Five Minutes with Don VanAuken, Adjunct Instructor of Art

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Don VanAuken serves as adjunct instructor of art, director of the Visual Arts Talent Scholarship program, and faculty adviser to Art Alliance, and also coordinates the Regional High School Student Art Exhibition. He has served OC for three years and especially enjoys working with the college admissions department to help high school students find their fit in the The University of Olivet family. As an artist, he has shown his work in multiple regional, state and national exhibitions in both painting and printmaking, two subjects he specializes in teaching.

Why do you love The University of Olivet?

I really appreciate the sense of community and the close relationships that I have with students and fellow faculty members.

Where does your passion for teaching stem?

My passion for teaching has been part of my artistic and educational experiences as an educator for the past 16 years. I have also worked in museum interpretation, as an instructor of art with various community colleges in Michigan, and as a teaching associate with the School of Art at Ohio University – where I received my Master of Fine Arts in painting. I love sharing my passions with others.

How would you describe your teaching style?

A professor’s responsibility is to provide his or her students with the self-motivation and critical thinking skills that will carry them beyond the classroom. These skills aid in the development of a sense of curiosity and desire in the creation of their art. Courses in the visual arts provide students the ability to broaden their experiences in both formal, conceptual arenas and to discover the technical language that will aid them in their development as contemporary artists. This is the motivation that has carried me throughout my teaching career, by staying current in the field, continuing my research of contemporary visual art, and producing art as an emerging career artist. This aids in the development of fostering ideas and creativity within the studio environment.

What is the average day in your job, or some of your unique responsibilities?

Along with teaching courses in the visual arts program like art history, drawing, painting and printmaking, I also serve as the director of the Visual Arts Talent Scholarship program, finding and aiding the admissions department in recruitment for the college. That allows me to travel the state and meet some amazing emerging artists. I also serve as the faculty adviser for the student art organization, Art Alliance. That includes planning professional development field trips and service learning opportunities.

Why would you encourage high school students to attend OC?

Students should attend The University of Olivet to be part of a strong and close community. They are sure to build close relationships with other students, professors, coaches and mentors, just like the relationships I have with fellow faculty members and students. The opportunity to build relationships also means that students will earn an individualized education, as professors will learn strengths and weaknesses of every student. Plus, OC is home to the innovative Riethmiller Blackman Art Building with professional studios, the Kresge Foundation Art Gallery, a Mac computer lab and much more.

What do you look forward to in your role?

I really look forward to our annual senior exhibition every year, and this year’s exhibit features work by three incredible artists: Daniel Neugent, a visual arts dual discipline major with a concentration in business; Colton Parish-Miller, a double major in graphic design and studio arts, with printmaking, painting and sculpture as his foci; and Kaila Redfield, a studio arts major with a passion for ceramic. Check it out through May 19! I also am really excited for the Regional High School Student Art Exhibition, coming later this year.

What is the number one piece of advice you share with students?

Preparation and execution in everything you create. Don’t be afraid to take chances in your artwork, I will make ten paintings and hate about eight of them, and part of the process of being an artist is to learn from your mistakes.

What is an interesting or little known fact about yourself?

My wife and I just recently bought our first home in the Olivet area. It is an old farmhouse from 1915. We also love fishing, camping, hiking and anything outdoors, which makes Olivet a wonderful home for us.

View the exhibit, “There Was Once A Road Through These Woods” by Professor VanAuken at Kalamazoo’s May Art Hop Friday, May 4. His works will be on display from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Ninth Wave Gallery.

Visit campus to learn more about the visual arts program at The University of Olivet, and request to meet with some of the outstanding professors, like Professor VanAuken, to hear about all the great opportunities for Comets. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu for questions.


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