Until Feb. 26, the Wilson Gallery in the Krannert Fine Arts Center will be displaying works from four faculty members within the communication and design arts department.
These faculty members have juggled full-time teaching positions while maintaining their professional practices outside of the classroom. The exhibition boasts published books, paintings, photographs, videos and even 3D design work.
Instructor of Art Tai Lipan, Professor of Communication Dr. David Baird, Associate Professor of Visual Communication Jason Higgs and Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Arts Jack Lugar have their works of various media on display.
“Universities celebrate the work that their faculty do in terms of research or book-writing,” said Lipan, who serves as AU’s director of galleries. “In our field, exhibiting our work is the way that we stay engaged with what faculty do in their professional development, so it’s important to make that space for faculty to do that.”
Lipan, who joined AU faculty in 2002, is a working studio artist who has exhibited her work nationally. On display in the gallery are her recent paintings, which use hand-cut and painted layered wood to symbolically depict “the dramatic collisions of weather, light and the landscape.”
“I think it’s important for students to see the work and see where we’re coming from,” said Lipan. “It’s important for us to be transparent about where we’re coming from and I think it’s important for students to see it—for them to know [and] see that that we’re still making time and space to do professional work; maybe it’s not evident to students how hard that is to balance things—to exhibit your work while you’re trying to make work, exhibit work, have a full-time job and have a family.”
Lugar, who joined full-time faculty in 2016, has several items on display in the gallery—several photographs and a collection of his published books.
Lugar has seven published books, which range from children’s fiction to nonfiction comedy: “The Starving Artist’s Diet,” “Hollywood Break-In: Launch your Entertainment Career,” “Sessi and the Gate to Hel,” “Sessi and the Race to Odin” and the chapter book series “The Katz Pajamas.”
Prior to becoming an accomplished book author, Lugar was a television writer and producer, with writing credits including “Wanda at Large” and “From the Top.”
“When I was a kid… I did a lot of theater and then I did commercials and had an interest in that, especially film and television.” said Lugar. “ Freshman year of college, I had to write a paper and… I wrote it and the teacher liked it. Then, I took a creative writing course I think my junior year and just started getting a lot of positive feedback to what I was writing. It was like, ‘Oh, actually, I kind of get it. I understand these concepts of timing and flow.’”
According to Lugar, this love of writing merged into his career of sitcom-writing and screenwriting. Upon leaving Los Angeles, he still found himself wanting to write and decided to explore the route of self-publishing.
“I was like, you know what—I don’t have a publisher to publish my books. I can do it on my own,” said Lugar. “Because I could do it on my own, that gave me the control. I started writing books and merged into doing the children’s books to the young adult novels. It was just this process—the freedom to be able to create and publish and have control and ownership.”
Higgs, who joined the department in 2015, is displaying his studio design pieces that were created with a 3D printer and laser cutter, a medium that he has been mastering over the course of his career.
“I’ve been doing this off and on not with my own stuff for 15 years or so,” said Higgs. “When I was at Ball State, I went to their engineering department to use their stuff there, and when I came here, Engineering moved in downstairs and they got a laser cutter. It’s just pretty much whenever I had access to it.”
Higgs explained that the most time-consuming aspect of these projects are the design process.
“You watch any YouTube video and think, ‘Oh, in three minutes, I can make something like this, obviously’—which is not the case,” said Higgs.
To illustrate the process of trial-and-error that goes into each art piece, part of Higgs’s display in the gallery features his “failed” attempts at creating a commissioned piece.
“I mean, literally, this is a portion of all the failures that happened along the way to get to that,” said Higgs.
Baird, who has been at AU since 1990, serves as the chair of the department. His display consists of a collection of videos displayed on a computer screen in the gallery.
While Baird’s interest in video is somewhat new, he has worked with visual media for much of his life.
“I’ve been interested in photography since I entered a sixth-grade photo contest at school. I submitted an unremarkable snapshot of my friend’s puppy,” said Baird. “I got more serious about it in college—learning how to use a darkroom and so on. I ended up doing a fair amount of work-related still photography for a decade or so, and then I continued to shoot for fun.”
However, as the field of communication began to dive into the worlds of audio and video production, Baird wanted to grow his knowledge.
“I wanted to get better at some of the new storytelling techniques, so I used a sabbatical to make progress on storytelling in audio and video,” said Baird.
Baird’s display in the gallery features video pieces he produced for fun, friends and even non-profit organizations.
“I often tell students that any medium can be powerful,” said Baird. “One person might prefer to be immersed in a piece of literature, while someone else loves the movies or theatre. It’s all great.”