Alumni, students named art influencers

A recent article recognized eight Temple artists.

When senior Cassandra Reffner completed a project for her typography class, she had no idea it would jumpstart her career as an artist.

“I did not expect this at all,” said Reffner, who is working toward a graphic design BFA at the Tyler School of Art. “It’s funny, it all started with this one infographic, and I’m like, ‘All I did was make it for a class.’”

Reffner’s infographic won the grand prize in Fox School of Business’s Temple Analytics Challenge last year. Unlike other students who competed in the competition, Reffner knows more about the art component. Though “big data is becoming a big deal,” Reffner said, the analytics industry is always “going to need designers.”

Reffner was one of eight Temple community members—six alumni and two current students—named the biggest influencers of Philadelphia’s “creative class” in a recent PhillyVoice article.

After her win, Reffner began taking businesses classes at the Fox School of Business. She is also taking an independent study course this semester “based purely on infographics” in preparation for this year’s competition.

While Reffner is not sure what she wants to do after graduation, she’s glad she chose Temple.

“I had a gut feeling about Temple—more specifically, about Tyler,” Reffner said. “I saw how good their art program was and I looked at the caliber of the artwork being produced, and it resonated with me.”

Keith Hartwig, 27, a designer and project manager at Veyko Metal & Fabrication Design, shares similar sentiments. Hartwig, who received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Tyler in 2011, said the education he received at Temple “was really invaluable” to what he does now.

“But it’s more than just that,” Hartwig said. “It has really been more of the diversity of perspectives I’ve received while at Temple.”

Hartwig was selected for last year’s Temple Contemporary Distinguished Alumni program to work alongside famed graphic designer and Temple alumna Paula Scher. Together, they collaborated on “Philadelphia Explained,” a hand-painted map that depicted various parts of Philadelphia.

Hartwig is currently an adjunct professor within the Tyler School of Art’s Architecture department. There, he co-instructs the class Introduction to Design and the Environment, and independently teaches Guerilla Altruism, a class that discusses “community, community-sponsored work, and civic engagement through design.”

Civic engagement and community involvement are a common thread within the Temple community, especially for Tyler students and alumni.

“A lot of my work is very much influenced by the people we’ve worked with and the people we’ve met,” 2012 Tyler alumnus Nate Mell, 30, said.

After graduating with a BFA in glass, Mell went to work in a Philadelphia-based clay studio. It was there he discovered his one true passion: ceramics.

Today, Mell is the co-owner of Felt+Fat, a ceramics manufacturing company based out of Port Richmond. He spends his days creating custom-made cups, mugs and plates for popular restaurants like Fork and Laurel throughout the city.

Mell said people aren’t his only sources of inspiration—Philadelphia as a whole influences his work.

“Philly is a good place to be an artist in general,” Mell said. “You can make anything you want in this city, if you know the right people.”

Courtney Redmon can reached at

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