Collaborating via Art

In Issue, News, Winter/Spring 2022 by Sarah Moss

How can the Art and Design Department provide more opportunities for students and the campus community to collaborate? That’s been a focus of art professors Vaughn Donahue and David Platter this year; as a result, they have repurposed an old art space and have worked hard to invite both the campus community and the greater Sioux Center community to a major art gallery show.

When Instructor of Art Vaughn Donahue looked at the drawing room, he saw an underutilized space that could be so much more. This spring, thanks to gifts from generous donors, he was able to transform the space into a design studio. There are 24 Apple iMac computers, allowing for graphic design students to move out of the digital media lab and into the Art and Design Department. The computers fit snugly into hideaway desks, so that the desk surfaces can be used for fine arts such as drawing and painting. There are floor-to-ceiling marker boards on the walls, where students write up design ideas or doodle clever drawings as they brainstorm concepts.

The multi-purpose nature of the space allows for more collaboration among majors, whether they’re studying graphic design or drawing.

“We hope to establish a better connection between the fine arts and the applied arts by being in a shared space,” Donahue says.

The space has become a new hangout spot for the Art and Design Department, a place where majors can connect and learn together.

Melissa Laarman, a senior studying graphic design, has enjoyed using the design studio. “I’m enrolled in a photography independent study this semester, and I’ve stopped in to use the new Macs whenever possible,” she says. “I also use the lab to create promotional materials for my upcoming senior show.”

Another way that the Art and Design Department has looked for opportunities to collaborate is through a recent art exhibit. The Art Gallery has held exhibits for years, but often there are minimal visitors passing through the space. This spring, Dordt was the first stop for the traveling exhibit “Heads, Faces, and Spiritual Encounter,” sponsored by Christians in the Visual Arts in partnership with artist and collector Edward Knippers. The show included 51 works from renowned artists such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso, and it highlighted the history of humanity and how the face captures the attention of image makers from one generation to the next.

“An exhibit like this brings the art museum right to Dordt students and to our community,” says Platter. And he wanted to ensure that visitors felt welcomed to view the art. He worked with Director of Alumni and Parent Relations Alicia Bowar to invite local high school students to view the exhibit. He also connected with faculty members outside of his program, encouraging them to incorporate the exhibit into their coursework.

One class, Literacy and Cultural Readings, recently studied Hispanic artists including Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros and Spanish painter Picasso, whose art was on display in “Heads, Faces, and Spiritual Encounter.” Professor of Language Studies Dr. Rikki Brons had her class explore the exhibit.

“It was incredible for us to see works of Picasso and Siqueiros in Dordt’s own gallery,” she says.