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History of the School of Art, Design and Art History

 


 
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History of the School

MAKING HISTORY: THE SCHOOL OF ART, DESIGN AND ART HISTORY 1908-2010

James Madison University was originally established as the Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg by the Virginia General Assembly on March 14, 1908. Dr. Julian A. Burruss, an art educator who taught manual and industrial arts, was selected as the first president. After a year of developing curriculum plans and building two buildings, the school opened on September 28, 1909 with 150 women and a faculty of 15. From the very beginning the study of art was an important part of the curriculum. Dr. Burruss wrote in the first catalogue: "The complete Normal School must be equipped to train teachers in agriculture and other rural arts, in cooking and sewing and other household arts and in drawing and other manual arts." Indeed, manual arts were an area of special interest to Dr. Burruss. Prior to his appointment as president he taught courses in "The Place of Industrial Branches in Education" and "Theory and Practice of Teaching Manual Arts".

Actual art training began in 1909 with Mattie A. Speck of the Harrisonburg public school system employed as a part-time instructor in Manual Arts. Raymond Dingledine, in his book on the history of JMU, noted, "Art classes from drawing to woodworking were taught in Maury (Hall), by the quiet, reserved and dainty Mattie A. Speck who placed her emphasis on practical skills." Ms. Speck left the college in 1914, and Frances I. Mackey, a member of the class of 1913, and one of Speck's former students, took over her work.

By 1912, the collection of courses taught by the Manual Arts Department had become known as the "Industrial Arts Program". Classes in drawing, handwork and woodworking were emphasized. Beginning in 1911, courses in Art Appreciation and Art History were introduced by Ruth Hudson as part of the offerings of the Manual Arts Department and were required for most students. Two years later, in 1913, courses in drawing and handwork for the primary grades become part of an elective curriculum for students completing the two-year professional program in teaching. After 1914, all students in the Primary-Kindergarten program took these courses, and students pursuing Intermediate and Grammar Grade work took drawing and handwork courses especially designed for the grammar grades. When a separate program for High School teachers was instituted in 1915, Advanced Drawing was also required.

In 1914 the name of the institution was changed to the State Normal School for Women in Harrisonburg. A real turning point, however, came in 1916 when the General Assembly authorized the institution to grant a Bachelor of Science in Education degree. Creation of the new baccalaureate degree resulted in the adoption of higher entrance requirements and academic standards for the institution. As early as 1910, summer sessions became a popular feature for the college and required the employment of additional Manual Arts instructors. During these early years, Edmonia B. Shepperson, supervisor of Manual Arts in the Richmond Schools (1912-14,1916), Kathryn B. Roller, a Hampton, Virginia drawing teacher (1917-19), and Julia S. Wollridge, supervisor of drawing in the Richmond Public Schools (1916-18, 1921-24), were employed to teach summer classes.

When Julian Burruss resigned to assume the presidency of Virginia Tech in 1919, he left behind a campus of six limestone buildings, an enrollment of over 300 students, and a faculty of 26. The second president, Samuel P. Duke, would direct the institution from 1919 to 1949. Despite financial constraints caused by the Depression, Samuel Duke oversaw the completion of many new buildings, including Alumnae, Sheldon, Johnston and Reed (now Keezell) Halls, two new dormitories, Converse and Cleveland, a major library, and Wilson Hall, which would become home to the art program for over 30 years.

ALIMAE AIKEN YEARS - 1922-1957

In 1922, Alimae Aiken, M.A. in Art Education (North Texas University), replaced Frances Mackey as department head. With Ms. Aiken's arrival, the Department of Manual Arts was reorganized into the Department of Fine and Industrial Arts. Ms. Aiken would serve as the art department head for the next 35 years, until she left JMU in 1957. During the period 1920-35, the art program continued to grow and expanded its course offerings. An art appreciation course was established, and became a required class for Students preparing as kindergarten, primary, or grammar grade teachers. In 1924, the designation as a Normal School gave way to the new institutional name "Harrisonburg State Teachers College" and in 1931, the art program was assigned to the third floor of Wilson Hall. The department's principal studio classrooms and faculty offices would remain in Wilson Hall until the construction of the Duke Fine Arts Center (now Duke Hall) in 1965.

