Letter to the editor
Harsh view of art students brings attention
May 4, 2007
I read with interest Paul Winkels "Viewpoints" column, "Tips From a Graduating Senior" (Student Voice, April 27, 2007). While the comments were obviously intended to be humorous and/or satirical, his "monster tip" about dropping everything and becoming an "art major" raised the hackles of many of us in the art department. As Chair of the art department, I found Winkels' comments all too familiar in a society that benefits daily from the arts but is often naïve and dismissive about the defining role art plays in a civilized society. I can only guess that Winkels' exposure to the art majors and art faculty at UW-River Falls is cursory since his comments were so ill-informed. I don't mean to condemn Winkels' point of view. Clearly, art and the courageous role artists play in our culture, not to mention this campus, are not well understood.
In fact I'm feeling thankful to Winkels for pointing out the lack of awareness of the vital role of imagination, creative design, critical thinking and problem solving — these are, in fact, the hallmarks of every human endeavor and true accomplishment.
I don't mean to imply that every project put forward by every art major is worthy of great regard, and yes, there are some students that perpetuate a stereotype of inarticulate, take the easy way out, slap-it-together thoughtless creation. These few students, however, are not "A" students in our department or in any other department. As an arts program, we are confronted by a consumer population that is "art illiterate."
Little in Winkels' young life has not been touched by the creative process and, yes, many creators were once art majors. The clothes he wears, the bed he sleeps in, the roof over his head, the iPod he shuffles ... all have been touched by the concepts paramount in the curriculum of the Art Department at UWRF. I'm almost sorry this is Winkels' final semester with us. An ongoing dialogue toward greater understanding between the major areas of study here at River Falls could enrich us all. Thank you, Winkels, for raising a topic that can only benefit by exposure and open discussion.
Chair, Art Department