By Heather Noel
Photography by Ahna Hubnik
What I Love About My Job
I love supporting and advocating for the value of the arts and the value of public higher education. We live in a visual world and one that is changing rapidly. Artists and designers are able to magnify, make sense of, complicate and build human connections through mostly visual means. They are truth tellers and through their work are able to help us all tap into different ways of knowing, perceiving and experiencing life around us.
In an interview many years ago, cultural critic and author bell hooks was questioned about the accessibility of her writing. Her response was something like, “I’d rather write big ideas in small words than small ideas in big words.” My dissertation study is named for one of her books, Teaching Community.
Trends in Art Research
Trends in the arts include entrepreneurship and the business of the arts, community engagement and social justice, interdisciplinarity across the arts, glocal (local + global) considerations and a return to handicraft or making. Research in these areas also reveal a renewed commitment by universities to prepare art and design students to make a living after graduation. Part of the interest in social justice includes justice for artists and designers to be paid for their work, either through a for-profit sales model, employment in businesses or nonprofits, or public support of artists to contribute to a society that values the arts as inherent to our being.
Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial was an untraditional memorial in response to a divided country. The memorial simultaneously honors those who served and died in the controversial war while symbolically acknowledging the resulting rift of the American people.
I was a first-generation college student who started college as a mechanical engineering major. When I switched my major my sophomore year to graphic design, I did so at the contestation of my father, who believed the “starving artist” trope. I got a job right out of college as a graphic designer, but quit to join Americorps. I then lived in the Florida Keys for a year working with a high school marine biology teacher to develop artificial reef habitats as part of the students’ education. It was my introduction to education through service-learning at a local level that also had global outcomes. The students and I became certified to scuba dive, installed artificial reef balls and monitored them. That pedagogical practice made learning so real for the students and represents a model of how I view the potential for education. Some learning happens in classes, labs and studios, or online. Some learning happens outside the walls of a building in real-world environments. Young people are especially hungry for those kinds of experiential learning opportunities and the arts play a key role.