School of Art, Art History & Design hosts Lincoln Public Schools high school art students

Associate Professor of Art Santiago Cal discusses the sculpture program with students from Lincoln Public Schools. Photo by Justin Mohling.
Associate Professor of Art Santiago Cal discusses the sculpture program with students from Lincoln Public Schools. Photo by Justin Mohling.

School of Art, Art History & Design hosts Lincoln Public Schools high school art students

calendar icon29 Oct 2018    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s School of Art, Art History & Design opened its doors to approximately 150 juniors and seniors from art programs in the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) on Oct. 26 for a special art day at Nebraska to allow students the opportunity to explore the specific disciplines offered in the School.

“We realized that for events, such as our Nebraska Young Artist Awards, we had limited participation from high schools in Lincoln, and we know there is a lot of talent here,” said School of Art, Art History & Design Director Francisco Souto. “We wanted to bring those students in to show them what they have to offer, and let them know that they can get a great education right in their hometown.”

Assistant Professor of Art Walker Pickering, who helped organize the day in cooperation with Lincoln Public Schools’ Curriculum Specialist for Visual Art Lorinda Rice, said the School wanted to organize an event like this to show the high school students what’s available in their own city.

“For the past four years since I’ve been here, I’ve been visiting Lincoln Public Schools, and I’ve been going specifically to photo classes and art classes to recruit for my program,” Pickering said. “And we’ve had a little bit of success with that, but most people don’t end up coming. And I think a big part of it is not that we don’t have what they’re interested in, but that they can’t see it. They can see pictures of it in a slideshow, and they can hear me talk about things. But without visiting campus, they don’t really get a sense of what goes on here, so this is an attempt to remedy that.”

Rice said Lincoln Public Schools asked their high school teachers to invite juniors and seniors who had an interest in art to be part of the field trip.

“In my previous work with the UNL department, we have talked about how bringing students to the campus can give them an engaging experience about the different departments, the variety of pathways in art and an opportunity to hear from graduate students and professors,” she said.

Pickering said Lincoln Public Schools has talented art students.

“I feel like the Lincoln Public Schools, in particular, have a large high school student population that is actively interested in art making and design and things like that,” he said. “And if they’re serious enough about that and if they want to go study it, they think they have to go to Chicago or Denver or Kansas City to a private art school to get the art school experience. Instead, they can come here to a comprehensive, four-year research university and still get an art school experience while getting a degree that is still broadly applicable to the world. The resources we have here surprise people, so just visiting campus allows them to see those things in action.”

The day began with a welcome in Sheldon Museum of Art’s auditorium.

“I think that’s a really exciting kind of connection that we’re making with the museum because that’s an impressive way to start the day—you walk into this beautiful space,” Pickering said.

Following a welcome by Souto and a talk by Professor of Art History Michael Hoff, the students then rotated for six sessions in the respective studio areas of Richards Hall and Woods Art Building.

Lincoln Public Schools provided lunch for the high school students, as well as busses and substitute teachers for the art teachers to attend.

“Lincoln Public Schools has been awesome, too, because they’re providing substitute teachers to cover the classes because these were juniors and seniors coming with their teachers, which I think is really kind of important and exciting,” Pickering said. “But to be honest, none of it would have happened if there weren’t some really great LPS art teachers. They’re always willing to work with us.”

The School of Art, Art History & Design is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) with highly regarded and nationally ranked undergraduate fine arts programs. Souto said being part of a leading land-grant research university offers students endless learning opportunities across the humanities and sciences. The diversity of our educational programs, with international activities around the world, also provides extraordinary historical and cultural engagement.
“The biggest question we get from students or parents is ‘What can I do with an art degree?’ We want to show students that just because you are pursuing something you love that maybe doesn’t seem like the practical route, you can take what you learn and go in so many different directions,” Souto said. “We have students who work in gallery spaces, who have worked on movies, who go on to teach at universities. Actually a handful of the Lincoln art teachers who are coming through graduated from our program and are now instilling their love of art in high school students.”

Pickering agreed with the value of an art degree.

“First of all, I think studying art and studying in the arts is really critical at this point in time because a lot of times parents and maybe students as well think of a degree like this is just something that’s kind of just for fun—and it can be fun,” he said. “But the reality is students learn creative problem-solving skills, and that’s something that other disciplines may not really be able to dive as deeply into. Just because someone studies art doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and just be a professional artist. They may do that, but they may also do something in a more traditional industry or a cutting-edge field like technology. What I’ve heard over and over again is that tech firms are often looking for people who can solve problems in unconventional ways, and that’s basically what we do all the time every day in these fields.”

The School of Art, Art History & Design hopes to do this type of event again and expand to other schools.

“Since this is our first event we wanted to start in our city, but we have plans to expand and have an open house for Omaha students next and then other regions like western Nebraska and so on,” Souto said. “We are hoping to have these events in the fall annually.”