Arts & Culture

Art Department Revamps and Reevaluates

By Abigail Moellering, Layout Editor

I sat down with Professor Kim Reiff, Associate Professor and Chair of the Art Department, to chat about the changes occurring within the Art Department. We met in Prof. Reiff’s cozy office on the second floor of Mount Memorial.

Reiff first addressed the new professor in the Art Department, Professor Richard Wenjema, who is the Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design.

“Professor Wenjema’s specialty is in human-centered, user-engaged design,” Reiff explained.

The Art Department is very excited to have Prof. Wenjema’s skill set as part of the team. The department has also welcomed Katrina Fogerty as a part-time fine arts instructor.

Regarding the possibility of new art classes being added to the syllabus, Reiff said, “We are modifying the current content to advance it to better align with what is going on in the industry.”

Reiff was enthusiastic about putting the emphasis on bringing the current classes up to a higher level, thus elevating the entire department, rather than adding a whole new section of classes.

Anyone who even casually observed art is able to track the increase in digital arts over the past years. I asked Reiff about how this trend is going to influence the Art Department at Grace and if we are going to see a decrease in fine arts paralleling the increase in digital arts.

“Any designer who is good at what they do will be able to understand traditional art forms, as well as digital ones,” Reiff explained. “The majority of graphic design jobs are expecting employees to possess a well-rounded set of skills. The Art Department relies on fine arts as a basis for the graphic arts. We will always need both.”

Reiff also talked about the idea of “visual communication.” She explained that visual communication is simply the name for what graphic designers have been doing for years.

“Designers are expected to consider the longevity and effect of their designs. My belief is that in order to be a good designer or artist, you need an understanding of the human condition,” she said.

Reiff had these words of support for incoming students and underclassmen: “The more you know about art (history, forms, etc.), the more you can use that information to support all of your artistic endeavors. Drawing I is very important for visual understanding.”

She went on to explain that whether you want to work in film, advertising or web design, having a solid background in traditional art forms is going to help you build a very strong foundation.

“It is important to explore how you can use art as a medium for understanding, prayer and worship. Our goal in the Art Department is to help students understand how to respond to art with a Christ-like perspective,” Reiff said.

Reiff also emphasized how important it is to the faculty to help students engage in art they do not understand and teach them how to have compassion on artists who are telling their story through their work.

Her final piece of advice to underclassmen was, “Having art as a calling and the vehicle through which you make a living is a privilege. Our art is meant to reflect our creator and serve the human condition by influencing healing, joy and reflection.”

I then asked her what she wanted to say to upperclassmen and graduates entering the job market.

“Art is a part of your soul, and others can see by your excellence what your character is,” Reiff said.

Reiff’s passion for her work showed when she added, “It is such a privilege and joy to be here and to work with students that are so passionate and caring for their journey, each other and their environment. They are very intentional, and it is a joy to come alongside and help them navigate. Our goal is to help set our students up for success.”