In 1928, Grace M. Palmer, M.A. in Art Education (Kansas State), became the second full-time member of the Art faculty. Four years later, the 1932 student yearbook listed Ms. Palmer as an "Associate Professor of Fine Arts" and Ms. Aiken as a "Professor of Fine Arts." Together, Ms. Aiken and Ms. Palmer offered courses known as "Primary Art" and "Grammar Grade Art", and beginning in 1930 a new course, in Painting and Drawing. In 1933, the department added classes in Art for Elementary Teachers and Art Education, and in 1937 added a class entitled "Art for Secondary Teachers."

In 1938, the institution became a multi-purpose college and was renamed Madison College. As a multi-purpose college the curriculum was expanded, but courses in Art Appreciation and Art Education continued to be required for most students preparing to become teachers. During the years of World War II, teaching duties were handled by Elizabeth Davis (1940-45) and Glada B. Walker, who replaced Miss Palmer in 1943. At the end of WWII, the Fine and Industrial Arts Department was renamed the "Art Department", Ms. Aiken reassumed her role as department head, and a course entitled "Basic Art" replaced General Art and Art Structures as the beginning art course in 1947. During this period, enrollment in art courses increased, work in crafts expanded, and a course in commercial art was introduced. The year 1945 also saw Ms. Frances Grove join the JMU Art Department faculty.

The inauguration of Madison College's third president, G. Tyler Miller, occurred on Dec. 10, 1949. Dr. Miller replaced Samuel Duke, who retired because of ill-health. President Duke left behind a college with an enrollment of over 1,300, and a physical plant valued at around $4 million. During Dr. Miller's administration, Madison College moved forward with an ambitious building campaign, and sought to become a diversified, coeducational institution. In 1966, Madison College became fully coeducational. Among the many buildings put up during President Miller's tenure was the Duke Fine Arts Center (now named Duke Hall) completed in 1965. This structure was initially designed to house the Art, Music and Theater Departments. Duke Hall continues to house a majority of the School of Art and Art History's functions, along with the School of Theater and Dance's main stage and scene shop. The School of Music vacated Duke Hall for new facilities in 1989. Dr. Miller also reorganized the academic structure of the college during his presidency. Four Divisions were established: Humanities, Natural Science, Social Science and Teacher's Education. The Art Department was placed in the Division of Humanities under the leadership of Dr. Louis Locke. Dr. Miller also helped establish a new core-curriculum in 1953 that included a course entitled "Art in General Culture". This course continues to be offered as a part of the present day JMU General Education program. Graduate programs were also added during Dr. Miller's tenure. The first graduate degree was offered in Education, but later Master of Science and Master of Arts degrees were added. Coursework in art education was available as a part of the MA in Education degree, but a separate MA major or minor in art education was not approved until 1966.

In 1957, Miss Aiken retired and was replaced by Dr. Crystal Theodore. From its beginning in 1909 through 1957, the program had established a strong reputation for art teacher preparation and graduated a significant number of art educators.

DR. CRYSTAL THEODORE YEARS - 1957-1968

In September 1957, Crystal Theodore, Ed.D. (Columbia), succeeded Alimae Aiken as head of the Art Department. In addition to Dr. Theodore, Madison College employed two other art instructors at this time; Glada Walker, an Associate Professor, and Frances Grove, an Assistant Professor. During her term as department head, Dr. Theodore initiated a major curriculum overhaul and hired several new faculty. One such course adjustment involved eliminating the practice of carving soap bars as sculpture. In 1959, Dr. Theodore hired Dr. David Diller, a ceramist. The next year, Dr. Theodore hired Mr. Ken Beer, a sculptor. Upon the addition of professors Diller and Beer to the faculty, a serious departmental revision began. Many old courses were dropped, and new courses such as graphic arts, ceramics, aesthetics and more art history were added.

