Message from the Dean – November 12, 2018

First some good news:

Breanna Shellhorse is an ACM@UCO senior from Claremore, Oklahoma. She will be embarking on a prestigious weeklong internship at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, this January. The internship is through the Creative Mind Group which fosters opportunities for aspiring film professionals to prove their skills and value by interning with film studios, production companies, talent agencies, public relation firms and media outlets who can launch their careers. Congratulations Breanna!

Now a story:

I matriculated through elementary school in an oldfangled disciplinary paradigm. If I misbehaved in school, I expected a spanking. I vividly recall my parents sitting me down prior to my inaugural day of first grade, looking into my eyes and solemnly informing me that any physical corrective measures applied to my person in the classroom would be repeated at home. At age seven, I understood with absolute clarity that my parent’s solidarity with the teacher was unwavering. In the winter of 1970, I tested the veracity of their proclamation, and learned they were serious.

In northern Iowa, schools are not closed for snow. One February day at recess, after a fresh 6” covering blanketed the playground, my classmates and I bundled up in poufy coats and mittens and ventured into the snow-blinding sunlight for a game of duck, duck, goose. Miss Galbraith, the teacher in our first-to-third grade classroom, shuffled her snow boots through the newly fallen powder to create a wagon-wheel design. After completing her work, a group of excited children hopped into the pitch, and began a modified game of tag. I was one of the first kids tagged out, and I lost my temper. As my horrified classmates looked on, I trounced across the pattern that Miss Galbraith had meticulously compressed into the snow, ruining the game. I was captured, hauled inside, relieved of the additional padding of snow pants, and spanked. I spent the remainder of the day in mental anguish visualizing the sequel awaiting me after school. “Forgetting” to confess was not an option. My naïve character entertained no space for lies of omission, or commission. Upon arrival home, I acknowledged my misbehavior, begged for forgiveness in the hope of avoiding re-punishment, and ultimately endured my second spanking of the day when my father arrived home from work. Lesson learned.

I still believe it is preferable to “take my licks” when I’m wrong, then to dissemble. Although the level of meticulous honesty with my parents waned in high school, my overall belief in a life of integrity and transparency stuck with me, except in my artwork. My artistic oeuvre is based on the ability of ceramics to lie. The French call it trompe l’oeil, which translates as “fool the eye”. I work diligently with clay to create the illusion of rusty metal, old signs, wood and cardboard. Last week, I found a kindred spirit in the work of CFAD alumnus Erica Bonavida when I attended her opening in the Krottinger Family Gallery. Erica’s paintings are meticulous trompe l’oeil likenesses of fabric and textiles. These are grand illusions. Each work seems to whisper of a history with the fabric so painstakingly rendered. There are latent narratives ingrained in the textiles of a grandmother’s bedspread, a costume from a play, or antique lace. If you have the opportunity to wander through the galley, I encourage you do give the show a close examination. The textures are illusory, but the skill is honest.

As faculty and students in CFAD it is difficult to “fool the eye” or ears of our audiences. There is no college that so consistently offers the outcomes of their teaching or practice so openly for public consumption. With more than 200 events per year, the quality of our pedagogical success is on ready and continuous display. Our student artists and designers present their work in galleries, our musicians, actors and dancers perform on stage. There is a transparent honesty inherent in teaching the arts. Unlike other realms of knowledge where the “C” and “D” students sit at the back of the class before quietly fading away, the glorious successes, and cringeworthy shortcomings of our protégé’s are available for all to experience. I am proud of the faculty and students of CFAD, who fearlessly and honestly open themselves to criticism and praise. Next time you see or hear something that moves you, let them know. While honest correction is sometimes necessary and deserved, there is nothing more welcome than authentic praise.