Chair, Fine Arts
MFA, University of Minnesota
BFA, Grand Valley State University
Painting, Advanced Drawing, Fine Arts Studio Thesis, and Fine Arts Professional Practice
CVA is truly unique in several ways. We often talk about our small size and the advantage that brings both to the students and to the staff and faculty. People at CVA are not cogs in a huge wheel; everyone is distinct and appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the institution. I think also students find faculty very accessible, even long after they graduate, if need be, for that little piece of advice and encouragement.
All the upper level courses introduce students to a range of working artists so students can begin to get an idea of how artists juggle a lot of responsibilities while maintaining their careers as artists. As a capstone experience, the Professional Practices course focuses on topics related to the professional development of fine artists. Emphasis is on practical skills that will assist the emerging artist as he or she embarks on a professional career as an artist. Students develop skills in professional writing such as cover letters, resumes, and grant proposals in addition to learning basic small business skills such as bookkeeping, accounting, and tax information.
Self-promotion is also reviewed in the context of developing public relations, networking, and web resourcing. Professional presentation of artwork is directed to a broad range of applications including commercial and alternative opportunities. Further professional development is considered through looking at graduate schools and artist residencies.
What I love about teaching Fine Art is that through the study of perception and visual expression students begin to recognize their unique place within our culture. Visual expression requires not only the building of skills relating to tools and materials but also and equally important the development of ideas.
Critiques are particular to an art education. The critique provides a forum for a rich dialogue about the social context of art; it's an opportunity to question the relationship between the artist, the work of art, and the viewer, it's an opportunity to celebrate the imagination. The critique provides an opportunity for students to see how the choices they make affect the way others make meaning of the world around them. For the burgeoning fine artist this dialogue is indispensible.
Fine Art is not a "one size fits all." A student must be willing to seek out their particular role as an artist whether that be working in relationship to a client, such as a muralist or public artist, working on commissions, working collaboratively, and/or working in a studio developing their art outside market trends or commercial demands. In either case, fine artists need to be strong problem solvers, independent minded individuals who have some organizational skills and an insatiable curiosity.
What do you hope to teach a CVA student?
The upper level Fine Art courses merge everything students have learned during their foundation year with the individual directions students choose to take with their work. We continue to hone technical skills and reinforce the liberal arts emphasis on developing strong critical thinkers. It's important that students gain the practical skills of the creative process: learning to formulate, research, develop and execute ideas.
Making art and studying art can generate questions about history, politics, religion, ethics, popular culture, ethics and much more. I don't want a student to feel intimated about engaging any ideas through his or her art - they don't have to be scholars on any subject, they just need to be engaged in the world around them. Students need to have a point of view and develop the skills to investigate and express that point of view through the dynamic use of a visual language. Students should also know that inspiration does not drop out of the sky (especially in the shape of a lightening bolt). Sometimes it takes work just to get inspired, sometimes it's the pleasure of the work that is inspiring.
I have maintained a studio practice since graduating with my undergraduate degree many years ago. I have been very fortunate to receive a range of prestigious grants, and I continue to show my work in galleries and museums both regionally and nationally. Although my early training was based on representational painting, I have always integrated drawing into my studio work.
For the past seven or eitht years I have committed much of my time in the studio to large-scale drawings. This has led me to site specific drawing installations and shifted my work to a more contemplative, repetitive and abstract approach. A drawing is succeeding for me when it teeters on the edge of abstraction yet grounds vision in the familiar. I'm interested in the tension between these polarities, when what is presumed to be familiar shifts into the mysterious, when the inexplicable seems strangely familiar.