May 10, 2017
It isn't often that young professionals set up scholarships at their alma maters while the diploma ink is still damp. But CIA alumnus Nolan Beck isn't your typical young grad.
By Karen Sandstrom
Beck ’15 runs his graphic design company from his Cleveland studio. He loves developing brand identity strategies for companies and organizations, and finding ways to give back to communities he cares about in his spare time.
This year, Beck decided to do so by creating a $1,500 scholarship for a CIA student studying Graphic Design, Industrial Design or Interior Architecture. He is still building his business, and doesn’t live extravagantly, but his favorite way to spend discretionary money is on other people.
“I like my apartment, I drive a Honda Civic and I have a boat that was $300 on Craigslist,” Beck says. “I don’t need much. I’m checking all the boxes for myself right now, so if I have extra, why not share?”
The scholarship —named the Clara Driscoll, after the Tiffany designer who was one of CIA’s earliest students — speaks to his affection for the Cleveland Institute of Art.
“There’s a lot of positive things that happened with CIA. I think it did its job,” he says. “You can’t go into a place and expect it to give you everything, but it gave me what I expected and more.”
Malou Monago, CIA’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement, says, “We’re thrilled that Nolan is able to fund a scholarship,” but she knows that’s not always in the cards for young alumni.
“When our students first leave, they’re concentrating on establishing themselves as professionals,” she says. “What we want most is for young alumni to stay in touch, that they let us know about their achievements. And we love it when they can come to events at the college.”
As for making a gift to CIA, Monago says that even small amounts help, since grant-making organizations take into account the percentage of alumni who give when they make funding decisions.
A self-described Army brat, Beck immersed himself immediately when he got to CIA. He was determined to draw everything he could from his four years here. During a recent lunch with a CIA freshman, which offered her his best thoughts on making the most of her college experience.
“You’re paying for a service at CIA and if you’re not using it to all of its benefits, then you’re cheating yourself,” he says. “Sign up for classes that aren’t in your major. You have access to printmaking, letterpress, glassblowing, welding. Take your professors to lunch and offer to pay. They shouldn’t let you, but offer. Get to know everybody and build up these connections. Don’t use people, make connections. “
In his junior year, a design Beck developed in his Advanced Studio course was chosen to be the new seal for Cuyahoga County. The seal appears on buildings, letterhead and more.
“Senior year was nice because I got to focus more on what I like to do as far as side projects, like with nonprofits in the area,” he says.
More recently, he has done design for the Ingenuity Festival and worked on rebranding Cleveland’s Public Square. Now he’s under contract to market the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
Last year, when he accrued enough work to have a little spending money, he found the dirt-cheap sailboat and accompanying trailer on Craigslist; he is painting it with his branded colors and getting Jessica Pinskey at Praxis Fiber Workshop to help him dye the sails.
Then he called Monago to start the scholarship. Long term, he’d love to fund an endowed scholarship, but it’s enough at the moment to do what he can afford. “I want to give someone $1,500 worth of relief.”
Like Monago, Beck is an advocate for continuing to nurture CIA connections after graduation. “Once you get your cap and your gown, that shouldn’t be the end of your engagement.”
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