The COMP Magazine Continues to Grow

Joliet, Ill. – When the University of St. Francis (USF) Art and Design Department created The COMP Magazine that launched in the spring of 2014, its primary purpose was to introduce students to art and music produced in Chicagoland. The online publication, which can be accessed at thecompmagazine.com, has since grown over the past eight years and has connected USF students and faculty with more than 250 artists, musicians and arts professionals. And they are just getting started.

The idea for The COMP Magazine originated back in 2013 as part of a portfolio development course being taught by USF professor Michael “Chester” Alamo-Costello, MFA.

“In 2013, Egzon Shaqiri, Jessica Cuevas, Jazzmyne Robbins and I began the online zine’s development during a Portfolio Development class. The COMP Magazine was created initially as a format for introducing our students to art and music produced in Chicagoland, and as a means for presenting our students efforts as art makers and writers. Chicago has one of the largest and productive artistic communities in the U.S. We emphasize to our students that they be familiar with contemporary art and music practices. The magazine was launched in March 2014,” Alamo-Costello said.

Shaqiri, who earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with a double concentration in graphic design and photography from USF in 2014, still vividly remembers his experience as the online publication’s lead designer.

“The COMP Magazine began as an effort to create a place to showcase the work of students and faculty members. Since the Art & Design Department was not located on the main campus, we wanted to create a platform that was accessible to all. While a traditional print magazine would have sufficed, my classmates and I decided it would be more cost-effective and engaging to create a website instead,” he said.

“At the time, I had very little experience in web design,” Shaqiri continued, “so over the summer, I dedicated my time and focus on learning the WordPress platform in order to create the website. After creating a high-fidelity prototype, we had to pitch the idea to the administration and all the stakeholders involved. The site would not have been possible if we did not get approval from these individuals, so it was extremely important to get buy-in on the vision before proceeding with the full build.”

Eight years later, Shaqiri is pleased to see that The COMP has stood the test of time.

“Although we thoughtfully designed the brand and the website to stand the test of time, I don’t think any of us had envisioned that the site would still be in use today. For that, I have to thank Professor Alamo-Costello and the students immensely for the effort they have contributed over the years to continue to grow the brand,” he said.

Shaqiri is now an experience designer at Salesforce. He, however, continues to remain involved with The COMP in an advisory capacity for two main reasons.

“My motivation to keep connected with The COMP stems from seeing the effort that the faculty and students give to continue to grow the brand. I also understand how important The COMP became in my career as a promotional tool to share with potential employers since it clearly demonstrated the technical and creative skills that these companies seek. Thus, I always love to see when students leverage the website as a catalyst for job placement,” he said.

Today, the magazine publishes a minimum of one new article each week, along with a variety of useful links to news and creative tips for artists of all backgrounds. Alamo-Costello said that, aside from faculty members helping to keep content ideas moving forward, students and their interests guide the magazine’s content.

“Students can propose a topic to cover related to the arts. We discuss the intent then outline a plan. This has developed into doing research outside of the classroom. For instance, I have secured press passes for students to cover music festivals and connect with curators at area museums. This has been a great format for introducing experiential learning opportunities,” Alamo-Costello said.

Alamo-Costello also noted that content is tied to current course content.

“Also, we tie content to courses being ran. This past spring in the Graphic Design History students were required to write piece on a designer, movement or process related to graphic design. We’ve found there’s a bit more incentive when the student realizes their writing will be read on the internet. Plus, this type of assignment offers an opportunity for the student to build their resume,” he added.

Emilia Torres, an art and design major, concentrating in graphic design, credited her experiences to date with The COMP have greatly impacted her creative skills.

“Many people have the conception that being an art student is making art all the time. At USF, that is simply not true. Being part of the COMP’s Creative Team has provided me with the opportunity to broaden my creative skills through brainstorming, researching, and writing. The process of writing a story can be quite similar to creating a piece of art. As an additional creative outlet, It has been exciting and meaningful to be part of The COMP magazine,” she said.

Torres added that exploring new creative outlets has been one of her greatest benefits of being a part of The COMP’s creative team.

“The COMP gives students a chance to explore a new creative outlet. Professor Alamo-Costello always encourages us to write about topics we are passionate about and that we feel like should be talked about. Media censorship is always talked about in our society. However, being able to feel safe and encouraged to write about topics we want is refreshing,” she said.

After graduating, Torres hopes to work for a company that keeps the well-being of the environment at its forefront.

“I aspire to work in a company which prioritizes eco-friendly practices. Specifically, I would like to focus on packaging design. I believe one of the ways companies can take a big step towards becoming more environmentally conscious is by implementing more eco-friendly packaging and I would like to be a part of such a project,” Torres said.

Visit stfrancis.edu/art-design to learn more about the USF Art & Design program.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF Introduces Midwest Art to SUSE Students in China

Joliet, Ill. –  A new University of St. Francis (USF) art and design course is bringing Midwest art to students at the Sichuan University of Science and Engineering (SUSE) in China.

USF instructors Paul Erschen, MFA, Department Chair & Associate Professor of Art & Design, and Michael Chester Costello, MFA, Professor of Art & Design, launched their new course, “The American Artist: Chicago & Beyond”, this week over Zoom to a class of approximately 50 students. The course serves to introduce the students at SUSE to the diverse range of studio practices and artistic careers found in Chicago and the Midwest.

“One focus within the course will be on new media, graphic design, performance art, and video. I will be showing works by international artists, including Matthew Barney, Yayoi Kusama, Nancy Burson, Olafur Eliasson, and Nam June Paik, among others,” Costello said.

Erschen added that the new course is part of a long-range plan that includes additional courses and students eventually taking on-campus courses at USF.

“This is a pilot course and will likely lead to additional course offerings as we move forward. For now, we want to introduce students to our teaching style, our art practices, and the careers of artists in the United States,” said Erschen.

Erschen and Costello also hope to do a seminar at the SUSE in China in 2021.

Visit stfrancis.edu/art-design to learn more about the USF Art & Design program.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Art Professor Delivers Care Packages

Joliet, Ill. – When University of St. Francis students transitioned to online coursework in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the change was clearly an unanticipated one. On-campus, face-to-face instruction was quickly replaced with off-campus, virtual instruction, and students were challenged with navigating the ins and outs of distance learning. In an effort to ensure that his art majors felt supported throughout their transition to this new learning environment, USF art professor Michael “Chester” Alamo-Costello, MFA, created personalized care packages that he mailed and delivered to students as a way to show his support and concern for them.

“The packages consisted of an art, design or photography book, comics and some snacks. The contents of each care package was slightly different. For instance, I bought and passed on a photography book to a student concentrating in photography, while a student who plays a sport on campus would get an art book and a book related to another one of their athletic interests,” Alamo-Costello said.

Although the gesture was performed with the needs of his students in mind, Alamo-Costello said that there was more to it than just that.

“In all honesty, this was as much or probably more-so for me. The students have been patient and exemplary in this time of crisis. I needed to thank them for staying focused. Having taught at USF for more than 20 years, I feel very fortunate to continually work with quality young people,” he said.

In addition to the care packages, a series of non-credit summer projects have been organized for students as a way to keep them engaged with their studies.

“These activities help to keep our community connected. Many students are still isolated, and an item to work on appears to be a constructive outlet. Throughout the summer, via Zoom, we are meeting weekly to look at progress of projects and prepare for their return in August,” Alamo-Costello said.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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