Meet the 2019 Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize Winners
Author: School of Art + Design
Posted: June 25, 2019

The School of the Art + Design and the College of the Arts is pleased to celebrate the seventh year of the Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize at Portland State University.

We are proud to be able to reward and encourage young artists with this prize, the highest award offered in our school. It acknowledges the achievement and promise of our students and is an important expression of our values and our commitment to excellence in higher education and the arts.

This year’s submissions represented work in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, installation, drawing, design, multimedia, and community-based social practice projects. There was a breadth of themes, with a general trend toward topics such as queerness, the human body, racial identity, and the environment. A jury comprised of PSU Art + Design faculty and representative professionals from the art and design community reviewed 40 highly competitive applications from art and design students, both undergraduate and graduate, to be awarded first, second, and third place prizes.

We are thrilled to announce that this year’s recipients are Leah Maldonado (First Place $5,500), Maya Stoner (Second Place $4,000), and Samantha Ollstein Meyer (Third Place $3,000). 

We further recognize Johnny Beaver (MFA Studio Practice), Nola Hanson (MFA Social Practice), Eric Olson (MFA Social Practice), and Justin Taylor (Art Practice/Honors College), whose work the jury deemed deserving of Honorable Mention.

We are extraordinarily grateful to the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation for creating the Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize. It was established in 2013 to recognize the achievements of students in the School of Art + Design, raise awareness of the quality of art education at PSU, and to honor Arlene Schnitzer, a devoted and inspired leader of art and culture in Portland. The endowed award ensures that each year, three aspiring artists and designers will receive significant recognition and a financial leg-up as they begin their lives as active, creative practitioners.

A show featuring the work of Maldonado, Stoner, and Ollstein Meyer will be exhibited at Portland State University in the fall of 2019.

Our thanks to this year’s jurists:
• Horia Boboia, Professor of Art Practice at PSU
• Kate Bingaman-Burt, Professor of Graphic Design at PSU
• Lisa Jarrett, Associate Professor of Art Practice at PSU
• Pat Boas, Professor of Art Practice at PSU
• Jordan Hoagbin, Brand Designer at NIKE and 2013 Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize recipient
• Kelsey Snook, Freelance Designer
• Ashley Stull-Meyers, former Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director and Curator of the Art Gym
• Sarah Meigs, Founder of the Lumber Room

About the prize winners

Leah Maldonado, Caramelo, 2019. Typeface design.

Leah Maldonado, Gaag, 2019. Typeface design, Risograph print on cream paper.


Leah Maldonado – First Prize, $5,500

Leah Maldonado’s interests focus on how visual language impacts society. To her, typeface design is the vessel for most of that language. She sees it as the architecture of communicative culture. Seeking to understand the impacts of visual language, and its limits, she finds expression through conceptual ideas that exist in the medium of letterforms.

Leah is a member of a council to establish a typographic community in Portland. She is also the founder of the type collective Club OTF, where she facilitates collaborations on experimental type design. Her writing has been published in Pathos Literary Magazine, Willamette Week, and independently. As an activist, her educational and animation work–done in collaboration with the Sierra Club and Sunnyside Environmental School–, helped to stop two LNG terminals from infiltrating the Oregon coastline. During her senior year at PSU, Leah joined the women's lacrosse team where her team won regionals and went on to nationals. She works at Future Fonts, a platform that supports experimental type design in progress, and is finishing her undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at Portland State University.
Instagram @club.otf 


Maya Stoner, Velveteen, 2018. Performance.

Maya Stoner, You're White, 2019. Shirt.


Maya Stoner – Second Prize, $4,000

Maya Stoner is an interdisciplinary artist who primarily works with time-based art. For her, it’s a means to expand all aspects of herself that she has compressed and contorted in response to the colonialist, white supremacist, and capitalist patriarchy. Through her installations and videos, she aims to create art that provides space for healing and growth within herself, and in others.

An Okinawan-American, Maya was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She is the recipient of the 2018 College of the Arts Dean’s Award for Excellence. Her work has been shown in various galleries in and around Portland, such as Boathouse Microcinema, Timeshare Gallery, the Tracey Gallery, and the Littman Gallery. In addition to her visual work, Maya creates music under the moniker Floating Room and actively tries to destroy the binary of music and art within the context of her life. Her music and video work has been commissioned for advertisements, web series, and video games. It has also been featured on outlets such as NPR, Spin, She Shreds Magazine, and Vice. She graduated with a BFA in Art Practice from Portland State University in the spring of 2019.


Samantha Ollstein, Corporeal Craving, 2018. Inkjet print.

Samantha Ollstein, Corporeal Loss, 2019. Inkjet print.


Samantha Ollstein – Third Prize, $3,000

Samantha Ollstein’s work centers on investigations of beauty and the abject within our bodies. Through ephemeral sculpture, her multimedia work takes on multiple iterations, finding permanence as a photograph. Using an array of artificial materials, she creates body-like forms that last only a few minutes. The work aims to explore beauty created by the visceral and challenge our traditional views on the body.
Trained as a portrait artist, Samantha’s work has been displayed on many walls around Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Her portraits have even been the subject of several episodes on the Bravo reality show Flipping Out. Before redirecting her focus to obtaining her graduate degree at PSU she worked as Director at the Brentwood Arts Center, a non-profit art school in Los Angeles, CA. She received a BFA in Painting from Otis College of Art and Design in 2010 and is currently an MFA candidate at Portland State University. Her solo graduate exhibition will open in the fall of 2019.