While Mirae Kim was a graduate student in Pittsburgh, a conversation with a friend clarified her future research interests. As Kim describes it, her friend said “My mom always makes a donation every year to the Carnegie Museum, though she rarely visits it.” When Kim asked why, her friend answered, “Well, she is a Pittsburgher, and she feels like it’s just ‘our thing.’” Kim realized, “So, as a community member, she feels like she is obliged to make some gift every year; it’s just something that she has to do. And I just got so fascinated: why do people make [these gifts]? Why do they feel they need to do that?” It was a practice she had not seen growing up in South Korea or studying abroad in New Zealand. In the United States, however—particularly Pittsburgh, a city known for charitable giving—Kim was intrigued by patrons making small donations—under $100—to arts organizations. Moreover, arts organizations’ share of revenue from individual donors was huge: “It wasn’t just a small amount,” Kim emphasizes, “but often fifty percent or more of their revenue stream.” She wanted to learn more: why do people make these gifts? What is the role of small gifts? What kind of contribution does the nonprofit sector make to the community?
When we muse about “the arts,” it is often the fine arts that come to mind: famous plays, distinguished sculptures, celebrated paintings, and other aesthetic creations. However, art does not end at museum walls or with the last page of a book—art in many forms is present in ordinary life. For Dr. Lisa Higgins, witnessing the presence of traditional art in Missourians’ lives was an “empowering” experience that, together with her already “pervasive interest” in stories and storytelling, led her to undertake graduate work in folk studies at the University of Missouri. During the early nineties, she interned with the Missouri Folk Arts Program—a joint program of the Missouri Arts Council and MU’s Museum of Art & Archaeology—and gained first-hand experience with public folk art programs working to recognize and support Missouri artists. Working for the Southern Arts Federation (now South Arts) during the late nineties further piqued her interest in public support for the arts, and, with this experience under her belt, she returned in 1999 to her “dream job” as director of the Missouri Folk Arts Program and completed her PhD in Folklore and Rhetoric in 2008.
Anne Rudloff Stanton loves romance. She loves the way it looks, the way it sounds, and the way it smells—but only when it’s found in the margins of 14th-century books. The professor of Art History and Archaeology describes one example—a small drawing of a man leaving a woman—and she leans forward as if she were talking about a mutual friend of ours. “There’s this long sequence of the story of Moses, who, as you may not know, was married before he married Zipporah,” she begins. “He first married the daughter of the king of Ethiopia.”
Brush in hand, Lampo Leong carefully dips the pointed tip into a small pool of jet black ink. He quickly moves the ink-laden brush towards the dry rice-paper on the table, a thin, tan sheet held down at the edges by paperweights. A brief pause, and then Leong dashes the brush to the paper, the tip and side jumping and dancing across the sheet with intense, determined movements. As the brush reaches the end of the paper, Leong steps back, sets it down, and clasps his hands together. “This is cursive Chinese calligraphy,” he explains.
“Ceramics is a very demanding discipline,” explains Bede Clarke, MU Professor of Art. Even after 35 years in the field, he says, “it still takes a lot out of me to do good work.” Clarke’s creative activity focuses on two areas. One involves the use of color and drawing and painting on clay with abstract and figurative imagery, and the other is wheel-thrown pottery fired in a wood kiln to achieve glaze effects.
Alex Barker wears several different hats in MU’s Department of Anthropology and the Museum of Art and Archaeology. One of these hats involves his research and fieldwork on the European Bronze Age and the ancient American southeast. The other involves the directorship of MU’s Museum of Art and Archaeology. Standing at the crossroads of several disciplinary fields, most of Barker’s field research has in recent years dealt with a single broad question: how social complexity grows out of egalitarian societies. His fieldwork in North America and the Old World follows this transition over different periods and regions.
Great celestial bodies populate the solar system. For an untrained eye staring at the heavens, the starlight spectacles and endless seas of blackness are nothing short of a miracle. Researchers, however, have developed mathematical equations that may help us understand such mysteries of the universe. From Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation to Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the scientific community has paved the way for a greater understanding of the great beyond.
In an office immersed in brilliant lime green and blue, Deborah Huelsbergen sits in front of her computer screen, with its Fruitloops screen saver, digging through boxes to pull out examples of her artwork. An associate professor of art and graphic design at Mizzou, Huelsbergen highlights two recent projects--both illustrated children’s books.
Dr. Kim traces the shift in focus for arts organizations from education to broader definitions of community engagement.
Dr. Kim relates how she became interested in studying nonprofit arts organizations, and describes the different ways the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organizations function in the United States.
Dr. Kim describes the interest in the arts field about civic engagement, and discusses her research on arts organizations and community engagement.
Dr. Higgins discusses her background in folklore studies and how she came to be director of the Missouri Folk Arts Program.
