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Shift + Collaborate = Art Drives Solutions - Welcome New Chair

Q & A with New Department Chair Christine Baeumler
June 23, 2020

Backyard Phenology

Backyard Phenology
Backyard Phenology, Climate Chaser Mobile Lab and Recording Studio

"The arts harness the power of imagination to solve problems, create new ways of seeing the world, change perceptions, expand perspectives, and challenge assumptions."

The Department of Art is excited to welcome Christine Baeumler to her new role as Department Chair. While a challenging time in our community, country, and world, as a consummate community facilitator, ardent explorer of ideas, and global thinker, she will be a reliable resource for collaboration, leadership, and 21st artmaking. Christine takes on the role, following the footsteps of Lynn Lukkas, who held the Chair position for six years. The team of faculty and staff are grateful to Lynn for her tenure as Department Chair. Her leadership helped establish and grow a strong study abroad program, launch a new fellowship program, and create internal systems, among many other efforts. Our sincerest thanks Lynn!

Christine began at the University of Minnesota in 1994 as a Department Lecturer. Since then, her commitment to art making and art teaching has led to a term position in 2000,  and a tenure track position in 2003. She became a full professor in 2019 and teaches in the area of Interdisciplinary Arts and Social Practice. She has led collaborative and participated in  interdisciplinary projects around issues such as water, pollinators, climate change and phenology,  locally, regionally and abroad in Scotland, Germany, China and Brazil. She is the Artist in Residence for the Capitol Region Watershed District in Saint Paul. She has received national grants such as ARTPLACE Fellowship for the Pollinator Project with the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND and regional recognition including the McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowship Award, the Bush Leadership Fellowship, several State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants and internally has received grants, including the MN Futures Research Grant for the Art and Science of Nesting Bees, the CLA  Scholar of the College (2012-2015 ),  and CLA’s Community Engaged Scholar, (2015). She has held leadership roles such as the Chair of the CLA Assembly and the Director of Graduate Studies.   She is a fellow at the Institute on the Environment and has done numerous collaborative initiatives through CLA’s Institute for Advanced Study. With a unanimous faculty vote in early Spring, Christine was announced as the incoming Department Chair. As an artist and educator, Christine seeks to collaborate, values deep listening, and recognizes the power of imagination to solve challenges. 

We borrowed a few moments of Christine's time to find out a little more about her and her aspirations for the Department.

Q: What inspired you to seek the role of Department Chair?
A: I thought long and hard about what I could bring to the position. Starting out as a Lecturer in the Department, I have worked through the whole ecosystem of the Department, and understand it from a variety of perspectives. My artistic practice is collaborative, I regularly facilitate and support other people’s creativity across many different disciplines and enjoy the process of creating together. Through my work, I recognize patterns--how things come together in a unique way--I embrace the ability to be flexible and recognize how everything is connected and interdependent. And, as someone who values deep listening, I felt these skills could lend themselves well to this position. Leading collaboratively with shared values and clarity of purpose – knowing everybody has something valuable to bring to the table.

Q: Do you have any priorities for your tenure as Chair?
A: While I want to listen and be responsive to the vision of the Art Department as a whole, I want to spotlight on expanding how the Department addresses issues and promotes innovation in the areas of: 

  • Equity, inclusion, and anti-racism work so we can come together to dismantle institutionalized racism
  •  Find meaningful ways live the Land Acknowledgment, as the University is on Dakota Land
  • Sustainability, in terms of our relation to systems that we impact; energy, waste, art materials used, reuse, and land use
  • Wellbeing, which includes our mental, emotional, and physical health
  • Supporting time, space, and resource  for the creative endeavors in terms of our faculty, staff and students 
  • Increased visibility of the art practices of faculty, staff, students and alumni 

How do we as artists, educators, and students bring our imagination and creative capacities to respond to the enormous challenges we face in terms of a pandemic as well as the glaring inequities, systemic racism, colonization and white supremacy that pervades our institution and throughout the entire history of this country? With collective effort, we can do better as a department and place of learning, and we owe it to our colleagues, our students, and ourselves to go beyond intentions. We can’t shy away from the courageous conversions we need to have and lay the groundwork to do this important work of listening, self- education, reflection, and planned action. I am committed to co-creating opportunities to educate ourselves and to create platforms for open dialogue, as well as to collaborate on action plans and curricular approaches  to ensure we don't just talk, but actually do the hard work to change our mindset, accept accountability,  and  work together on institutional transformation. To succeed we need to set goals for action, carry out action, and be accountable to both the University and the greater community. Given the current moment, we have an opportunity for change, but we have to seize it. I have so much confidence in our faculty, staff and students to do this transformational work together.

Another priority for me is to explore how we create a variety of ways for students to actively engage and feel part of our community despite physical distancing. As we plan for fall, we are balancing enriching education for students with health and safety for all.

Q: As Chair, the role connects with internal and external audiences, what do you hope to communicate with external stakeholders?
The argument for the necessity of the Department of Art and arts in general is more apparent than ever. Artists are visionaries. The arts harness the power of imagination to solve problems, create new ways of seeing the world, change perceptions, expand perspectives, and challenge assumptions. This ability to imagine and cultivate new societal structures is imperative to creating a radically different future, one that is based on a just and equitable foundation. As a Department, we can help re-imagine 21st century artmaking--but also open for re-examination, all aspects of the way we live. External audiences-- broader U of MN leadership, community members, national and international colleagues, donors--will know that we have inspired teachers with a commitment to their own work and to the growth and developed self-efficacy of our students. That people are the strength of the Department of Art.

Q: Do you have a favorite song &/or lyric?
The song "The People Have the Power," by Patti Smith. I saw Patti Smith perform this song at Northrop Auditorium a few years ago, this is one of my all time favorite songs and so apt for our time.

Excerpt from "The People Have the Power"

...The power to dream to rule
To wrestle the world from fools
It' s decreed the people rule
It' s decreed the people rule
I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth' s revolution
We have the power
People have the power..

Learn more about Christine's work: 
Buzz Lab project 
Backyard Phenology project