Danielle Hawkes: Finding Your Voice


12/17/2018

Grad Stories: Winter '18

After an uncertain marriage, Daniella Hawkes needed to find her voice. At 39, she knew it was time to get back into the workforce but was having difficulty finding a job.

It was then that the non-traditional student enrolled at St. Ambrose University to study Graphic Design. Hawkes said she chose the program because it would allow her to have fun but was also practical enough to support herself and her two children. Hawkes quickly realized that her time at St. Ambrose was meant for more than just her studies, it was a journey of self-discovery.

"I just had all these emotions inside me that I did not know how to deal with," Hawkes said. "One day, I just took some paint, the grossest colors I could find, and I started scraping them across the page. I found an image of a bear that  I collaged and glued on there. After I was done, I started to understand my emotions and sort through them."

Chris Reno, Art Department faculty member and curator of the Catich Gallery, says that Hawkes' experience is not uncommon.

"She certainly has a pragmatic need to provide for her family, but she was also, in my experience, willing and able to express the poetic possibilities of art and sort of find out what art means to her," Reno said.

Reno also said that art can offer a powerful therapeutic experience. Hawkes' new journey of self-discovery served as inspiration for many of her projects at SAU. 

One of these projects was designing and building a website that could assist victims of verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse through art-journaling.

"It's something that's always near and dear to my heart because I've been digging my way out of the emotional and verbal abuse that I've experienced," Hawkes said.  "So, this is something that I'm always thinking about all the time and I'm always thinking of a new way to explain it, or to help someone."

The mother of two's latest art exploration of self-worth will come in the form of a children's book, set to be on display in the Catich Gallery from April 18 through May 10. The book will focus on a captured lightning bug, who is seen as annoying and distracting by the child holding it but is eventually set free by a friend who recognizes the beauty that the lightning bug has to offer the world.

"I love to encourage people that are hurting and help give them words that bring healing to their lives, so I'm hoping that someday this book could be published," Hawkes smiled. "That would be a dream."

Reno hopes that Daniella's project will serve as a model for students who are just beginning their journey with art. Although a December graduate, Hawkes was one of two seniors who was selected to have their artwork displayed in the Catich Gallery in Spring 2019.

"It's basically a professional opportunity," Reno explained. Although Hawkes does not currently have a job lined up after graduation, she says she has achieved what she enrolled at St. Ambrose for.

"I think getting your education is something that strengthens you and gives you a lot of tools to use in so many ways, not just financially," Hawkes said.

Hawkes will consult with art faculty and staff in the spring ahead of her April/May gallery show. A reception with the artist is set for April 25.

Daniella Hawkes '18

BA in Graphic Design

Hawkes quickly realized that her time at St. Ambrose was meant for more than just her studies, it was a journey of self-discovery. The mother of two’s latest art exploration of self-worth will come in the form of a children’s book, set to be on display in the Catich Gallery from April 18 through May 10.

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