Past interviewees describe the intersection of their teaching and research.
Stealey discusses the interdependence of her creative thinking and teaching.
Stealey shows off some of her vibrant and pleasantly strange teapots sculptures.
Stealey shares the influence her supportive family had on her creativity and the unique ways in which their talents precluded her own.
Stealey explains the purpose of interactive art, as exemplified by sculptural books.
Dr. Stealey discusses the vitality of unexpectedness and surprise to her creative process, and the benefit of indulging multiple projects at once.
While teaching in San Francisco, Lampo Leong received a commission to create a huge granite inset medallion (26 feet in diameter) for a public park. During the opening celebrations, “Lampo Leong Day” was declared by the Mayor, a day in November commemorating the work the artist has done for the city. “I am really grateful and honored to have had a day dedicated to me,” says Leong.
Another way that Leong has dealt with mixed media is through his work Spiritual Transformations, a collaborative art form that combines animated video of his painted images with contemporary music. He creates the artwork, while MU professor Thomas McKenney composes the music by using software that generates sounds from images.
Lampo Leong describes the creative process of cursive Chinese calligraphy as “very similar to a dance or a musical performance.” He explains that “the success of marking on paper is, to a certain extent, a direct reflection of the quality of the performance while creating the piece.”
Inspired by the post-modern art movement, Leong combines different art forms and concepts from Chinese and Western art with digital technology in order to create his mixed-media paintings. He sees this multifaceted process as expressing the spirit of “the sublime and grandeur at a time of globalization.”
Leong has noticed a heightened interest in Chinese calligraphy in the Western world, and his work is now sought out for exhibitions and commissions as well as collected by many museums. He believes that this increased attention derives from the unique visual experience that calligraphy provides: “The viewer becomes involved while looking at the piece as if he/she is watching the brush dance across the stage—its movements, its rhythm… [like] viewing a dance performance and a painting at the same time.”
As the brush glides across the rice-paper, it seems to “actually dance on paper,” according to Leong. The artist is allowed greater manipulation with the Chinese brush because of its pointed and soft bristles, as opposed to the flat, stiff bristles of the Western brush. Energetic black strokes and the strong contrast provided by the black ink are some of the characteristics that distinguish Chinese calligraphy.
“Wild cursive calligraphy” is a millennia-old Chinese art form. “It is not a written language for the general public to write every day,” Leong notes, “but rather an expressive art form used by the artist.”
Not only does Leong create mixed-media paintings; he also assembles multimedia installations, such as calligraphy on translucent silk scrolls suspended in a space. He illuminates these suspended artworks with colored lights and video projections in order to create a three-dimensional illusion for viewers to walk through and experience on multiple levels.
In all his years of making ceramics, Clarke declares, he never set out to do mediocre work. Creative work, he believes, “is what drives the artist to despair and to exhilaration.” Clarke recalls that while apprenticing with Karl Christiansen, the master instilled in him the idea that one never really arrives as an artist: “you’ll never get to the point where you do everything correctly and there is no more to learn, no more to grow.” Learning to make good pots requires nothing short of a lifetime of practice. “There is always more you don’t know,” Clarke adds. “There is always, hopefully, better work to come.”
Bede Clarke has been teaching in MU’s Art Department since 1992, with classes ranging from beginning to graduate ceramics. Beginning ceramics classes are very design-oriented, Clarke explains, “geared toward instilling good design principles and decision-making in students.” Besides sitting behind the potter’s wheel, his students do background research on some aspects of ceramic history—“about 20,000 years of human beings making things out of clay”—a learning process that may involve a trip to the Museum of Art and Archeology as well as to Ellis Library.
While he also works with drawing and painting, ceramics is Clarke’s major creative area. “Ceramics is a very demanding discipline,” he says. “After 35 years, I still find it challenging, so I tend to focus on it – maybe because I find that I need to, to do something that’s any good at all. It still takes a lot out of me to do good work.” His creative activity tends to focus on two areas. One involves drawing and painting on clay with abstract and figurative imagery, and the other is wheel-thrown pottery fired in a wood kiln to achieve the desired glaze effects. Clarke moves behind the potter’s wheel to offer a demonstration on the art of throwing a pot.
Although their medium is visual, ceramics students are encouraged to articulate their experiences verbally, as well as to write about them. A fundamental part of these classes involves critique, where students present their finished products to the class, talk about their inspiration and ideas, and critically evaluate the work in terms of where it has succeeded and where it has failed. Beyond creation and evaluation, students research a topic (e.g., a culture’s ceramics or a contemporary ceramic artist) and present their findings to the class. “It’s probably my favorite part of the class,” Clarke remarks, “because they become the teachers."
