Program Focus Areas, Honor Society Highlight Changes to Department of Art and Visual Culture

The Department of Art & Art History at Lebanon Valley College is now the Department of Art & Visual Culture. This transition reflects a number of the new and exciting changes occurring within the department that address the interests and career goals of current and prospective students.

According to Dr. Grant Taylor, chair of art & visual culture and professor of art history, the term ‘visual culture’ better encapsulates the expanded scope of what the department now offers through the recent addition of professional focus options for students. Students have seven different options that will help prepare them for graduate study and future careers: museum and curatorial studies, art and architectural history, studio art and design, film and media arts, arts business and management, art therapy and wellness, and art conservation science. 

“Our professional focus options are central to offering students a pathway to rewarding careers or graduate opportunities in the cultural arts,” says Taylor. “More interesting thematic courses with immersive components and specializations will help develop students toward a particular vocation,” he explains.

Taylor also plans to augment current programming through connections with the College’s other humanities departments in a reciprocal relationship based on the transdisciplinary model. This collaborative endeavor is called The Transdisciplinary Collective. He believes that a more distinctive program, strengthened by collaborative efforts and new media technologies, will assist the department in building a more effective identity for future recruiting. 

New studio art adjuncts, such as contemporary figurative artist Isaac Pelepko and renowned war artist Michael Fay, joined the program to enhance students’ experiences. Taylor feels that this will help to further revitalize the program and differentiate it from other undergraduate art programs.

“The department faced fluctuating enrollment when offering a traditional ‘comprehensive’ curriculum that differed little in scope to that of our peers. Thus, we saw an opportunity to build innovative ‘thematic’ courses around our established strengths, while eliminating curricular offerings that are restrictive and mirror our peers,” recounts Taylor.

This year, the department has reached record student enrollment. Taylor attributes this increase to the department’s structural changes, as well as new promotional efforts. Redesigning mailers and adding high school visits in the surrounding counties has kept Taylor busy, and he enlisted current students to help with these efforts.

“I sent out artworks completed by current students, with personal notes from those student artists, to students applying to LVC for art—some 36 students in all,” details Taylor. “The artworks were screen prints completed in the printmaking studio last semester, and the accepted students loved receiving art from current students.”

In addition to changing course offerings, other new opportunities are available to accepted and current students. Accepted students now also have the possibility of receiving departmental art scholarships if they submit their art portfolios for departmental review. Current students may join the inaugural Iota Rho chapter of Kappa Pi, an international art honors society. Taylor identified Audrey Riley ’18 as the catalyst for the establishment of the chapter, and hopes that it creates cohesion between majors and minors while becoming a nexus for the visual arts on campus.

“I hope enrollment continues to climb and students really find the professional focus options as effective pathways to their chosen career or graduate school as we continue to build on the successes of the last year,” he confirms.