October 5, 2007

An Art Department with Personality

Lindsay Gonzalez ’09 discusses the reasons she chose to attend Lafayette

Lindsay Gonzalez ’09 (Towanda, Pa.) is an English and art double major. The following is a first-person account about her reasons for attending Lafayette.

Anyone who knows me could have guessed since grade school I would end up a studio art major. I, myself, never doubted that when the time came to declare my areas of study, I would gather the necessary signatures and attend art department meetings with confidence. But until just recently, I have not been able to provide a confident answer when asked why I chose Lafayette College if I have always been so serious about the visual arts.

The truth is art calms me down. It takes me away from politics, drama within my social life, and other class work. A canvas and a bucket of paint works better than any medicine a doctor can prescribe. So when my college search began, I focused hard on finding the most extravagant, wide-ranged art department with the best facilities and most esteemed professors.

However impressive one school’s massive kilns were and another school’s enormous supply room seemed, I found myself stressed out. The students were competitive; they showed work that conformed to what one professor described as the correct way of drawing a figure or a still-life. They practically lived in their art buildings, but seemed to produce impersonal pieces that complied with a list of rules.

When it came time to choose a college, my decision was between one with an enormous art department that may have had everything I wanted, or a small, personal art department with limited classes but the possibility of an additional major. My decision was easy.

Over the past two years, I discovered that Lafayette College’s art department is as big as you make it. My discovery began with a drawing class with artist and Professor Emil Lukas where I received as much personal attention, advice, and class discussion as I wanted. Since Lafayette does not offer courses in ceramics, I spent a semester completing an independent study at Whitehall High School with Professor Lukas’ wife Claire. I developed my skills on the pottery wheel by working individually with her and with the students, which helped Claire with her Kutztown University honor’s thesis focusing on mentoring.

During the same semester, I helped Professor Lukas in his Drawing I class as his teaching assistant, and now serve him as a TA for Principles of Studio Art. Sitting in on these classes and providing advice to other students helps give me a wide range of opportunity and keeps me up to par on basic knowledge such as color theory and shading.

I have taken advantage of so many other opportunities that the art department has to offer. I worked as an apprentice to a professional printmaker, Jase Clark, at the Experimental Printmaking Institute for one semester, and now work as an EXCEL Scholar with Professor and Artist Curlee Holton. I was asked to create some unusual pieces for the play “Museum” put on by the theater department last semester. Lafayette Career Services even connected me with alumnus Bill Hayward, an accomplished photographer and filmmaker, who I interned with over the summer.

Last weekend, I and five friends traveled to New York City to attend the opening of a show featuring professor Lukas’ artwork at a the Hosfelt gallery. As I walked from one piece to the next, I began to realize how much each of my professor’s brilliance has rubbed off on me.

The rooms were filled with art gallery-goers, gallery directors, my professor’s family and friends, etc. When I finally caught professor Lukas’s attention and pulled him aside, our discussion about his work went deeper than any conversation I could have had in previous years. He helped me understand the creative process behind his work as well as his thoughts and reasoning behind his creativity.

The professors of the art department at Lafayette College are just as experienced and esteemed as those at a large school with an independent department, but they have something more: their students. The work of visual artists reflects their view of the world around them. Because our art department is small and personal, our professors reflect what they learn from us in their work, they become more successful and knowledgeable, and as we students work to build relationships with them, we reflect all they have to offer in what we create. I couldn’t ask for more from an art department except for maybe some pottery wheels.

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