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Director's Notes

Submitted on October 6, 2020 - 2:06pm
Jamie Walker
Jamie Walker

It was a summer like no other. A reduced schedule of classes was all taught online and most staff worked remotely. Only a handful of faculty, staff, and graduate students were to be found in our buildings on a given day. The Quad was eerily quiet, more like a private garden of some surreal estate. Just when it seemed impossible that our plight could get any worse, the smoke engulfed us, further restricting normal activity. Trying to maintain a modicum of positivity and a "let’s make the best of it" attitude was beginning to wane from our collective psyche. The creative energy that typically emanates from the Art Building, CMA, and Sand Point, was muted. And then, about a week before classes began, as I was walking away from the Art Building, I suddenly heard a soprano voice soaring from the open windows of our neighbors in the School of Music. Witnessing such a beautiful, alive, and affirming sound awoke me from the induced doldrums and made me smile. I realized how much I was looking forward to spending more time with the School of Art + Art History + Design community even if it was going to be vastly different than before. As the stories in this newsletter suggest, life does indeed go on as we try to come to terms with our current reality and the challenges and opportunities that face us all. The School is poised to be a proactive contributor to the educational and research mission of the UW while paying ever greater attention to the broader community in our efforts to better understand and support one another.

Our annual Welcome Grads BBQ was a virtual, non-food, event this year, highlighted by the introductions of the most diverse group of graduate students in the history of the School. I was also delighted to welcome several new staff — Fiscal Specialist Lisa Harman, Administrator Pam Lynne, and Advising Program Coordinator Katie Twiss — who have joined us in the past year along with our three new assistant professors: Juliet Sperling (Art History), James Pierce (Interaction Design), and Rob Rhee (Interdisciplinary Visual Arts). Additionally, we are in the midst of the search process for three more tenure track faculty, one in each division of the School: History of Japanese Art, Industrial Design, and Painting + Drawing. These hires represent a significant investment and belief in the future of the School by the College of Arts & Sciences and is predicated on the ongoing accomplishments of our students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

Thanks to the vision and support of our Divisional Dean of the Arts, Catherine Cole, I am very grateful in announcing that The Black Embodiments Studio (BES), directed by Kemi Adeyemi, assistant professor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, has established a two-year residency at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. BES is dedicated to expansive, dynamic investigations of blackness in contemporary art.

The Jacob Lawrence Gallery managed to re-open in time for an exhibition featuring the work of three of the four faculty going up for promotion: Associate Professor Sang-gyeun Ahn (Industrial Design) plus Assistant Professors Flint Jamison (Photo/Media) and Michael Swaine (3D4M). All four promotion candidates – including Art History Assistant Professor, Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse – also presented lectures focused on their research as part of the promotion process. The exhibition is on view through October 17 with in person visits to the gallery currently available by appointment only, but you can also stay engaged online to experience a robust programming schedule throughout the quarter and even take a virtual tour of the exhibitions.

When Provost Mark Richards joined the UW in 2018, he made a point of visiting each and every building on campus. This grand tour enabled Richards to experience a multitude of outstanding facilities as befits one of the world’s leading research universities. The tour also brought to light that not all buildings are equal, and the Art and Music buildings were identified as the most in need of attention. Resurrecting plans to relocate and update the Jacob Lawrence Gallery to increase the gallery’s prominence on campus, the Provost and College of Arts & Sciences Dean Robert Stacey have committed $4 million of a $6 million plan that will also encompass much needed health and safety as well as programmatic upgrades on the first floor of the Art Building.

As the pandemic continues to play havoc with our lives, countless plans have been disrupted and opportunities for students, alumni, and faculty have been postponed or canceled. Despite this unfortunate reality, there are countless positive accomplishments happening every day. Faculty have done a remarkable job teaching online courses as exemplified by Associate Professor Curt Labitzke (Interdisciplinary Visual Arts) who was recently featured in the University of Washington Magazine. In the article, Labitzke discusses his transition from teaching in the extremely well-equipped printmaking studio in the Art Building to the confines of his kitchen, which reflects and recognizes the limitations that many of our students are faced with as they carry on with being a student in the midst of their living environment. Division of Design Professor Karen Cheng (Visual Communication Design) celebrated the release of the second edition of her wildly successful book, Designing Type, published in the U.S. by Yale University Press with e-books being made available as well as hard copies in light of COVID-19. Tamar Benzikry, Art History and Jewish Studies alum, continues her influential journey as a curator and project manager. After a decade working as a senior project manager at 4Culture, where she was instrumental in realizing the amazing SODO Track mural project and the Poetry on Buses initiative, Benzikry has moved on to become a curator and producer at Facebook.

On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, I extend more thanks than ever for caring about who we are and what we do. I wish you the best as we face whatever comes our way in the coming months ahead.

Jamie Walker

  • Director, School of Art + Art History + Design
  • Professor, 3D4M: ceramics + glass + sculpture
  • Wyckoff Milliman Endowed Chair in Art