The Cilker School of Art and Design 2023

For those considering continued education, whether for career or personal development, the return to instruction and registering for classes is upon us. At the Cilker School of Art & Design, classes return on August 26th, 2023. In this blog, we are looking back at the students at the top of their course in photography, fashion design, and architecture who shares the impact West Valley College has had on their growth as creatives.


Psychology/Studio Arts
Iris Zimmerman

Iris Zimmerman is no stranger to adversity. Born in El Salvador, she watched her family struggle to immigrate to the US and start life in the Bay Area with literally nothing. Hard work allowed them to stay, and Iris became a wife, mother, and successful businesswoman in one of the most affluent areas of the world. Iris has always been drawn to the creative. She became a hairstylist and recently retired from an impressive 25-plus year career, learning, teaching, and creating modern looks. Now as a returning student, she is working on her psychology and studio arts degree. Her work with portraits complements her psychology major by teaching her to see all sides of a person and help them and the world see their true beauty. She hopes her work will teach people how vital it is to love themselves and how challenging it can be.

Instagram: zimmersnaps


Fashion Design
Nyr Acuavera

Nyr Acuavera, born on April 17, 2002, is a Filipino fashion student at West Valley College. Immigrating to the United States at a young age, Acuavera experienced social isolation from his peers as a result of his personal identity. To flee from the troubles of reality, he turned to escapism in the form of clothing, a theme woven into the breadth of his work.

“I’ve found relief in using fashion as my armor,” Nyr states, “impenetrable by judgment, and unchangeable by others. It’s the truest form of my inner self.” His work contains a broad scope of references, ranging from ancient Roman literature to early 2010s internet culture. Still early in his career, Nyr Acuavera will be part of West Valley’s graduating class of 2023, aiming to transfer into a menswear design program. He hopes to open a menswear label one day, showcasing Filipino talent on the world stage.

Instagram: notnyr 


Architecture/Landscape Architecture  
Onna Keller 

Onna Keller moved to California from Thailand after finishing her PhD in demography from Chulalongkorn University. Prior to this, she earned a master of public administration and a bachelor of education degrees. In fall of 2020, she enrolled in landscape architecture courses at West Valley College, which captivated her interest as a new pursuit. Her first classes were architecturally focused, though, and she fell in love with this fascinating field, deciding to double major in architecture and landscape architecture. This natural fusion is embodied in her holistic designs, which have rich connections between indoor and outdoor spaces and constructs while also fueling her passion for sustainable design. Onna has taken classes in other fields also and continues to do so, since she believes that inspiring ideas are all around us. She will be graduating this spring and plans to apply for internships and a master of architecture program. 

Instagram: onna.keller