In 1958, the Art Department still occupied parts of the third and fourth floors of Wilson Hall, at a time when there was no elevator. Faculty "offices" were screened-off corners of lecture rooms, and the department went without secretarial help until the school's current senior secretary, Ms. Frances J. Dovel, was hired in July, 1968. On completion of the Duke Fine Arts Center, Dr. Theodore took a semester's leave, after which she stepped down as department head. At the end of her tenure, the department had grown to 9 full-time faculty that included Jerry Coulter, Dr. Martha Caldwell and Ken Szmagaj. Dr. Theodore retired as a Professor Emerita in 1983.

DR. DAVID DILLER YEARS - 1968-1980

Dr. John David Diller, M.F.A., Ph.D. (Ohio State), assumed the role of department head in 1968. Dr. Diller's term as department head would see a rapid increase in the size of the faculty and student enrollment. Also, the program's curriculum would continue to evolve into a more professional and cohesive structure ultimately resulting in the department's professional accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The growth of the art program and the expanding number of faculty directly related to the early efforts of Dr. Ronald E. Carrier, the university's fourth president.

In 1970, Dr. Miller announced his retirement, and in January 1971, Dr. Ronald E. Carrier became the school's fourth president. At the time of Dr. Miller's retirement, Madison College enrolled close to 4,000 students, the faculty numbered nearly 300, and the value of the physical plant was estimated to be worth at least $30 million. Dr. Carrier was a 38-year-old economist and came to Madison College from Memphis State University, where he had been serving as vice president of academic affairs. As an undergraduate at East Tennessee State University, Dr. Carrier had been an art appreciation student of Dr. Crystal Theodore. Dr. Carrier moved quickly to increase the academic offerings and the enrollment at Madison College, and developed an intercollegiate athletic program for men. As a reflection of the school's growth and expanded mission, the name of the institution was changed to James Madison University in 1977.

At the beginning of Dr. Diller's tenure, the art program employed 9 faculty and listed 34 courses in its curriculum. By the conclusion of his tenure, the program had grown to employ 24 faculty, 2 professional staff and an expanded range of professional course offerings covering specialized studio areas in graphic design, interior design, printmaking, metals, and fiber arts. During the 1970s, Dr. Diller hired eleven faculty and one staff member. Joining the faculty during this time were Rebecca Humphrey, Barbara Lewis, Ron Wyancko, Steve Zapton, Gary Chatelain, Jim Crable, Alan Tschudi, Dr. Kathleen Arthur, Dr. Phil James, Jack McCaslin, Masako Miyata and staff member Christina Updike. Hiring continued into the early 1980's when Dr. Diller brought gallery director Stuart Downs and art historian Dr. Linda Halpern to JMU. Several other faculty members were hired during Dr. Diller's era, but have since left the university. Notable among this former faculty was the first African American faculty member employed at Madison College. At the end of Dr. Diller's tenure, the visual arts at JMU had grown into a full-scale professional program. The B.F.A. and M.F.A. were added to its degree offerings, and efforts were underway to seek professional accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The growth of the art program, however, had created a pressing need for more space. Occupying less than one-third of the available square footage in Duke Hall, the art department was desperate for office and classroom space of any kind. In response to this need, some classrooms were moved into parts of portable trailers and former residential homes situated apart from Duke Hall. Other studios, supporting fundamental elements of the curriculum, were located into basement areas of residential or academic buildings located across campus. Printmaking took occupancy in the basement of Converse Hall, painting and drawing moved into the original women's gymnasium located in Ashby Hall, and sculpture and three-dimensional design occupied the basement garages at the rear of Harrison Hall. Dr. Diller stepped down from his post as department head in 1980, and rejoined the faculty. During his 12 year tenure as department head the program graduated over 359 art majors. He retired with the rank of Professor Emeritus in 1992.

