By Elizabeth Kerin
Within our little university, there lies a little niche program, hidden within our little Art Village. While everything about the printmaking program might seem “little” — there is one studio, with one printmaking professor — the printmaking program here is quite a “big” deal due to the expertise that has surrounded it.
I had the privilege of taking a printmaking course with Juergen Strunck, who had been the resident printmaking professor at the University of Dallas for a shocking 45 years, in his last semester of teaching. Strunck, as I came to discover over the course of the semester, is a printmaking legend. So as the art department sought to hire a new printmaking professor, there was much discussion of who was going to be the “new Juergen.”
Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to speak to the new hire and ask him a few questions about how he felt about having such big shoes to fill. However, to compare Steven Foutch to Juergen does little justice to Foutch’s vision for the printmaking department.
“Pressure to be a new Juergen? Not at all,” Foutch said. “It would be impossible to replace Juergen. If you know Juergen — they broke the mold when they made Juergen.”
While Foutch’s words might suggest that he is run-of-the-mill, he has a highly interesting background and journey that brought him to UD. Foutch grew up on a farm and worked at a tire factory after high school, and in his eyes it was his blue-collar background that led him to printmaking.
“The meditative work was there — in the labor,” he said. After working at the factory for some years, he attended Southern Illinois University and earned a bachelor’s degree in printmaking. He continued on to graduate school at the University of Notre Dame and recalls the joy and exhilaration that came from being able to focus on making artwork.
“The senior year of my BFA program was the best year of my life,” Foutch said. “I finally felt like I was making artwork for the first time. It was a great experience. I kind of feel like that right now.”
Rather than expressing any anxiety, Foutch is all gratitude and excitement, praising Strunck’s many achievements.
“I’m in a good spot because of what he built,“ Foutch said earnestly. He has many big plans of his own for the printmaking program, and looks forward to building a digital print lab. He says he wants to modernize the program by integrating current digital design technology while maintaining the communal nature of the printmaking process.
Foutch lives what he preaches; he is learning alongside his students. He is currently creating work for an upcoming exhibition in Odessa, Texas, and says he seeks to reconcile the gap between his art and his role as a printmaking professor.
“My art is very, very loose,” he explained. “I don’t see my teaching as being extremely loose — maybe it’s a balancing act between one and the other. The way my work informs my teaching is that I like to be here amongst everyone.”
Though Foutch may not have Strunck’s 45 years of teaching experience, he says he is proud to have the opportunity to live up to his predecessor’s legacy.
He will pay tribute to Strunck by featuring him as the visiting artist in the matrix program this fall. Through the program, an investor who makes a $200 donation can attend the featured artist’s lecture and receive one of the prints that the artist creates in the showcase.
“The matrix program that Juergen has created is very well known,” Foutch explained. “Juergen invented Kickstarter and didn’t even realize it.”
Foutch says printmaking is his passion.
“[My role at UD is] to nurture printmaking as a waterhole for all artists to touch upon a little bit. Back to the communal idea of the shop — the instant access to critical dialogue — it’s to be an ambassador of that,” Foutch said.