Art department to try to ease requirements for art classes

Discussed changes could ease requirements to take art courses and provide opportunities for more students

Story by Glen Olson, Chief Copy Editor

What do Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh have in common?

Other than all being world famous artists, they formed their careers on a small amount of formal training and worked in other industries after an exposure to art.

In coming years, UW-Eau Claire students from non-art majors will see more opportunities to learn and experience art, Cristos Theo, chair of the art department, said.

Theo said the art department is now discussing how to open beginning art classes — which are now limited to art majors and minors — to students from other departments.

He said department administrators have discussed the change for several years, but have been hampered by limited resources.

“We recognized and always desired to do that,” Theo said. “Our bigger problem wasn’t curricular or trying to be territorial, but more our limited facilities.”

The art department currently has 17 faculty members, including those teaching art history courses.

Recent additions to allow more students to experience art and design classes include a redesigned art minor and multimedia communication minor, which includes classes in the departments of communication and journalism, art and design, computer science and English.

Theo said after adding programs, the department saw increased interest in minors from different areas on campus.

Michael Weil, associate dean for student academic affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences, said enrollment pressures are usually a large factor for class makeup. Weighing classes for majors and minors versus a general audience is always a concern, he said.

Weil said other factors, including whether students have enough prior knowledge to succeed in a class, also play a major role.

One of the most visible ways for non-art students to showcase their art is the annual Juried Student Art Show, which is open to submissions from any university student and judged by a visiting artist.

Accepted works will be shown in the Haas Fine Art Center’s Foster Gallery from  April 9 to April 30.

Tom Wagener, director of Foster Gallery, said the juror this year will be Adrienne Salinger, a photography professor from the University of New Mexico.

Wagener said the art show is a good way for students — art majors or not — to both build their portfolio and demonstrate a well-rounded education.

“We always tout the liberal arts at UW-Eau Claire,” Wagener said. “And this is just another way that people who aren’t art majors are building upon their liberal arts education.”