DR. JAY KAIN YEARS - 1980-1989

Dr. Jay D. Kain, Ph.D (Minnesota), assumed the position of department head in the Fall of 1980. Dr. Kain, a well-known art educator, had been hired to fill the position of department head through a national search. At the beginning of Dr. Kain's tenure the program employed 24 full-time faculty and 2 staff members, and was one of 5 departments organized as the College of Communication and the Arts headed by Dr. Donald McConkey. Reflecting the continuing growth of the university, several new positions were soon added to the department. Dr. Robert Bersson was hired in 1981. Mr. Stuart Downs' status was upgraded to full-time instructional staff and director of the Sawhill Gallery in 1984. A part-time secretary was added to the department staff in 1985, and the position of slide curator filled by Ms. Christina Updike received a major reclassification of job description and title. Dr. Kain's tenure also lent leadership to a number of major events. Professional accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), initiated under Dr. Diller, was completed in 1981. Dr. Kain also oversaw the final approval of the department's MFA in studio art degree, JMU's first "terminal degree". The newly approved program enrolled its first students in 1980-81 and officially "hooded" the first graduates in the commencement ceremonies of 1984. The department continued to evolve as a professional program with an emerging regional and national reputation. Significant events during Dr. Kain's tenure included JMU's sponsorship of the 1981 Southeast College Art Conference, SECAC, initiation of the Orkney Springs (VA) Summer Art Workshop in 1982, and the statewide Virginia Art Teachers Summer Workshop held on the JMU campus in 1983.

By the mid-1980s, JMU's growing academic reputation had begun to see a large increase in the number of applications for general admission. In response, JMU began to use increasingly stringent academic standards to guide its admission's process. These new standards tended to perceive applicants wishing to major in art as being less competitive in their academic preparation. Dr. Kain responded to this situation by helping establish an art portfolio review process to advise the Admissions Office about students wishing to major in art at JMU. Adoption of a portfolio review saw the number and quality of art majors increase significantly in the years following its adoption, and today provides the school with a stable enrollment of talented students. With the portfolio review process in place, the department wished to expand its ability to attract and enroll top students. Towards this goal, Dr. Kain helped initiate an annual art auction to raise money to be used for art scholarships. In the beginning, department faculty and students worked together under the leadership of Professor Jack McCaslin to organize the event, and raised about $9000 over a three year period. Then, beginning in 1986, during Dr. Kain's last full-year as department head, the auction received the organizational assistance and financial support of the JMU Foundation. With the Foundation's help, a larger, more publicly visible "JMU Art Auction" was first held in April 1987 at the JMU Convocation Center. Organized as a black-tie affair, exhibit and dinner extravaganza, this formal event was later moved to the Homestead Resort. Since its beginning, the JMU Art Auction has raised nearly

Dr. Kain stepped down in 1987 into full-time teaching with responsibility as the coordinator of the art education area. At the time Dr. Kain rejoined the faculty, the program offered three undergraduate degrees, two graduate degrees, and had graduated over 340 students. Dr. Kain retired in May, 2000 as Professor Emeritus.

DR. PHILLIP JAMES YEARS - 1989-1995

Dr. Phillip James, Ed. D. (Northern Illinois), an art educator with an expertise in art therapy, was appointed acting head of the Department of Art in August 1987. Within a short time Dr. James was appointed department head. Reflecting the growth and diversification of the program’s interests, the department was renamed the School of Art and Art History in 1992, and Dr. James’ title changed to director. At this time, the School of Art and Art History was one of five academic units within the College of Communication and the Arts, and Dr. James reported to the College’s Dean, Dr. Richard F. Whitman.

Enrollment in the visual arts continued to grow at JMU, especially in graphic design. Between 1988-1993 six new and/or replacement positions were added to the school’s faculty, three of them in support of the graphic design program. In 1988, Sang Yoon (graphic design) joined the faculty. Corinne Martin (photography) was hired in 1989 and Peter Ratner (computer animation, graphic design and advertising) joined the faculty in 1990. On the retirement of Dr. Diller, a decision was made to move his position to the graphic design area. In 1993, Trudy Cole-Zielanski (graphic design) and William Tate (interior design) joined the faculty. During Dr. James’ tenure many rapid changes and external factors challenged the school. In 1989, the Music Department moved into a new facility. After much debate, the school was given permission to take over Music’s former space in Duke Hall. Art faculty who had previously shared offices across campus moved into former music faculty spaces, but funding was not provided for office renovation or furniture. Because graphic and interior design students comprised more than 50% of the school’s majors, most of the "new" space in Duke Hall was assigned to these two areas. A planned renovation of Duke Hall was canceled outright due to an economic slump in State revenue and was never completed. Painting, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture studios remained outside Duke Hall due to a lack of space, and planned photo darkrooms were not made fully operational. Despite the increased number of faculty, staff and students, the operating and equipment budget remained basically unchanged during Dr. James’ tenure. With a budget already too small to support the existing program, Dr. James was forced to rely on the irregular allocation of state monies to provide for major equipment purchases, especially in the area of computing technology. Gifts to the school’s foundation accounts, and money raised through Dr. James’ Summer Children’s Art Workshop also helped support the program.

