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Sterling artist turned costumer has senior exhibit
courtesy photo Tiffany Adams, Sterling College art and theater student, works on a costume with actor Torey Wilson.

STERLING — When Tiffany Adams ventured from Greeley, Colo., to Sterling College four years ago, she thought it was only to pursue her passion of graphic design. She ended up doing just that but also discovered a completely new world for her artistic expression: theater costuming. Adams will have her senior art exhibit May 7-14 at the Art Center Gallery.

Adams ended up as an Art & Design major with a graphic design/illustration concentration but to her surprise added theater as a minor with an emphasis in costuming. “Before I came to Sterling all I had made was doll clothes,” she said. The first show her freshman year was the musical Once Upon A Mattress for which she made two vests. From there she hasn’t looked back.

In January of her freshman year, Adams was part of the New York Theatre trip with faculty member Sasha Hildebrand.

“I’ll never forget going with Sasha down to the Garment District in New York and going into this three-story fabric store. It was awesome. There we found some bold, solid primary color fabric that was perfect for the next show we were working on – ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.’” The fabric could be painted on, which added to the cartoon effect appropriate for the show,” Adams said. 

“I think one of the most unusual costumes I did was the witches in ‘Big Fish.’ I was able to take an old bridesmaid dress and add more material and then strips of material and plastic plants. Then I spray-painted texture and spattered it with acrylic paint. The final effect was earthy and eerie at the same time.

“I have grown so much!” she continued. “I also have been able to find and develop my own art style.”

Adams has worked on costumes for over 20 shows at Sterling. In addition to the New York trip, she traveled with the theater students and faculty to London and with art faculty to Kansas City and Tulsa. 

“The faculty I have worked with have pushed and inspired me,” she said.

Adams participated in the University Resident Theatre Association auditions this year as a costumer. This year the annual event was held virtually. Adams received 13 “callbacks,” which means that 13 university theatre programs were interested in talking to her about her costuming work.

Faculty member Hildebrand said, “Sterling has had several students over the years go to URTA auditions, including myself back in the day. But I don’t believe any of them received 13 callbacks. That’s pretty amazing and speaks highly of Tiffany’s experience and her portfolio she’s been able to build while here at Sterling.”

With all her experience in costuming, one might assume that her senior show would be costume-based. However, Adams along with Hildebrand and other Sterling College costumers put on an art exhibit of their work when Tiffany was a sophomore. She wanted to try something new and different. 

She said, “So, I wrote and illustrated a children’s fairy tale. It is entitled: ‘Nefelysian.’ I combined two words, Nefelibata (one who lives in the clouds of their own imagination) and Elysian (beautiful or creative). I think both of these words describe my artwork and me. I mashed them together to get my art show title. 

“I have always had a passion for fantasy. I also believe that it is good to feed children’s imagination. I am an illustrator and graphic designer so it was perfect to illustrate a book and to do the entire layout and design.”

Her massage to future art students coming to Sterling is, “Work hard, enjoy your time, and be willing to try new things and say yes to multiple opportunities. The more you are willing to work the more it will pay off.” 

Tiffany Adams’s senior art exhibit is open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Her closing night reception will be at 7 p.m. Friday, May 14 at the Gallery. The exhibit is free and open to the public.