By Monica Kaufman
The question has often been asked of art majors, “So, do you just draw all day?” Although this type of question can be frustrating for artists, in a sense, the answer is yes: Studios and artwork consume the days, and many late nights, of University of Dallas art majors, though it is not simply the free-spirited, leisurely doodling that some may imagine. Anyone who has taken a university-level studio art course, art majors and non-art majors alike, knows it is not an “easy A.” It requires countless hours of work and the sincerest dedication and perseverance. Senior printmaking major Kathleen Ramirez is preparing for her upcoming solo exhibition, and demonstrates this perseverance in creating her artwork day in and day out.
“I usually get up early, which can range anywhere from 4:30 in the morning to 6 in the morning,” Ramirez said. She does this in order to spend the morning hours before classes in the studio, when her focus and attentiveness are at their best. This allows her to create at her fullest capacity, rather than running on empty into the wee hours of the morning. It also leaves her with plenty of open time to work through her obstacles without the late-night pressure.
“You always end up running into more problems than you’d expect, and you need that time to be able to problem-solve,” Ramirez said.
These problems that art majors strive to solve range from constructing a functioning car entirely out of cardboard in the Foundations art course or learning how to weld in Sculpture I and build stretcher bars for canvases by hand in Painting I to creating and curating an entire body of work for their senior solo exhibitions. No instruction manual or procedural list exists; instead, a constant process of trial and error, success and failure ensues as the artists try to convey the concepts they feel a need to communicate through their artwork.
“As [art professor Steven] Foutch said in printmaking, you’re getting a degree in problem solving, not just art,” Ramirez said.
After working several hours in the morning, Ramirez attends both academic and studio classes in the afternoons, finishing with her senior printmaking class several days a week. However, no matter where her schedule takes her around campus, Ramirez makes her home in the studio.
“Whenever I have breaks, I come back to the studio and work. Why? Because I love it,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez continues to work in the studio into the evening to finish the day’s work, but tries to make a habit of returning home to go to bed fairly early, in order to be ready for yet another early morning in the studio.
Ramirez said that, her schedule has transformed completely since freshman year. She used to wake up five or 10 minutes before her 8 a.m. classes and run to the Art Village in a daze. Subsequently, she would stay up until the early hours of the morning finishing projects and homework more often than not. As her path as an art major continued, she realized something had to change.
“It’s not like the schedule has gotten any less crazy — if anything more crazy — but it was a change in attitude, change in approach,” Ramirez said. This difference in approach, she said, came from the desire to maximize her time in the studio, which for Ramirez meant replacing late nights with early mornings.
Ramirez said that all of this dedication and time to create her artwork can at times not be apparent to people who only view the final product.
“Lots of artists will feel undervalued in general,” Ramirez said. “People will walk up to your piece and give it like five seconds and say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty,’ and then they walk off. And it’s like, ‘I spent a week on that — do you want to give it a little more thought?’”
Although the rest of the university may see some of the seniors’ and graduate students’ exhibitions around campus, most do not see the countless hours of work that go into planning, creating and installing that finished exhibition. The consensus among several art majors, including Ramirez, is that much — not all — of UD’s
“I feel like there is this separation partially because people are afraid of entering the Art Village,” Ramirez commented.
Whether people are afraid of venturing into the Art Village or they simply find no reason to, it seems that the lack of interaction between artists and the rest of the student body is what causes the art majors’ work to be underappreciated. This lack of appreciation does not seem to stem from intentional disrespect, but rather from a lack of inquiry into the artwork.
It is when students inquire about what art majors actually do that they walk away more appreciative and understanding of the work the artists put into it.
“When other students actually approach and sit down and ask about [my artwork] and stuff, I’m more than happy to talk about it,” Ramirez said.
“They see you in the studio working, and they’re like, ‘I had no idea that much work went into it,’” Ramirez said. “If more people were exposed to that, I think they would really appreciate the arts more.”
This outreach should not be a one-way street but should come from both the art department and the student body at large. Bucheli and Ramirez both stated that the outreach by the UD art community has grown in their time here. Through events like the Open Studio nights, when the UD and Dallas communities are invited to see the student artists in their studios at work, and the University of Dallas Art Association’s support for the arts, more connections between the Art Village and the rest of UD have been made, according to Ramirez.
In time, hopefully these outreach efforts by the art majors and the department will become more permanent events, and in return, hopefully the UD community at large will reciprocate these attempts to close the divide.
“I wish that, especially because UD is a liberal arts school, that [the art department] had more respect and integration throughout the campus,” Hotovy said.
With an open mind oriented toward dialogue between artists and viewers, the UD community indeed has the potential to bring the Art Village into the rest of campus, to further close the rift between hardworking art majors, such as Ramirez, and the rest of the student body. Doing so would fulfill the art majors’ dedication to their work and create a more enriched educational culture that fully embraces the “arts” aspect of the liberal arts.