The year 1991 saw the program undergo a successful accreditation review by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and Dr. Kathleen Arthur leave her full-time art history position to assume the directorship of JMU’s international Study Abroad Program. Dr. Arthur would retain this position until 1996. One of the many bright spots during Dr. James’ tenure was the establishment of the Wampler/Liskey Endowed Professorship in 1992 and the Encore Artists Series in 1988. These two programs allow the school to schedule an annual series of visiting distinguished professors, artists and workshops for undergraduate and graduate students. Prominent artists and scholars who have visited JMU through these two programs include Philip Pearlestein, Mariam Shaperio, Faith Ringold, Elizabeth Murray, Robert Arnason, Bill Viola, Donald Kuspit, Lucy Lippard, Suzi Gablik, and Arthur Danto.

In January 1995, President Carrier reorganized the academic structure of the university. The College of Communication and the Arts was eliminated, and the School of Art and Art History, along with all other academic units of the now defunct College of Communication and the Arts, were incorporated into a College of Arts and Letters. Dr. Richard Whitman was appointed dean of the new college. Dr. Carrier’s restructuring of the university impacted heavily on the school’s faculty. Graphic and interior design faculties were reassigned in joint-appointments to the newly formed School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) and reported to Dr. George Johnson. Despite the turmoil produced during this period of change, the interior design faculty continued with a successful self-study and visitation for accreditation by the Foundation for Interior Design Educational Research (FIDER). Full FIDER accreditation was granted in the Fall of 1995 for a period of six years.

Dr. James stepped down from the director’s position in 1995, and returned to the faculty as a member of the art education faculty. At the end of Dr. James’ tenure the program enrolled approximately 325 undergraduate majors and 12 graduate students. During Dr. James’ eight years as department head/director the program had graduated 544 students. He retired with the rank of Professor Emeritus in 1997.

DR. COLE WELTER YEARS - 1995-2004

Dr. Cole H. Welter, M.F.A., Ph.D. (Texas) joined the JMU faculty as director of the School of Art and Art History in August 1995 after a national search. Dr. Welter, a well known painter and arts administrator, inherited a program employing 18 full-time faculty and 3 staff, a number that excluded 6 design faculty reassigned to the School of Media Arts and Design under joint appointments created as part of the new College of Arts and Letters. Soon after Dr. Welter's arrival, JMU committed itself to a five-year plan that would increase the size of the student body from 11,500 to 15,000. This plan had a dramatic impact on the School of Art and Art History, which saw its enrollment grow to over 520 majors by the beginning of the Fall 2000 semester.

The rapid growth in the size of JMU's student body occurred during a time when many of the art faculty originally hired by Dr. Diller were reaching retirement age. The combination of JMU's rapid growth and a large number of retirements saw the first years of Dr. Welter's tenure focused on recruiting several new and replacement faculty. In 1996, Dr. Welter hired two new art history faculty, and in 1997, hired Sean Mercer (sculpture) to replace Ken Beer, who had retired after 36 years at JMU. Between 1998-2000, Dr. Welter hired sixteen more faculty; four in art education, five in art history, two in graphic design and five in studio disciplines.

