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Director's Notes – June 2021

Submitted on June 23, 2021 - 3:52pm
Jamie Walker
Jamie Walker

What a year it has been.

And suddenly the end of the academic year was in sight, heralding graduation time for over 200 of our students who persevered through unimaginable circumstances to complete their degrees in Art, Art History, and Design. It is such a welcome and affirming time for our community as we reflect on our common sense of purpose in the midst of a pandemic, climate change, social unrest, and the ongoing struggle for racial justice. Too many times in the past year I found solace in the phrase — “This too shall pass” (attributed to medieval Persian Sufi poets) — in order to embrace the notion that sometimes just carrying on is worthy in itself. Despite all of the challenges, we carried on as best as we could, with significant accomplishments achieved by students, staff, faculty, and alumni while recognizing that a shift in our individual and collective being had occurred, an awareness to pay more attention to the effect that our actions, work, and creations have on others and the planet.

Our students are the focus of many of our stories in this newsletter. Spring is the season when the academic journeys of each of our soon-to-be graduates culminates in presentations and exhibitions of their scholarly and creative work. The partial reopening of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery allowed for two pop-up exhibitions of student work while extensive virtual exhibitions were coordinated by the Jacob Lawrence Gallery for the Art seniors and by the Division of Design for their graduating class. We have immense gratitude for the Henry Art Gallery, which made it possible for the MFA + MDes Thesis Exhibition to be installed in their galleries. In light of last year’s absence, the class of 2020 was invited to participate as well, making for a particularly robust and diverse show. The ability to see the work in person and to participate in in-person critiques was welcome beyond words. I encourage you to take a virtual tour via our enhanced Graduate Showcase website that also introduces the work of our MA and PhD graduates in Art History.

Every year the UW recognizes 100 undergraduate and graduate students from all three campuses who are making the most of the opportunities the University provides. Congratulations to Tiffany-Ashton Gatsby (Interdisciplinary Visual Arts) and Han Eckelberg (Photo/Media) for being selected this year.

Our student graduation speakers — Lily Stelzer, Alexis Calma, Ebrima Jassey, and Jia Jia — spoke eloquently on behalf of their peers through the lens of their personal circumstances and histories.

As these graduates are now welcomed as incoming alumni, their more seasoned peers continue to engage and inspire. Read the Q&A with Kathleen Ash-Milby (BA 1991), Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum, or reacquaint yourself with the impact that Alden Mason (BA 1942, MFA 1947) made with his work and his students. George Rodriguez (MFA 2009) is the catalyst for an important exhibition at the Whatcom County Museum, El Zodiaco Familiar, that also includes the work of Christie Tirado (BFA 2013) and Gustavo Martinez (MFA 2011). Adam Kingman (BDes 2014) is featured on the NBC show Making It while Shu Jones (BDes 2017) was the subject of a UW Magazine interview.

Notable faculty achievements include the COVID-induced creation of the WorldVent Ventilator, which won a Core77 award and whose creative team included Industrial Design Associate Professor Jason Germany. Visual Communication Design Associate Professor Kristine Matthews, the guiding principal behind Studio Matthews, is featured in the upcoming issue of Communication Arts.

This summer quarter we are only offering a limited number of online courses, but we are gearing up for an eagerly anticipated full return to campus in September. The Jacob Lawrence Gallery has two summer exhibitions scheduled that can be visited in person: Queer Imagination, curated by Brittney Frantece, is on view through July 8 followed by Lux Aeterna, July 29 – August 28.

To all of our extended community of students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors, and friends I want to thank you all for your amazing efforts over this past year despite the innumerable obstacles that you faced in your personal and professional lives. While I certainly wished that the past year was but a dream, seeing how everyone rallied to face the reality has been truly inspirational.

Thank you.

Jamie Walker

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