Emily Grace Klumpenhower: Taking a Chance on Art

Emily Grace Klumpenhower doesn’t just have a passion for art. She is so committed that she packed up everything, transferred schools and moved across state borders to pursue it. 

“I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t know anything about Utah, but I decided I had to take that chance.” 

Klumpenhower is a junior art major with a concentration in illustration and a minor in English. 

She discovered Cedar City after her family visited to attend the Shakespeare Festival. While Klumpenhower was researching universities to transfer to, she remembered SUU because of the Shakespeare Festival.

On this first trip to Cedar, she went with her family to the Shakespeare play, “The Merchant of Venice,” over the fourth of July.

“That [sticks in my memory] because I could hear fireworks in the distance throughout the whole play, and we even caught a glimpse of some during intermission. I even decided to visit the festival again last September and really enjoyed it again.”

The Shakespeare Festival isn’t the only reason Klumpenhower chose SUU. Southern Utah is known for its breathtaking red rock and scenic landscape. Originally from New Mexico, she also lived near red rocks, so moving to a place with a similar outdoor appearance reminded her of home and made the transition easier. 

Klumpenhower explained that she’d been into art since she was little and was inspired by pictures her mother would sometimes draw for her. 

“I was always reading and watching cartoons and drawing. When I was 14 or 15, I realized that I could do this for a living and that there are more career options for me. I don’t have to be this starving artist, but I could incorporate storytelling too.”

Some artists she finds inspiration from include Georgia O’Keeffe, an American artist known for her close-up flower paintings, Eric Carle, who designed “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and Mary Blair, who was an animator for The Walt Disney Company. 

She was originally pursuing an art degree at the University of New Mexico, which is where she grew up. 

“The program there wasn’t giving me what I wanted. I found out SUU had an illustration program, and I realized it might be worth the risk to pack up everything and try something new.”

It can be hard to move out, start college and pick a major, but to also decide to cross state borders and transfer is even more challenging. However, this is exactly what Klumpenhower had the courage to do.

Benjamin Sowards, Associate Professor of Art Illustration is impressed with her work ethic. He voiced his opinion that her success in the art program may have come because she has had to sacrifice so much and hasn’t wasted time or effort. 

“She’s diligent, and she’s making great improvement. She came from a very different program, and she’s putting effort into what’s being taught here. I wish we had 15 more of her,” Sowards said. 

SUU has offered exactly what she was looking for in an art program. Klumpenhower’s illustration emphasis combines a mixture of digital and traditional art, and SUU has taught a lot more about the digital process. She has also felt very welcomed by her fellow students and professors.

“Everyone is so passionate here, and Ben Sowards and Hala Swearingen [the heads of the Illustration Department] helped me get settled. They are so relaxed and so welcoming, and they’re interested in helping [students] get to those next steps. They want to see me succeed beyond just school.”

Klumpenhower has taken advantage of everything the art program has to offer, even taking a trip with the program and going to a CTNX animation exposition, a three-day “Creative Talent Network” convention in California. 

“She’s not just coasting through the program, she’s applying herself. She’s seeing good results, and she’s been really involved with the illustration program,” Sowards said.

The art student hopes to one day pursue a career in book illustration or concept art. She currently has plans to start a webcomic and post a collection of short stories and would like to experiment with diorama work. For now, she’s adjusting to life in Cedar City and is enjoying life as an artist. 

It was a risk to leave behind everything she knew, but for Klumpenhower, giving up so much and taking that chance to pursue art has paid off.


Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Emily Klumpenhower