The Indianapolis Motor Speedway featured work by Herron juniors Sarah Chumbley and Alicia Stephens in the official event program for the 2015 Indianapolis 500.
Chumbley, a visual communication design major, was a spring intern in creative services at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, reporting to Dawn DeBellis. Working on the publication design, Chumbley asked Debellis to consider a painting for page 23, to illustrate a favorite Hoosier song, Back Home Again in Indiana. Debellis agreed.
Stephens, a painting major, had created Cross That Bridge, an oil on canvas, to fulfill a school assignment. She painted from a photo she’d taken in 2012 at Shades State Park. “My daughter, who was seven at the time, was afraid to cross a log over a creek. Her dad is on the far side of the log,” Stephens said.
Stephens entered IUPUI later in life than most students. “I’ve been painting for 20 years,” she said. “I had success in selling my work, but I was stuck in landscapes. I didn’t know how to get out of it. My husband suggested that I come to Herron.”
Chumbley came to Herron after three and a half years as a chemistry major. “It was senior year and I just wasn’t happy,” she recalled. “I finally just decided to do something about it. I had a meeting with my advisor and told her that my dream job would be to work somewhere like Hallmark, where I’d have a creative outlet in a business setting, and she referred me to [Herron academic advisor] Abbey Chambers. An hour later I was registered as a visual communication design major. It was terrifying at the time, but I honestly believe it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Stephens and Chumbley first met in a drawing class two years ago. “I think we clicked instantly in that we were both older than your average college student,” Chumbley said. “When Alicia showed me Cross That Bridge I felt like it was her strongest piece yet.”
Chumbley got the Speedway placement through Associate Professor Paula Differding. “She asked if I had an internship yet and told me I should apply for the one at the IMS because it sounded perfect for me. She knew I was familiar with the racing scene; my mom owns Hinchman Racing Uniforms.”
“I hadn’t put together a resume or portfolio,” Chumbley continued. “I was hesitant and intimidated, but she insisted and so I applied anyway. Looking back, it was just incredible luck. I can’t imagine loving an internship more than I love this one, and it basically fell in my lap. There’s a reason why we all call Professor Differding ‘Mama Paula’. She knows what she’s doing!”
The official event program was one of dozens of assignments Chumbley completed during her internship, which began in mid-March. “The event program is 100 pages plus,” she said, “so it’s pretty much all hands on deck. I had a lot of freedom to design, as long as it fit with the aesthetic of the rest of the pages.”
“I was looking through old Indy 500 programs for inspiration I could use for the Back Home Again page,” she said. “I saw one that had a landscape painting and I thought of Alicia immediately. I asked her to send me some pictures of her work. In the back of my mind, I already knew I’d choose Cross that Bridge. It went with the song lyrics. When I shared a draft of the page with my coworkers, they agreed that it was perfect.”
Stephens credits excellent instructors for her success as a student, but her work ethic plays a big part. She has earned multiple scholarships. “I could not tell my son and daughter to go to college if I did not have a degree. I’ve shown them that if they work hard, they can treat every project as job they were hired to do. They can receive recognition,” she said.
“I was a high school drop out in ninth grade,” continued Stephens. “I did not have a supportive environment. I didn’t think I was smart enough to go to college, so I never tried. My sister had encouraged me to get my GED in 1995. To come to IUPUI, I had to take extra math classes to resolve what I missed not finishing high school. My husband helped me get through those classes and I finally made it here.
“I have learned so much. I can’t wait for senior year. Color theory was so important from my first semester here. I learned how to create the illusion of depth. I look back at my paintings from before Herron and think wow, I really was an amateur.”
Editor’s note: In June, Alicia learned that she has multiple myeloma. She is facing multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a likely stem cell transplant. She has started a GoFundMe campaign to help her family offset the costs of her illness that are not covered by their insurance. To find out more and to donate, visit Myeloma Cancer chemo fund.