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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 these 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.

Start your application →

  • Application Deadline: February 12, 2023 at 11:59 pm
  • Finalists notified: March 10, 2023
  • References Due from Finalists*: March 22, 2023 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 Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at 11:59 pm.


  • Individual applicants: Any Stamps undergraduate major in good academic standing and graduating in December 2022, April 2023, or August 2023 as established by an academic audit by the SWAPC staff.

  • Team applicants: Stamps undergraduate majors who are senior(s) – and meet the academic audit criteria stated above – may submit a project undertaken by a team of Stamps students. All team members must be students with a declared Stamps major. Teams can include Stamps majors 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 the Stamps senior submitting the proposal. If a Stamps senior is considering a team submission, they should be the author of the idea, and be acknowledged amongst their team as the project “lead”. If there is more than one Stamps senior on the team, only one should submit an application.

  • Applicants may be of any citizenship.

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


  • Feb 12, 2023: Application submission deadline
  • March 10, 2023: Finalists are notified
  • March 22, 2023: Reference submission deadline for finalists
  • April 4, 2023: Awardee notified
  • April 7, 2023: Unsuccessful applicants notified
  • April 29, 2023: Award announced as part of the Stamps Commencement ceremony


Natalia Rocafuerte is a video artist exploring her dreams through installations, films, and print. Rocafuerte’s recent installation film “Dream of Emma and Tony” was featured and won best “Michigan Filmmaker” at the 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival. Rocafuerte was also featured in Remezcla for "Top 40 Latinx Texas Artists to Know in 2020". Natalia Rocafuerte's studio practice explores using technology as mediums of psychological reflections, community, migration, and memory. She grew up on both sides of the Rio Grande Border in Tamaulipas and Texas and became a naturalized US citizen in 2019. Rocafuerte recently received her Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor as a Rackham Fellow. Natalia Rocafuerte is also a disc jockey with Chulita Vinyl Club Austin.

Andre Thomas is a 2001 graduate of the Stamps School of Art & Design. He has taken his art degree in a much different direction than originally planned by following his dream. Andre is the founder and creative director for LAYOP (Live At Your Own Pace) Clothing which is based out of Las Vegas, NV. He is a passionate entrepreneur and lover of the arts. He enjoys seeing people follow their heart and being able to live their lives through creating their art.

A Chicago and Milwaukee native, Tyanna Buie received her BA from Western Illinois University, and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Buie is the recipient of multiple awards including the Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Painters & Sculptors Grant, Kresge Artist Fellowship/Visual Arts, Grant Wood Fellowship in Printmaking at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and the 2020 award, and was selected by artist Shepard Fairey to collaborate on the Milwaukee mural titled “Voting Rights is Human Rights.” Her work has been acquired by major institutions, such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, and the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons, as well as private collections nationally. Buie has been reviewed on, Newcity Chicago Magazine, South Bend Tribune, and featured on Essay’ and New American Paintings, Midwest edition No. 155. Currently, Buie is an Assistant Professor/Section Chair of Printmaking at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI.

Jessie Rice is a multi-media artist with a focus in fiber art and printmaking, based in Detroit, Michigan. Her work utilizes natural dyeing techniques and celebrates sustainable materials, with attention to shape and form. Drawing heavily on personal narrative, Jessie’s work explores her own lived experience through quilting, weaving, photography and printmaking.

Maggie Wiebe is a fiber artist, printmaker, and illustrator currently living and working in Detroit. Her work focuses on family dynamics, Mennonite crafts, and rethinking her ancestral relationship with land. She is especially interested in what craft says about our relationship with the objects and materials we interact with everyday, and how it can be subverted to address modern issues. She loves learning about new techniques, craft history, and trying new bread recipes.

Currently, Jessie and Maggie are developing Farm to Fabric – a cooperative garden in Detroit where local artists and creators will grow sustainable materials and exchange ideas.


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