volunteered for Trio Students and developed successful donation campaigns to provide goods and services to local Duluth charities in need. Post-graduation I supported several of my fellow alumni through additional education and even developed job opportunities in my current role at Carmichael Lynch, and now work side-by-side with CSS alumni Creative Dan Branovan.


Current job/role:

  • Carmichael Lynch, Associate Creative Director, Design
  • Sea Women Expeditions, Creative Director

Something you love about what you do:

I love story-telling, and my career allows me to use various visual mediums such as graphic design, photography, film, set design, prop design, audio design and sustainable design to craft a tale. I also absolutely love collaborating with other creative story-tellers, like writers, artists, designers, directors, editors and photographers. I love creating in a collective and learning from the people I work with. I never want to stop learning, and my career constantly challenges me to evolve. 

What do you like to create currently?

In addition to my love or art and design I have a deep love for environmental sciences. Currently I am working with Sea Women Expeditions to create a brand story and highlight our work as a collective for our trip to the Norwegian high arctic. I like to document content, like film, sound and photography of a project like an expedition, and then develop a design-driven experience such as an interactive website or art exhibit to give my community at how swimming with orca looks, feels and sounds like.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about? Please share in-depth any details you’d like shared!!

Outside of work I am incredible passionate about cetacean conservation and restoring our planet. I have volunteered my efforts to many organizations like Aquatic Research Conservancy, Damsense and Sea Shepard. I additionally host weekly discussions called “Green Chats” where a group of concerned designers, art directors, filmmakers and artists gather to discuss how the artistic community can do its part to change the tide on our planet’s most urgent issue; climate change.

Photos in this post were taken by Emma Khan

Photo from November 2022 Whale Exhibition.

Tyler B. JohnsonTyler Johnson

Pronouns: He/Him


Year graduated from CSS: 2012

Double major: Advertising & Art

Current job/role: Senior Designer, Malley Design.

Impact of your time at CSS: Honestly I don’t think I would be working in design or advertising if I didn’t go to St. Scholastica. Initially, I began attending CSS with hopes of becoming a Dentist. After a semester taking science classes I knew it wasn’t for me. During the break between semesters I began reassessing what I would like to do for a career. I did a lot of soul searching and wasn’t really sure where to land. St. Scholastica offered access to career counseling which narrowed down my search. More importantly, I had access to great professors who offered practical advice, stepping stones and resources. I can’t help but think if I was going to a larger school that I would’ve fallen through the cracks and ended up doing something less fitting for me personally. Because of CSS’s small size I already knew many of my professors on a personal level - and they were able to help me. Jen Reierson (marketing) and Sarah Brokke (fine art) are two people who had an immense impact on my career trajectory. Jen gave me access to professionals in marketing, guidance on how I could continue to learn about marketing, and even leads on possible internships. Sarah Brokke encouraged me that I could make a living in the arts and that it was even something I was born to do. Sarah played a large part in silencing my inner critic and putting me on the path I’m on today. If I didn’t meet Sarah I would probably be selling insurance or something.

Something you love about what you do: I love the challenge of listening to clients’ nuanced and diverse challenges and coming up with solutions to overcome them. I love that I’m able to use my strengths as a communicator and creator to convey complex messages in a simplified and entertaining way. I love that my five year old daughter describes what I do as “professional drawing” - which is about as close to a dream job description as I could come up with.

What do you like to create currently? I like to create a variety of things. During the workday I have the honor of crafting brand identities for clients’. In the most simple sense this can be described as making logos but it is much deeper and nuanced than that. It’s not just about creating a fitting mark for someone but creating a visual language and meaning and feeling associated with the person or company I’m working for. It’s a process that’s personal, challenging and immensely gratifying when it is done well. In my free time I enjoy creating things on my iPad in Procreate or on paper. Oftentimes these reflect my interests outside of design or art and it’s not uncommon for my kiddo to provide prompts or art direction.

What inspires you? I’m inspired by exploring the lines between art and design. I want the brand identities I create to feel more like artwork than a corporate style. Similarly I am often driven to make viewers of my work have a visceral or emotional reaction. I like the notion that something I drew on my iPad can trigger an emotion or memory for someone else. I think human connection is something I’m driven by at the core of my being and this extends to the work or art that I make.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about? During Covid I discovered mountain biking as a hobby. It turned out to be the missing piece in my life. It changed how I view myself and my community. It connected me with people during one of the most difficult times in my life. Now that life is somewhat back to normal it’s brought me on many adventures - both locally and across the US. Additionally, it’s connected me with opportunities I previously didn’t know existed. It’s not uncommon for me to work on graphic projects for bike influencers in Arkansas, races in Virginia or gear companies based in the Pacific Northwest. Biking has given me a lot but I think most importantly it has given me a renewed sense of self and inner peace.


Images below represent Tyler's Work in Illustration and Design.  You can find more of his work on instagram at @tylerbjohnson

Johnson IllustrationJohnson Illustration