Once the pot has been thrown, the potter must make decisions while the clay is still wet about handles, trim, texture, or other decorations—details that can add a lot to a piece. If it is kept wrapped in plastic, the artist might have a week or two to finish it. Clarke takes a moment to consider the pot he has just finished throwing and decides that—were he to continue working on it—he would want to alter or embellish it in some way. Clarke has observed that it takes students about 12 weeks of concentrated work to get these basics. “It’s a skill, but it’s more,” Clarke explains. When he asks students how they feel when they are really “getting it,” they report that they feel “connected” to the clay.
Clarke describes how the creative work of making pots necessarily involves research. He has observed that visual artists have a close relationship to the raw materials with which they work. As an artist, Clarke explains that “pottery keeps me honest. Pottery is a very simple art form. It is very demanding in terms of detail, line, shape, and form. Maybe because it’s so simple and unassuming, it makes me focus on what I’m trying to communicate, rather than chasing the latest fad that’s going on.”
The important thing, suggests Clarke, is not the particular artistic genre in which one works — whether still-life painting, landscape painting, making pots, or figurative sculpture — but what the artist has to say. As he explains, “I’m interested in reaching out, as the maker of these things, to other people. The things I create are made to live their lives in people’s homes. I envision them being things people would have in their homes, the way they have their favorite radio station on, or books on their shelves that they like to pull down. I’m aware that I have the potential to contribute something to their daily life. I aspire for it to be something deeply human and compassionate and worthwhile.”
“There is great clay right here in Missouri,” says Clarke. In fact, some of the richest deposits are within forty miles of Columbia. But to prepare clay like this, “it is kind of like baking,” he explains, in that you must add a variety of different ingredients—in this case, clays, colorants, and fluxes—to create a clay body. Depending on the ingredients, the clay can be given desired characteristics, for instance filler material like sand or grog can be added to give the clay “tooth and strength.” These materials are combined in different ratios, depending upon how the artist wants the clay to behave: “If you are building a large-scale, thick sculpture, you would choose a very different clay from that used to make very delicate translucent porcelain. An understanding of clay is pretty fundamental."
One of the paintings Barker was pleasantly surprised to find in the museum’s collection is a self-portrait by the Romanian surrealist Victor Brauner. Dating from 1923, the painting reflects the period immediately before the artist moved fully into surrealism as a means of representation. “It is a remarkable portrait,” explains Barker, “because it is the last time he paints himself with both eyes.” In his subsequent work, that is, the artist always paints himself with one eye missing—whether there is a gaping wound, an automaton of some kind, or his eyes placed on his hands. In 1938, Brauner was in a bar fight, during which his eye was poked out—the very eye he had been painting himself without for a decade and a half. Barker says, “Surrealism holds it up as an example of sort of a premonitory knowledge that this was going to happen, proof that time is not linear to the unconscious mind.”
Barker refers to a certain tension between curators, who have all this ‘stuff’ they want to communicate, and exhibit designers, who want to keep the exhibit as clean and simple as possible. “Ultimately, we want people looking at the art, not at the labels,” he indicates; but the Museum still wants to educate. In that spirit, the museum is experimenting with technology to showcase the art and the significance of art to everyone by creating MP3-based audio tours of the museum that can then be played on any personal audio device, including iPods, notebook computers, and even cell phones. Barker hopes this will allow greater flexibility for visitors, whom he imagines selecting a tour and walking through the galleries at their leisure while looking at the art and listening to the audio information, “instead of looking back and forth between the label and the art.”
Barker has worked in several kinds of museums—natural history museums and anthropology museums. “No one feels uncomfortable going into a natural history museum without knowing about bird taxonomy or going into an anthropology museum without knowing the latest details about the origins of humans,” he says. “But a lot of people are uncomfortable coming to an art museum if they don’t know a lot about art, and that is not a good thing.” Fortunately, the Museum of Art and Archaeology combines art with classical archaeology, offering a view of the changes of art over a very long period of time. Barker has been trying to make people more comfortable with the idea of coming into the museum and having their own experience with art—engaging authentic objects, whether from antiquity or from more recent periods, on their own terms.
Beyond his passion for mathematics, Chicone’s favorite pastime is building furniture. He finds it amusing that people try to find a connection between his interests, and insists that woodworking is a love completely outside of math.
Chicone believes math is an artistic expression like music, painting, and theatre. Not everyone can identify with this art, he admits, but those who can are able to develop a strong appreciation for problem-solving.
Huelsbergen discusses how she encourages students to take risks with their designs.
Huelsbergen discusses her service philosophy as a graphic designer.
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Huelsbergen talks about fostering trust in the classroom.
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Huelsbergen talks about graphic design versus the manual arts.
Huelsbergen shows examples of her recent artwork.
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Miller shows some of his original costume renderings.
Miller discusses his journey through New York, commercial advertising, and art school—ulimately leading to his position in the Department of Theatre here at Mizzou.
Miller discusses some of his original works in costume design, painting and music composition.