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Expansion, Experience, and Engagement: The Visiting Artists & Critics Program

December 17, 2018

The Department of Art is never lacking in events. From ceramic sales to exhibition receptions, there always seems to be something happening around the corner. But the centerpiece of the art department’s calendar is always the Visiting Artists and Critics Program (VACP): a far-reaching series of artists and critics who help to connect art students to the wider art community from local to international.

A Student Engagement Opportunity

Some artists give talks in the Influx Space of the Regis Center for Art, while others host workshops in classrooms throughout the building and stay for multiple-week residencies. All of the events are free and open to the public.

“They give students a really great opportunity to hear and have direct contact with artists of many different ilks,” testifies art department chair Lynn Lukkas. “It’s a vibrant part of the curriculum; we consider it part of our curriculum.”

It’s not uncommon for the department’s faculty to require students to attend an artist talk or workshop since the program is built around student engagement opportunities. To further inclusion and relevance, a committee of faculty members and graduate students in the art department manages the program. This committee brings in a variety of artists from different disciplines. The artists are sponsored or hosted by one of the four areas of study in the art department: sculpture and ceramics, photography and moving images, interdisciplinary art and social practice, drawing, painting, and printmaking. 

Expanding the Program

The Visiting Artists and Critics Program has recently evolved, thanks to the generosity of the Harlan Boss Foundation, which donated two three-year grants, a contribution that allows the program to host artists for a longer period of time. During a stay of up to two weeks, Boss Visiting Artists are able to engage with students by hosting more than one event or talk, usually for more interactive activities than an artist talk, such as hands-on workshops and studio visits. “It’s one of the major changes that has happened to the program in the past few years,” Lukkas notes.

This second section of the program hosts anywhere from one-to-three artists a semester in addition to the original Visiting Artists and Critics Program lineup. It also helps to deepen the engagement, communication, and active learning between artist and student. “We don’t bring in someone who’s just going to give a lecture,” Lukkas explains. “We’ve had people coming in to run editions and pull prints... there’s a more intensive and deeper experience for students with the Boss Artists.”

Since the program has had a positive impact on student experiences, Lukkas says that the department hopes to see it eventually endowed. “I think it’s a great opportunity for a donor,” she says. “It’s a natural community involvement connection to arts organizations.” An endowment of the program would stabilize a structure that is now intrinsic to the Department of Art and furthermore the campus community. Ongoing support in perpetuity from an endowment would ensure the program’s continued growth and evolution.

This past semester has seen multimedia artists Pablo Helguera and Sara Cwynar, performance-based artist Wafaa Bilal, Native historian and elder Anthony Horse Road, and art advisor, appraiser, and critic Elizabeth Tenenbaum take the stage in the Influx Auditorium and host interactive workshops with students. The topics ranged from the role of ancestors in current lives and international politics to the conceptualization of beauty and a step-by-step look at how to create a performance lecture. The Visiting Artists and Critics lineup for the spring 2019 semester will be announced soon on the art department’s website.

This story was written by an undergraduate student content creator in CLAgency. Meet the team.