Anna Kester

Meet Anna, a BFA student focusing on drawing and printmaking, an Honors in the Major student, and Senior Visual Arts Intern at Limbitless Solutions.

View more of her work here.

"My name’s Anna, I’m from Orlando actually…UCF has always been home. So when it came time to pick a college, it was always between Rollins and UCF. When I toured UCF, I really loved all of the programs here, and I was really surprised with how much it felt like home. I’m an art major...I actually started out as a biology major, but halfway through freshman year I decided that I really wanted to pursue the arts. I took a drawing course and was like ‘this is definitely what I need to study,’ so I switched my major. I’m currently pursuing a BFA with a focus in drawing and print making.

I do an internship with Limbitless that started in the spring semester. Limbitless is a nonprofit organization, and we make 3D printed bionic arms for kids. So they are prosthetic arms that actually work with the kids’ muscles. Sensors locate their muscles, and are able to actually sense when they flex, so those flexes can talk to the motor that we have in the arm, and it will cause the hand to close and create gestures. Our current arm can have multi-gestures, so the different fingers move individually based on their flexing muscles, which is really awesome. These arms are made at no cost to the family, because we believe that no kid should have to pay for an arm…we all deserve arms.  The market for prosthetics for kids is actually insane, the prices that they would have to pay are astronomical because kids grow so fast. That’s part of the reason we focus on kids prosthetics because they aren’t really given a chance. We have a dual purpose to give those to the kids for free, and also to allow them to really express themselves through the arm. A lot of times prosthetics are boring or even scary from a kid’s perspective. We try to empower the kids by giving them limbs that are not only functional and exciting, but also with the art we are changing the conversation. People will ask them ‘where did you get that?’, ‘how can I get one?’, ‘this is awesome!’ instead of ‘what’s wrong with you?’ It’s more than just a prosthetic arm, it can change their entire life. My role is to apply design and painting on top of 3D plastics and how I form these arms to specifically empower a kid. Bringing a traditional side of fine art to the industry and to what we are making has been really exciting.

My thesis focuses on art and accessibility – like what I do over at Limbitless. More specifically, it will talk about how art itself can change a kid’s experience, and whether or not involving the child in the design process will help them, and in what ways. How does the child’s choice in the design process affect them in the long term, and how attached they are to their prosthetic. How does it change their confidence levels, and how does it empower them individually. It starts with specifically: how is art important, why is it necessary, and in what ways can it be used? Then it goes full circle to what are the benefits and how is it going to affect these kids at the end of it?

I actually decided to get involved in research almost 2 weeks before the fall semester started – very short notice. My creative director at Limbitless, Matt Dombrowski, mentioned to me that I’m already doing all of this research, what if we went ahead and did the Honors in the Major program. I was thinking that it would be too much, I can’t handle that. I’m already doing my BFA, I’m in University Honors, I have a lot going on. He encouraged me by saying I’m already doing the research, writing it down is not that much more work. I started looking into the program and seeing the benefits of actually taking the time to further that research, to bring other faculty members into it, the more I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with. Now, I’m in Directed Reading I! It kind of came out of nowhere, like I know a lot of students look forward a lot of years down the road, but I was never the kind of person to say ‘oh, that’s what I want to do,’ like I thought it was too crazy. I think just changing the conversation in my own head to say ‘this is something that I can handle’ helped with my perception. So, I’m researching this semester, and trying to quantify what I’ve already done, and then looking forward I’ll write my thesis next semester.

My advice to other students would be to not underestimate your ability to create your own path. I know for me it’s been important to never say ‘Oh, I can’t do that,” or “That’s not the way it’s done.” I’ve been able to piece together all of these different fields of study, that might not relate to most people, but to me it makes sense because I’m interested in it, and I want to bring it together. Ask questions, don’t tell yourself it’s not going to work, just be willing to be told ‘No.’ I had to come to terms with the fact that it might not work, and just put myself out there. Just go for it!

I think from a really fundamental point of view, college prepares you for your professional life by teaching you about yourself, time management and working hard. Same with research, learning how to look really deeply at something and study the details – pulling all of that information together and being able to explain it to someone…those are skills that will always serve me. As an artist, it’s an interesting thought process to investigate – how does art affect people? Really, that will be an underlying conversation as an artist for the rest of my life and my career. Why is this important, why does it matter, how does it affect people? I’m not making art to hide it, I’m making it to show people. Everything I do is about relating to people, so investigating and researching how a specific art form affects children is just a small facet of how art affects people as a whole."