Alexandria graduate wins EmmyAn Alexandria graduate has made some remarkable accomplishments in the world of television.
By: Tara Bitzan, Alexandria Echo Press
An Alexandria graduate has made some remarkable accomplishments in the world of television.
Jon Van Amber was the winner of two regional Emmy awards for his work. The awards were announced at the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gala held in the Twin Cities in September.
Van Amber got his start in television when he was a junior in high school in Alexandria. He ran a studio camera for KCMT-TV for the noon, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts, earning credits through the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) program.
“As I look back, I am incredibly grateful for this program [DECA], because this part time job introduced me to television and the career I work in today,” Van Amber noted.
Following his graduation from Jefferson High School in 1986, he worked at a CBS affiliate directing newscasts while attending college at Minnesota State Mankato.
He earned a bachelor of science degree in open studies with an emphasis in history in 1991. After college, Van Amber worked for WISC-TV, another CBS station in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1993 he moved to Minneapolis and worked as a technical director at WCCO-TV.
“I loved working the 10 o'clock news because afterwards, many of us, including Don Shelby, would drive to a middle school gym in south Minneapolis and play basketball until 1 a.m.,” he recalled.
In 1996, Van Amber convinced the WCCO art director to hire him as a designer.
“I learned to design on the job, and just knew this was the right place,” he noted.
He started his own design company in 2003, specializing in all types of design.
“I initially designed television studio sets, but also embraced other types of design,” he noted. “Web, print, broadcast and physical space fascinate me.”
Van Amber left WCCO in 2004, but stayed connected when his business was contracted to design for them. He helped design the current WCCO weather package – one of the Emmy winners.
Van Amber currently works for Twin Cities Public Television as a senior designer.
“Part of my role is to art direct some of the shows produced for national distribution through PBS,” he noted. “In my day, I move between print, web and broadcast design.”
Van Amber currently lives in West Saint Paul with his wife and son.
About the awards
Van Amber was honored for his work by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – a membership organization dedicated to excellence in television.
He won an Emmy in the graphic arts-animation category for art direction and design work on the Twin Cities Public Television program “Make:,” which celebrates people who mix old and new technology to create new marvels. It airs nationally on PBS stations.
Van Amber created the designs and animations, based on the existing “Make” magazine, in collaboration with the executive producer, Richard Hudson.
Van Amber was also co-credited and awarded in the graphic arts-graphics category for designing WCCO TV’s weather graphics.
“I didn’t think I’d have a chance [to win] for a couple of reasons,” Van Amber noted. “There is only one category for design/animation, and typically many entries. Also, the people who judge in this category are mostly in commercial television. I was happy to be nominated, but really didn’t think beyond it.”
Van Amber didn’t go to the awards program, and was “surprised and thrilled” when he found out the outcome.
The designer said the awards are dedicated to his “incredibly creative” family, as well as to two Jefferson High School teachers who had a positive impact on his life – his English teachers Scott Fodness and Tom Fleming.
“I am very grateful to both of them,” he noted. “They were just outstanding and always encouraging me to think creatively. The world needs more teachers like Tom and Scott.”