During 1996 and 1997, Dr. Welter also worked to have the jointly-appointed graphic and interior design faculty returned to the School of Art and Art History. Successful, this change helped reunify the original faculty assigned to the school. Following these personnel changes and new hires, the school employed 30 full-time faculty, counting Dr. Linda Halpern, who had become JMU's Dean of General Education in 1996. Besides recruiting new faculty, Dr. Welter faced several other pressing problems created by the increased size of the student body. Still located in Duke Hall and several scattered spots around campus, the studio and classroom facilities occupied by the school were over capacity and in serious need of renovation. In 1996, Dr. Welter secured funding to refurbish the lobby and corridors of Duke Hall and added new display space for two and three-dimensional student artwork. Also in 1996, Dr. Welter helped relocate and refurbish several studios. The printmaking studio was moved out of its basement location in Converse Hall into renovated space in Duke Hall. The Duke Computer Lab and Interior Design studios were upgraded with new computers and furniture, and the Duke Hall seminar room and three multimedia classrooms were equipped with new furniture and advanced digital projection technology. In 1999, Dr. Welter also helped secure state funding for new off-campus space to house the drawing and painting studios which were relocated from the basement of Ashby Hall. Efforts to solve the program's immediate space needs were coupled with a comprehensive initiative to address the long-term facility requirements for all of the arts at JMU. Continuing along these lines, Dr. Welter was instrumental in securing a larger studio space named the Studio Center, which currently houses many of the School’s studio and design programs. Working in concert with the directors of Music and Theater and Dance, Dr. Welter helped developed plans for a comprehensive "Center for the Arts" that was presented to Dr. Carrier in January 1996, and which has been adopted by President Rose as a centerpiece for JMU's future development.

In addition to enhancing the studio facilities for the School, Dr. Welter worked to establish the Duke Sculpture Garden as well as initiated the Harrisonburg Museum and Gallery Walk experience. He also was key in supporting the development and implementation of the Madison Digital Image Database, used for art history instruction.

Also during Dr. Welter's first year, the JMU administration committed itself to a renewed Art Auction. Reorganized during 1995-96, the school's seventh auction was held in April 1997 at the Homestead Resort, raising a record $65,000 for art scholarships. The success of the renewed event encouraged the JMU administration to commit to a permanent 3-year cycle for the auction, and in April 2000, the second Art Auction held during Dr. Welter's tenure raised another $50,000 for art scholarships.

Major program initiatives during Dr. Welter's early tenure focused on developing the dormant M.A. in Art History degree, creating a new sequence of Computer Animation classes, revising the Graphic Design program and developing a degree option in Industrial Design. The MA in Art History enrolled its first student in the Fall of 1997, graduated its first two students in the Spring of 1998. The Computer Animation sequence was implemented in the Fall of 1997 and has sent alumni on to work in prominent animation and special effects studios in the film, television and entertainment industries.

Collectively, during Dr. Welter's tenure, JMU's School of Art and Art History grew employ a teaching faculty of over 50 professionals (full and part-time) who were responsible for delivering a curriculum of over 155 courses, and that graduates an average of over 100 students per year from its pool of 520 undergraduate and 25 graduate students.

In 2004 Dr. Welter stepped down as director to rejoin the faculty. Dr. Marilou Johnson, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and eventually the Interim Dean of the new College of Visual and Performing Arts, served as Interim Director of the School of Art and Art History for the 2004 – 2005 academic year. During this year the school and the developing new college established the goals and mission for the college through a series of focus group discussions with faculty. In the summer of 2005 the board of visitors officially approved the new College of Visual and Performing Arts. That same year planning continued for the new Performing Arts Center located across the main JMU quadrangle. JMU President Linwood Rose proclaimed that it was the decade of the arts.

LESLIE BELLAVANCE YEARS - 2005-2010

In the fall of 2005 Ms. Leslie Bellavance, M.F.A. University of Chicago, joined the School of Art and Art History as director after a national search. Between 2005 and 2010 the school has directed attention to a Safety Initiative to improve the safety of all facilities and professionalize the art and design studios. The school, the college, and the university administration has continued to support this initiative. During this time a new staff position was added as Woodshop Supervisor and Safety Officer to oversee safe practices in the studios. Remodeling to improve ventilation and safety has been completed or is in the planning stage for most of the facilities. In 2008 funds for planning a complete renovation to Duke Hall were approved. Meanwhile, as a result of demolition to make way for the new Performing Art’s Center, the school’s student run gallery, artWorks, photography gallery, New Image, and graduate research space has moved into remodeled facilities in the Grace Street Building. New programs include the East Coast Sculpture Exchange, a collaboration with George Mason University, the University of Georgia, and JMU. The school continues to collaborate with the library on the development of the Madison Digital Image Data Base. The school also collaborates with the Madison Art Collection and the Institute for Visual Studies, both non-academic programs of the new College of Visual and Performing Arts. The school’s operating budget, supplies budget, adjunct faculty budget, and faculty development budget were all increased through initiatives and in collaboration with the college and Academic Affairs. 

