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Director's Notes

Submitted on January 12, 2021 - 2:39pm
Jamie Walker
Jamie Walker

As I sat down to write these quarterly notes, I struggled to find the concentration to focus. Given the current state of our world, which has at times been all consuming, it has been a challenge for most of us to maintain the ability to focus on our jobs, our passions, and what gives us a sense of purpose and well-being. With the coming anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., these words from his 1963 I Have a Dream speech seem more salient than ever, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” It is with a sense of resilience and hope that I share this newsletter that celebrates how our students, faculty, staff, and alumni are continuing to pursue their creative passions, extoll the virtues of education, and grapple with the momentous and unforgettable times that we are all sharing.

Two captivating stories feature our art historians and highlight the essence of critical research and scholarship that is foundational to our mission. First, we honor the passing of Professor Emeritus of Art History Bill Holm who used his position of privilege to champion and help restore the rights of Indigenous people in the Pacific Northwest through the preservation and scholarship of their artwork under the auspices of the Burke Museum. The second story focuses on Assistant Professor and Kollar Endowed Chair of American Art Juliet Sperling who was recently featured in the University of Washington Magazine where she shares her understanding and insights about the inclusive scope and potency of American art.

Our efforts to encourage and embrace a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community is exemplified through our invitations to dozens of guests to speak in established public lecture series such as Critical Issues, and additional opportunities include lectures where guests share their experiences with a particular class or program. One of the advantages of online learning is the relative ease of connecting via Zoom, and we have certainly set a record for hosting more artists, designers, and art historians from around the world. The Jacob Lawrence Gallery has continued robust programming that for the time being is primarily available online. We are very excited to welcome this year’s Jacob Lawrence Legacy Resident, Ariel René Jackson, whose prescient work is hauntingly beautiful and provocative.

While being a student in pandemic times is not quite what anyone had in mind, the resilience factor of our students is highlighted by stories of what it means to be a museum guide intern when there are no visitors or how one learns to create in clay via Zoom. It has been inspiring to see how faculty and staff have adapted their courses and restructured their jobs to function and respond as well as possible given our current restrictions and to see the students who are responding in remarkable ways. I encourage you to check out the Design graduate student thesis proposals that were presented online and the multi-disciplinary group of students who decided to resurrect the Parnassus Café Gallery.

Faculty research continues despite the strict, yet necessary, restrictions that are in place to keep everyone safe during COVID. Design Assistant Professor Audrey Desjardins is working on a collaborative Mellon-funded research project, Voices+Voids, that began prior to the onset of COVID. Despite the pandemic-caused obstacles that prevented the team from presenting in person, Desjardins and colleagues gave a virtual performance in November that amplified the impact of technology on social and creative interactions even more than we could previously imagine. Marek Wieczorek, Associate Professor in Art History, who specializes in the work of Mondrian and the De Stijl movement, contributed several articles for an exhibition catalog published by the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.

Along with a number of alumni updates, Robert Yoder (MFA 1987; affiliate assistant professor) was interviewed by Jeanette Mills and humbly shares his story of how he journeyed to Seattle where he has developed a highly respected and influential career as an artist and gallery dealer.

There is certainly solace to be found when working within such a creative and inspirational community as the School of Art + Art History + Design. Thank you for being a part of our community; it has never before been more important than at this moment in time.

Jamie Walker

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