The old cliché of meeting the love of one’s life in college was a reality for alumni Zach DeBoer and Molly O’Connor.
Both artists, it was natural the two would find each other and hit it off.
“We were in the same drawing class,” O’Connor said. “We were in art classes together but we didn’t really interact that much. Vermillion is small enough that when you go downtown, you run into the same people and start talking. We actually didn’t start dating until after we both graduated.”
Studying at USD
During their time at USD, both were very involved on campus.
O’Connor worked as a tech fellow, a photographer for The Volante and also worked in the library.
DeBoer was a member of the Student Art Alliance, which consisted of volunteering at the Vermillion Area Arts Council and organizing student art sales in the Muenster University Center. He also worked in the John A. Day Gallery.
“We did different programs and workshops, like building frames for your art. I was involved at the gallery as well where I helped hang art shows,” DeBoer said. “That’s where I fell in love with doing that, learning how to do it, working with the permanent collection and their collection of artwork.”
DeBoer also created the web series “Vermillion” with his friends and roommates. They created season one as first-years and season two as sophomores.
“(Acting or writing) was something I had never done before,” he said. “It was really fun and eye-opening. It was this collective of friends that liked to do creative things and do weird things that we would never have been exposed to otherwise.”
One fond memory DeBoer has of living in Vermillion was moving out of the dorms and into a house on Dakota Street, he said.
“The summer being in Vermillion and having all your friends live there was a really influential time for me,” he said. “It felt like having the town to yourself.”
After graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s in art education, DeBoer worked as a middle school art teacher, then opened up his own art gallery.
Located in downtown Sioux Falls, Exposure Gallery is more accessible to an everyday artist or an artist coming out of college, DeBoer said. He’s also involved with the South Dakota Arts Council and previously worked for Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc.
“I do a lot of different things. I have trouble sitting still,” he said. “After I taught for two years, I left teaching to open up Exposure. I wanted to open up an art gallery. In college, that was something I did. I put on art shows and a gallery. I really loved the way that art could bring people together and it was like a celebration. It created a community and an atmosphere.”
O’Connor has worked in several creative positions since graduating from USD in 2011 with English and art degrees. She worked as a graphic designer for the USD Foundation, and now works as a visual designer for the infographic company known as Lemonly and serves as the president of The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).
“I worked in creative services for the university, so I made the football posters, the volleyball posters. I was working on doing freelance creative pieces for USD and they saw me doing that, and decided they could use an in-house graphic designer and they hired me for that position,” she said. “I was there for about two years, so I got to spend some time in just about every facet of USD.”
At Lemonly, O’Connor has clients everywhere from the NFL to Netflix, she said.
“We do visual storytelling, whether that’s in an infographic, animation, video,” she said. “It’s very specialized and designed around our entire business being infographics, so because we specialize in that area, we are able to be one of the top companies doing that in the country.”
O’Connor said she hopes to help foster the needs of designers and artists in the state in her role at AIGA.
“It’s very new, but we’re kind of wiping the slate clean and we want to really reach out to the community and figure out what designers and artists want from AIGA,” she said.
DeBoer has decided to run for Sioux Falls City Council in 2018. His experience as a previous member of DTSF, Inc. and his membership of various committees, such as the Visual Arts Commission and the Design and Development Committee, pushed him in a political direction.
“I saw things in the community that I wanted to change, and a lot of those things came down to urban design and walkability. I have experience with working with different leaders in the city,” he said. “I worked with the city to redesign (Main Avenue) in a way that one, brought more parking, and two, slowed down cars that were coming up and down that hill.”
The couple is looking forward to the future and hoping for a win in 2018. O’Connor admires DeBoer’s passion, she said.
“You’re good at all these things because you’re passionate about it and you get it done no matter what,” she said to DeBoer, sitting together in Exposure Gallery, surrounded by art. “That’s why you would be good.”
Video by Devin Martin and Lauren Soulek