Professor Pedar Dalthorp prepares for class in his office, which doubles as a wood shop. "For larger projects, we'll wheel things out into the hallway," Dalthorp said. Cover: Boni Parker works on a series of mugs in the ceramics studio last week. She said the art department is growing quickly, and "it's a good place to be."
Matt Voelckers works on a piece in the ceramics studio last week. He said he enjoys the small community that the UAS art department provides.
Story last updated at 9/23/2009 - 1:52 pm
JUNEAU - On the lower level of the Sobeloff Building at the University of Southeast's Auke Bay campus, the hallways and classrooms have become the training ground for the next generation of Juneau creators.
Thirty-five students are currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts program, a degree that has only been offered at UAS for two years. Art classes have been offered for decades, but prior to the B.A. program they were often filled with non-degree-seeking community members, and the numbers were low. Now, most of the students currently enrolled are conventional college-aged degree seekers. According to Jane Terzis, professor and acting chair of the department, that is a huge switch just in the past five years.
"As soon as the word got out that we were offering a B.A., we quadrupled in size," Terzis said. "We're bursting at the seams."
Terzis, a drawer, painter and art historian, is one of three full-time faculty members in the art department. She has been teaching at UAS in either full-time or part-time capacity since 1979. She works alongside Jeremy Kane, Pedar Dalthorp and a number of adjunct professors. Terzis hopes to expand the art faculty base to include more full-time members.
"I think right now we're really working hard to sustain what we've got going," Terzis said. "We're not looking at adding disciplines until we can add faculty and more space."
The department currently offers classes in ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, painting, photography, art history, Northwest Coast arts and basic design.
"Right now, it's kind of hoppin'," Kane said. "We have a really focused group of students. They're causing each other to be excited."
Kane, a ceramist, has been teaching in the department since 2004. His students throw and sculpt their clay in a small classroom, and a covered outdoor structure houses their kilns and various other tools. Kane said that despite the spatial squeeze, his students are provided with the tools and support that they need to succeed.
"The lack of space encourages us to be more efficient," Kane said. "It's not the space that makes an artist. For a dedicated student that wants to do anything, there are plenty of people out here who are skilled to teach them and highly motivated to do so."
Though students and faculty are working within their current bounds, the program cannot expand any further without more rooms dedicated to art program use.
"The classes are as full as we can potentially have them," Kane said.
The professors are scrunched for space as well. Dalthorp, a sculpture and printmaking professor who joined the department last year, works in an office that doubles as a wood shop.
Next semester, Dalthorp will begin a new course focusing around career development for artists. The class will teach students practical skills such as creating resumes, applying for shows, building Web sites and other self-promotional items that Dalthorp said are often overlooked in art programs.
According to Dalthorp, the intimacy of the B.A. program at UAS is one of its strengths.
"I think it's good to have the students feel tighter amongst themselves, and with the faculty as well," Dalthorp said. "It seems there's a lot more community in the operation here."
"Having a small faculty to student ratio is good," Kane said. "Students know everybody on campus and they feel good about putting their stuff in the hallways."
Hallways around the campus currently serve as students' primary display space as there is no official student gallery. An exhibition titled "Ceramic Summer Works" is currently on display in the Hendrickson gallery, which is little more than a corridor from one building to the next.
The lack of gallery space has forced students to take their work out into the community, exhibiting at local galleries around town. According to Terzis, more than 20 art students have had solo exhibitions in Juneau in the past six or seven years. In addition, students participate in two annual group exhibitions. A juried show is held each April at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery and each December students hang their work in the Baranof Hotel.
In addition to serving as professors, the art department faculty members are also practicing artists who create and exhibit their work locally. They acknowledged the uniqueness of Juneau and the potential that exists to further expand the art department's presence in the community. Kane said that he would like to see a Master of Arts degree program develop someday.
"It's a pretty unique experience, especially being in Alaska," Kane said. "There are a lot of people here who already have a degree and are kind of set in town but would love to go back and get a master's. They might not have a chance to go somewhere else."
Drawer and painter David Woodie, who has been an adjunct professor in the department since 2003, believes that a strong art program at UAS can give young artists a reason to stay in town.
"One of the things about Juneau is, if you grew up here it's good to get out for a couple years," Woodie said. "But it's also good to have a reason to come back. I really think that this program could be part of that."
Libby Sterling may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.