Cutlines: From the mid-career artist to the recent high school graduate, anyone will find what they need at CND’s art program.
Dan Tierney gave up a sociology major when he moved to CND’s art program.

College of Notre Dame’s art department and Wiegand Gallery are housed in an old, stone coach house off in a corner of the campus.

Charles Strong is director and curator of Wiegand Gallery located in the old Ralston coach house. The gallery includes exhibit space and a 50-seat theater.

The gallery opened in 1987 and features the art of emerging and mid-career artists. Note­worthy shows include Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown and James Weeks. The gallery’s current ex­hibition is Nathan Oliveira, Acqua Water Media Works on Paper, 1958-1989, and closes April 25.

The art department has two full-time staff members, Charlie Strong and Terry St. John, plus Betty Friedman, chair. Classrooms are down a half level in the same building, on the south side. Leading to the studios is a gauntlet of odd art arrangements, misapplied appliances and interesting drawings.

In one classroom a litter of simple watercolors on scraps lies in a heap. Student Dan Tierney plucks one at random to indicate his latest technique. Tierney was aesthetically hijacked from the sociology department.

Someone had to twist my arm to take an art class. I didn’t take any art in high school and it kind of terrified me because we had a really good art program in high school. Then I came here and it just kind of exploded,” he said.

Tierney has been an art student for a year and is a star pupil, according to St. John. A transplant from Connecticut, Tierney has found a place in the sun, if only temporarily. He has been through sculpting, photography, painting and three life drawing classes. “In life drawing, I’m into lots of inks, right now, which is really close to painting, in a way. I need to get back to the manual action of drawing,” he said.

The art department has a grip on him. The best thing about the department is, “the interaction with the teachers. Any time I want to talk to Terry or Charlie they give me as much conversation and help with any work that I need.”

“It’s a good program,” said St. John. “We get some really nice, talented students. It’s getting larger but it’s still manageable. A lot of our students go on to graduate school and do well afterwards.”

Art students come from across the spectrum. “You get a lot out of high school and you get international students that have been here for a while taking language courses, then you get re-entry students,” St. John said.

The school offers bachelor degrees in arts and fine arts. Entering students “can start from scratch with a basic design course. It’s a good basic traditional program,” said St. John.

Students take five semesters of drawing, four design courses, photography, materials and tech­niques and art history courses, painting and sculpture.

Student works are displayed around the college, in an on­going show in the library and in hallways. Every fall the Wiegand Gallery has a student show and students are encouraged to enter other shows as well.

The department has 42 majors and a lot of minors, said St. John. Required classes like Art History have 20 to 30 students, studio classes from 14 to 25 students. “We also have graphic design concentration people. Although they’ll take all the fine arts courses, their career (plan) might be more in graphic design or video graphics,” said St. John.

Sophomore Marilee Saier came . for the graphic design, but stayed for the fine art. “I never painted or any of that. I wanted to go into graphic arts, but the school is so good, I’m actually enjoying the painting and drawing,” she said.

Coming into the program, she thought she would be designing on a computer “not actually pro­ducing my own art, and now they’ve opened it up for me, where I wouldn’t have done it before.” A mother and returning student, she has already painted her son and is on to her daughter. “I love the atmosphere; they’re so supportive,” she added. Saier puts extra effort back into the program in return. She spear­headed the efforts to arrange a field trip to the recently-opened Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

On a sunny day in March, students were working on Pointillism, using the tip of the brush to make an image from dots. The class’ next assignment, a Cubist display including a disjointed tuba, a bovine skull and four bricks, waited for its moment in the spotlight.

According to the school catalogue, the art department “seeks the aesthetic, intellectual and spiritual fulfillment through development of creative intuition, technical competence and cultural sensitivity.” The department offers a bachelor of arts degree and a bachelor in fine arts degree. The BFA is normally required for graduate art degrees. Many of the courses fulfill general education requirements.

As seems to be true throughout the college, instructors make an extra effort to really communicate. “It’s very much on an equal level, talking from one artist to another, not like ‘I know what I’m talking about and you don’t,’ which I know happens at a lot of art schools,” said Tierney.

“They ask for my opinion. We hang shows and I’ll be working with (Strong) up there setting up the show and he’ll be trying to figure out which pieces to put together. If l make a suggestion, he listens, and more than half the time he’ll go with the suggestion,” said Tierney.

Department flexibility extends to odd hours. Tierney’s art teachers know he’s committed to the program so don’t require him to show up every day, “The other teachers to show up,” he said. He is taking five classes, four of which are in art. “I take one English class just to write, to think a little bit.

“I come down here at night. I come down here when I don’t have class and talk to them. It’s a very effective mentoring program as long as you show the slightest amount of interest.”

This article was written by William Cracraft/Freelance News Service and first published in 1998 in the 75th Anniversary Edition tabloid published by Alameda News Paper Group. Any accompanying photos were also taken by William Cracraft. It is reproduced here as a portfolio piece.


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