Associate Professor and Chair, Art Department

Part I of a series of reflections on the first ten years of the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts.

During my first eighteen months as a professor of art at Drew, I taught in the basement of Brothers College.  These “studios”, where the art department first opened in 1946 under the direction of Elizabeth Korn, were never designed for that purpose.  They lacked the kind of space and light (not to mention ventilation) needed to create paintings, sculpture and other visual arts.

In the spring of 2001, ground was broken for the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts at the front of campus.  In January 2003, the Art and Theatre Arts departments joyfully took up residence in the new building – one that was designed with extensive input from the arts faculty.  Now, ten years later, I am still overjoyed to be able to teach and work in this magnificent building and am amazed at how it has impacted our programs.

Since moving to DoYo (as students have affectionately dubbed the building) the Art Department has flourished.  Each classroom and studio is specific to the medium that is being taught (including wood shop, digital lab, darkroom, ceramics, print shop, drawing, painting and sculpture, to name a few).  They are spacious enough for oversized canvases and large three-dimensional designs, and are filled with northern light (the best kind for painters). Students and faculty alike describe DoYo as a positive and healthy environment for teaching and learning. We enable 24/7 access for art students and you can find them at work day and night.

Since DoYo opened in 2003, we have seen significant growth in the number of art students. The number of studio art majors has tripled and the number of minors has doubled over the last decade, and we recently added a minor in photography to meet the larger demand.

The faculty has also grown and changed over these years. Livio Saganic, who played a significant role in the design of the Dorothy Young center, retired in 2011 after 35 years of teaching at Drew.  At the same time, we welcomed three new full-time faculty: Lee Arnold (digital arts), Rebecca Soderholm (photography) and Claire Sherman (two-dimensional design, drawing and painting).

We now offer twice as many courses as we did a decade ago. Not surprisingly, the most dramatic growth can be seen with our digital arts classes. Last year, we opened a new digital arts studio which is a state-of-the-art Macintosh lab that meets the demand for popular courses like digital media, including imaging, photography, video and animation. This semester, we are teaching a special topics class on communication design.

The Korn Gallery, named in 1989 in memory of the department’s muse, was re-created in DoYo.  The exhibition program, managed by Gabriele Hiltl-Cohen, includes six shows a year that enhance the visual arts experiences of the campus and local communities by showcasing the work of students, faculty and visiting artists.

But perhaps the most significant contribution that DoYo has made to Drew is the way in which it embodies the role of the arts, both visual and performing, within a liberal arts education. Many Drew students, such as recent graduate Diana Ortiz C’12, double major or minor in disciplines as seemingly disparate as art and economics.  Even more Drew students take art classes as part of their General Education requirements or participate in activities such as DUDS or Drew Chorale.  As a result of these experiences, students develop a decidedly well-rounded worldview and the capacity to live, act and learn.

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