Graduates 2024

Dannah Hidalgo




Dannah Mari Hidalgo (1994.) is a Filipina-American artist based out of California, and Oahu, Hawai‘i where she was born and raised. Hidalgo obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2019. Hidalgo has also attended the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute in Florence, Italy. Currently, Hidalgo is an MFA Candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (2024)


Her work often explores daily life experiences and relationships while deconstructing space -often coupling figurative and representational work with abstract activation through paint. Currently, Hidalgo’s work explores relationships with self and others, concepts of home and space, vulnerability, and the role of humor in navigating severe atmospheres. An emerging artist, Hidalgo has participated in group shows with the Association of Hawai’i Artists, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, the Honolulu Museum of Art School, Hawai’i Pacific University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Ventura County, California State University Long Beach and Channel Islands, and at LA Project Art Space.

Diego Melgoza Ocegueara




Diego Melgoza Ocegueara, aka Melgo (b. 1993 Mexico City), is a Santa Barbara-based visual artist and graphic designer whose inspiration comes from Mesoamerican and Mexican culture. His mission is to create quality visual work about environmental and social issues, to evolve the consciousness of the viewer, and to allow us to progress through knowledge. The artist had solo exhibitions of his work at the Community Arts Workshop in Santa Barbara, CA, and 24th St Studio in San Francisco, CA. His work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions and festivals, including the CSULB Student Gallery, Community Arts Workshop, UCSB Glass Box, Lucidity Music Festival, Joshua Tree Music Festival, and Lighting in a Bottle Music Festival. Melgoza received a B.S. from San Francisco State University in Apparel Design and Merchandising with an emphasis on Marketing. He studied Printmaking and Graphic Design at Santa Barbara City College and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Fine Arts at UCSB.



Hope Okere




Hope was born and raised in Iowa to her Nigerian father and white American mother.  She attended Iowa State University for two years majoring in Apparel Design and Fine Art.  She then moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design to study fashion design exclusively.  She began her career by interning for threeAsFour and Robert Geller.  What followed was a decade long career, during which she designed for Gap, Target, J.Crew, Madewell, Marc Jacobs, Converse and more.  She has a deep understanding of design and a wealth of experience working within the fashion industry across womenswear, menswear and accessories.  Functionality, originality, comfort, and movement combined with modern silhouettes, emotional color, and sophisticated fabrics, are the framework of her design aesthetic.  She sees fashion as a tool for self-expression and cultural representation.


Now working toward her MFA at the University of California Santa Barbara, she continues to evolve her career as an artist.  Moving from design into fine art and expressing her ideas through sculpture, textile arts, and performance.  Recurring sources of inspiration come from film, fashion, cultural movements, meditation, nature, water, light, textiles, and dance.  Her work often stems from emotions, intuition, memories and dreams.  The abstract forms she creates are feminine, nurturing, rounded and soft.  Representative of how she experiences life, her work explores her identity as a biracial first generation American and questions prejudice and bias in regard to gender, race and culture.


Lyra Purugganan




Lyra Purugganan (they/she) is an interdisciplinary artist born in Manila, Philippines and lives in Santa Barbara, CA. Purugganan received a BFA in printmaking from The Ohio State University in 2021 and is actively pursuing a MFA at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Influenced by craft and materials, queer culture, and the midwest DIY music scene, Purugganan explores selfhood and their intersecting identities, disrupting systems through the misuse and misplacement of materials. Through performance, ceramics, installation, ornament, and sculpture, they explore the complexities of girlhood and femininity, celebrating queerness and its intersectionalities.

As an emerging artist, Lyra Purugganan has exhibited in group, solo, and duo shows in Columbus, Ohio and featured in publications like Folklore As Resistance, The Lantern, and Cleveland Magazine. They have participated in group shows at the University of California, Santa Barbara and have been included in the Greater Los Angeles MFA Exhibition in 2023.

Mariana Rodela




My practice explores the use of play as a subversive entity against late stage capitalism. I want to encourage my viewers to reconsider their relationship to play and hopefully dispel the notion that we should be productive at all times. I hope to encourage my viewer to not scrutinize rest and “nothingness” but instead see them as a form of resistance. I’m interested in replacing the constant feeling of alienation in a capitalist society with community through my work. I do this through dematerialized forms of art making such as social practice and soft performance. By avoiding commodification I can subsequently create an emphasis on the viewers. Currently, I’m exploring the connection between soccer and art. I’m examining the wealth, spectacle, community, labor, the body, and other social issues surrounding soccer and Harder Stadium.



Lela Shahrzad Welch




Lela is a multifaceted artist with a focus on sculpture, installation, and time-based media. Their practice is an exploration of the tension and impermanence of conflicting identities. The materials used in her projects are as diverse as the concepts they embody, emphasizing the tangible and intangible aspects of gesture, time, and object. Their work simultaneously deconstructs and embraces contradictory thoughts, a testament to the complex nature of self-definition.


Welch’s work has been exhibited across numerous prestigious platforms, including the INVERSE’s Performance Art Festival at the Crystal Bridges’ satellite museum, The Momentary (Bentonville), the Glassbox Gallery, Atkinson Gallery in Santa Barbara, CA, CSUCI’s Napa Art Gallery and the Mesa Gallery in San Diego, CA, and has had numerous public activations in San Luis Obispo, CA.


Lela has participated in esteemed residencies such as The Industry of the Ordinary’s performance art residency and the INVERSE Performance Art residency. Her collaborations span international boundaries, with fellow artists in Panama, New York, Beijing, and Switzerland, earning her mentions in distinguished publications like Art & America, Art and Education, Bold Journeys, SLOLife, and VoyageLA.


She graduated in 2018 with a BFA in Art & Design from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, receiving the Life Achievement Award. Following her BFA in 2021, Welch participated in the virtual, experimental art school Dark Study. She is currently an MFA Candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, under the esteemed Regent’s Fellowship.


Lela Shahrzad Welch (b. 1984 she/they)
@lelashahrzad /