Letter from Studio Art Director: William Wylie


From the Studio Art Director:


Hello everyone. It’s good to have the newsletter back. 


These have been extraordinary and unexpected times. It has been four years since the last newsletter and as you can imagine, we’ve been quite busy. In particular, the past six months of a world-wide pandemic and national protests over systemic racism and for real social justice have made it particularly challenging. But up until mid-March 2020, we had actively hosted more visiting artists, mounted more exhibitions in our galleries and halls, supported more faculty research from the local to the global, and participated in more cross-department and program collaborations than ever before. Working with our colleagues in Art History, The Fralin Museum of Art, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, and the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, as well as interdisciplinary departments and programs throughout the College, we continued to build on interest in our courses and programs. We not only served the many majors and minors in Studio Art but continued to find space in our classes for large numbers of students from across the university who wanted to connect to the creation of visual art. The spring 2020 semester, with its COVID-related cancellations and restrictions, brought unexpected trials to teaching and programming. On-line classes definitely created unique challenges for students (and their families), faculty, and staff. While we all survived the experience (somewhat scarred I admit), the coming year has presented more challenges, including hybrid in-person / on-line courses, limited access to studio facilities, and most of all, the loss of community. I’m not sure if or when things will ever be what they were before the pandemic, but I do believe that artists will remain an essential part of whatever new world we build in the future. Helping prepare our students for this critical role will continue to be our essential responsibility.  


Now, a few highlights; 


Every spring the graduating Studio Art majors mount thesis exhibitions in the halls and galleries of Ruffin Hall. This is usually an exciting time for students, their families, and faculty, as well as an opportunity for the greater university and Charlottesville community to see the outstanding work produced during the year. Sadly, this month-long series of events was cancelled this year because of the pandemic-related closure of the university. The faculty decided to publish a catalog, featuring two works by each student, and made multiple copies available to each so they could share their work with family, friends and the art world. This opportunity to re-boot our approach has inspired us to produce a catalog each year going forward, as a way of honoring and remembering our students’ work.  

Thanks to the significant endowment from the Peter B. and Adeline W. Ruffin Foundation, we hosted an incredible list of internationally acclaimed artists as the Ruffin Distinguished Artist in Residence. In the past four years this list includes Mark Dion, Laura Doggett, Terri Weifenbach, J. Morgan Pruett, Marisa Williamson, Guillermo Gómez-Peña (La Pocha Nostra), and most recently, Nick Cave. We have put the program on hold for 2020-2021 and look forward to developing an exciting program for 2021-2022. 

In addition to these Ruffin Visiting Artists, a remarkable list of international artists and art critics have given lectures and visited our courses over the last several years, including Paul Graham, Claudia Rankine, Charlotte Rodenberg, Werner Herzog, Cecelia Condit, Rick Alverson, Susan Johnson, Danny Lyon, Nicole Kassell, Charles Yuen, Peter Burr, Chris Yates, Jennie Martinello, Emmet Gowin, Linda Goode-Bryant, Lucy Lippard, Titus Kaphar, Guadalupe Maravilla, and Helen O’Leary. 

Studio Art’s own faculty have also been active and successful in their own research. While I direct you to the Faculty News section for the details of their individual accomplishments, there were a few important milestones worthy of highlighting here. Phil Geiger retired in 2018 after over 30 years of teaching scores of students in painting and drawing classes. Conversely, we welcomed two new tenure-track hires to our department; Federico Cuatlacuatl (new media) and Neal Rock (painting). Additionally, we have introduced a number of new part-time faculty members to studio art over the past few years, including Alice Bailey and James Scheuren in the photography program and Barbara Bernstein and Matt Shelton in our growing drawing classes. Each has brought new and exciting energy to our existing programs and helped broadened students’ awareness of the vast possibilities of art making in our culture today. Most recently, Shelton, along with Amy Chan, worked to develop our new ARTS2000 foundation program.  

Our support staff also grew over the past few years. We lost our beloved Ashley Watkins to an administrative supervisory role in another department. We miss seeing her (and occasionally her children) around Ruffin Hall. But we gained an outstanding new colleague, Dan Hoogenboom, who has taken over the administrative tasks of this department with professionalism and, luckily, with humor. We also added Liza Pittard to the staff as visiting artist, media and gallery coordinator. Liza graduated as a double major in Studio Art and Art History and was awarded one of our Aunspaugh Fifth Year Fellowships in 2018 before returning to help us manage our programing. Finally, while it’s not a new addition, it is always worth mentioning the remarkable work Eric Schmidt does for us all in Ruffin Hall. He makes it possible for us to do our jobs safely and efficiently, for the students to learn and experience the freedom of our facilities, and for the arts to happen in this department.  

I’d like to say stop by and see us when you are in the area but for now, be safe and keep us safe and stay away. Soon, we’ll invite you all back for one hell of a party! In the meantime, please stay in touch and keep us updated on what is happening in your life.  


William Wylie 

Commonwealth Professor of Art