Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with Alan Mette, executive associate director of the University of Illinois School of Art + Design. In the Sept. 9 newspaper, we'll have a visit with Jim Downey, owner of Prairie Fire Glass in Monticello.
Q: Is this your work?
A: Yes, they're initially based on the concept of fishing lures and are called "Not My Father's Fishing Lures." They are derived from the concept of what a lure is: something that lures you in, but at the same time, has danger. They're carved of a foam material and covered with graphite.
Q: You're the executive associate director of the University of Illinois School of Art + Design. Does that leave you much time for your own creative work?
Q: Are you still teaching?
A: I am. I teach a large orientation class for all first-year art and design majors. It's called Contemporary Issues in Art and Design. I have different presenters come in and talk about contemporary issues in graphic design and other areas so students have a holistic idea of who we are and what we do. And we take the students on two field trips to Chicago. The first is on the Friday after Labor Day. We go to the gallery openings, the Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Art. The second is in November; the reason we go then is to go to SOFA Chicago (an international art fair at Navy Pier). It gives us a chance to talk about the marketplace and a number of other situations. The goal of these field trips and the class itself is to have the students bond so that no matter what their major, they stay connected over the next four years and support each other.
Q: How many students are there in the school?
A: About 500 undergraduates and about 100 graduate students.
Q: What are the more popular majors?
A: There is strong interest in design, both graphic and industrial.
Q: Will the school be replacing retirees like Ron Kovatch, Timothy van Laar and Ann D. Hedeman?
A: We're looking at a number of new faculty searches for next year, so it's very positive. Tim is teaching for one more semester, and Ron will teach part time this fall and spring. Ann Hedeman went to the University of Kansas. We feel very positive about the future.
A: Probably because the news has been so bad for so long. We've tightened our belts quite a bit because we've been asked to the last four years plus. We're seeing opportunities now for some new hires.
Q: What do you think about the Faculty Exhibition here at Krannert Art Museum?
A: I think it's very carefully and spatially laid out to allow you to view the work more closely. It's a different kind of energy. I feel very strongly about it. I remember when the show was very, very dense.
Q: How's Figure One (School of Art + Design space in downtown Champaign) going?
A: We're very happy about it. Jimmy Liu will continue as coordinator this year. He's trying to find ways to connect more with the community and 40 North.
Q: What else is going on in the school?
A: We are going to have our first all-school reunion — different programs have had reunions in the past. This will be a reunion for graduates of all programs, all years. It's set for June 8, 2013. We're going to send out invitations and develop a website.
Q: What other things are going on?
A: One of the really positive things is we know we'll be able to hire new faculty in the future. Our numbers are going up a little bit, too, at the undergraduate level. I would say the incoming freshmen look as strong as ever. We have more international students coming in — a lot from China.
Editor's note: The School of Art + Design Faculty Exhibition will remain on view through Sept. 23 at Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, C.