Since 2005, numerous faculty members have been hired, with one of those positions being a new line in General Education. Faculty members hired during this period and who are currently teaching in the School are: Assistant Professor Aderonke Adesanya in Art History; Assistant Professor Sarah Brooks in Art History, Assistant Professor Sukjin Choi in Ceramics, Associate Professor Laura Katzman in Art History, Assistant Professor Aaron McIntosh in Fibers, Assistant Professor Rebecca Silberman in Photography, Assistant Professor Allyson Mellburg Taylor in General Education and Foundations, Assistant Professor Karin Tollefson-Hall in Art Education, and Associate Professor Lisa Tubach in Foundations. Gary Freeburg was also hired as the school’s Gallery Director. Faculty members retiring during this period were Dr. Kathleen Arthur, James Crable, Stuart Downs, and Barbara Lewis.

Long-time senior administrative assistant, Francis Dovel, retired in 2007 and Karen Gerard was hired to take her place. Eric Morris was hired as the new Woodshop Supervisor and Safety Officer. Part-time staff support positions in the art office and in the technology area have been replaced with Marsha Knott and Jennifer Edwards. In 2007, the Art Auction held at the Homestead in Warm Springs, Virginia on March 31 generated substantial support and excitement for the Programs of the School of Art and Art History. Over $160,000 was raised to support the scholarship endowment for art scholarships in the school. The current Art Auction endowment total is nearly $608,000. In 2008 The School of Art and Art History has benefited from two new scholarship endowments, bring the total endowment to $955,473, very close to the one million dollar mark. 

In 2007-2008, as James Madison University celebrated the Madison Century, the School of Art and Art History took the opportunity to reflect on a century of growth and accomplishment within the school, and beyond, through the talents of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The centennial art exhibition, “Duration, Generation, Exploration”, reflected a wide range of diverse art forms and scholarly research by the 45 participating faculty and faculty emeriti. In addition, 11 alumni exhibited work in a separate exhibition. A combined forum for art history and art education alumni also showcased many outstanding accomplishments of our graduates.

In 2010, Leslie Bellavance took a position as Dean at Alfred University. During Leslie’s time as Director of the School, she was integral to the development of the Grace Street Building, supporting both the artWorks and New Image Galleries. She was also key in providing support for the Institute for Visual Studies. In addition, Leslie did much to prepare for the proposed remodel/addition of Duke Hall as well as seeing the initial construction of swingspaces for those studio programs needing to move out of Duke Hall. Leslie’s experience and insight for diversity initiatives within the School and College were integral to the success of the Cultural Connections Artist-In-Residence program, which has resulted in two named artists who greatly impacted our school’s programming during their extended visits to our campus. In summer of 2010, Dr. William Wightman was selected as Interim Director for the School.

From humble beginnings, the wise stewardship of Dr. Julian Burruss and dedicated faculty such as Mattie Speck, Alimae Aiken, Dr. Crystal Theodore and Dr. David Diller, built a solid foundation for the success of today's School of Art and Art History. In the process their contributions, and the many thousands of other people associated with the history of JMU's School of Art and Art History, have created something far larger than themselves. The vision to build an environment where artists, designers, art educators and art historians may receive an outstanding education remains as robust as ever.

Today the School of Art and Art History joins the School of Music and the School of Theatre and Dance in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The college embodies a community of the arts with unprecedented potential. In the School of Art and Art History, more than fifty talented faculty and staff serve over six hundred majors studying art history, art education, studio art, interior design, graphic design and industrial design. The school’s programs are fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. The school has a strong commitment to general education and serves a broad population of the JMU student community in achieving an understanding of the significance of artistic expression in diverse cultures within a complex, contemporary global society. The development of the school’s programs encompasses the one hundred years of history and innovation on the part of the school’s leaders and faculty members, and the ambitions and creativity of its students.

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