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Big Idea Award

The Stamps School of Art & Design, with generous support from the Stamps Family, friends, and other supporters in the community, proudly offers the Big Idea Award in memory of alumna Penny W. Stamps (1944-2018).

The award provides one Stamps senior or eligible team $25,000 to help launch a major, ambitious project after graduation. The winner will be announced as part of the Stamps Commencement celebrations. A committee of external reviewers nominated by Stamps faculty and representing a wide range of expertise will determine the winner. To date, the Stamps School has celebrated two Big Idea Award recipients:

“What’s your big idea?” Penny Stamps asked graduates in her April 2018 commencement speech. “You have your artistic skills — now develop your ideas, your big idea,” she said. “Imagination has no limits.”

The Big Idea Award aims to motivate students to develop ambitious aspirations that reflect the values of a Stamps education; accelerate progress toward achieving those aspirations; and encourage students to rise to the challenge put forth by Penny W. Stamps.


  • Individual applicants: Any Stamps undergraduate major in good academic standing and graduating in December 2021, April 2022, or August 2022 as established by an academic audit by the SWAPC staff.

  • Team applicants: Stamps senior(s) who meet the academic audit criteria stated above may submit a project undertaken by a team of students. All team members must be Stamps students. Teams can include Stamps students who are not yet seniors. While the team will be acknowledged in storytelling about the award, the award itself -- and the financial disbursement -- will only be distributed to Stamps senior(s). If a Stamps senior(s) is considering a team submission, they should be the author of the idea, and be acknowledged amongst their team as the project “lead(s)”. If there is more than one Stamps senior on the team, only one should submit an application. The application will ask that student to specify how the funds should be distributed by percentage to all Stamps seniors on the team.

  • Applicants may be of any citizenship.


Eligible students can apply through Slideroom beginning on October 25, 2021.

Start your application →

Criteria for Award

Applicants will be evaluated on their ability to clearly and convincingly articulate the following via the application process:

  • A singular, focused, and ambitious Big Idea

  • A valued commitment to pursue the Big Idea whole-heartedly, passionately, and successfully

  • A commitment to pursue the Big Idea after graduation

Additionally, students will need to provide evidence of being able to successfully execute their Big Idea. Items to consider include:

  • Experience, skills, and preparation relevant to achieving the Big Idea

  • Ability to gather needed resources

  • Feasibility of the proposed activities


Phoebe Danaher is a screenwriter and visual artist focusing on historical film and television. Danaher was the previous recipient of the Big Idea award for Charlie Blood, a crime drama set in 1901 Chicago, for which she was also the recipient of the Peter and Barbara Benedek Award for Best TV Script. At the moment, she is completing a Master of Management at the Ross School of Business.

Scott Hocking was born in Redford Township, Michigan in 1975. He has lived and worked in Detroit proper since 1996. He creates site-specific installations, sculptures and photography projects, often using found materials and neglected locations. Inspired by subjects ranging from ancient mythologies to current events, his artworks focus on transformation, ephemerality, chance, the cycles of nature, and repetitive human behavior through time. His artwork has been exhibited internationally and nationally, and he has received multiple awards, including a Kresge Artist Fellowship, a Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Grant, and an Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, as well as residential grants in France, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Brazil, and throughout the United States. He is represented by David Klein Gallery, Detroit.

Chido Johnson is a Detroit artist, recent 2009 Kresge Fellow, as well as a 2009 MacDowell Colony Fellow. Johnson was born and raised in Zimbabwe and Zambia, then moved to the U.S.A. Both his BFA degrees in Sculpture and Painting, with a minor in Drawing, were from the University of Georgia, Athens. Johnson earned his MFA in sculpture from the University of Notre Dame in 2000. Johnson has worked, exhibited, and taught both nationally as well as internationally. Some of these shows include PAFA Museum in Philadelphia, Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit (MOCAD), the Detroit Institute of Art, Indianopolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA), the Sullivan Galleries in Chicago, the Printed Matter in New York, Umea University in Sweden, the Cortona Study Abroad Program in Italy, and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe. His work has been reviewed in the Art Papers, Sculpture Magazine, Bad in Sports as well as other notable publications and catalogues. Currently, he is a full-time associate professor and the section chair of Sculpture at the College for Creative Studies.

Sam Schulman is a Director of Strategy at IDEO. Her role sits at the intersection of design and strategy, leveraging the tools of human-centered design to help clients navigate complex subjects and bringing new offers, products, and experiences to market. In addition, Sam co-leads IDEO’s Strategy and Systems Cohort which includes 50+ designers across Systems Design, Strategy Design, Business Design, and Organizational design. In this role, Sam is responsible for defining creative excellence and guiding teams in delivering the highest quality outputs. Sam has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan.

Aaron Timlin is a poet, producer and plumber. He is CEO of the Chalfonte Foundation, curator and director of detroit contemporary, and founding member of Detroit Broadcasting Company and the Detroit Culture Club. He has served as juror for Art Gallery of Windsor, ArtServe, Rhode Island Council on the Arts, and Anton Art Center, and exhibit assistant for the Whitney Museum. He has been a speaker and presenter for the Canadian Consulate, WSU, U-M, CMU and CCS.


  • Application Opens: October 25, 2021
  • Application Deadline: February 13, 2022 at 11:59 pm
  • Finalists Notified: March 11, 2022
  • References Due from Finalists: March 23, 2022 at 11:59 pm
    As part of the application process, finalists will request up to two references - one reference from a Stamps faculty member is required. SlideRoom will email the referrers/faculty member(s) with a form for completion by Tuesday, March 23, 2022 at 11:59 pm.
  • Awardee Notified: April 5, 2022
  • Unsuccessful Applicants Notified: April 25, 2022
  • Award Announced: April 30, 2022, as part of the Stamps Commencement Celebrations


Please contact Mark Chung Kwan Fan, Director of Student Life, at