Sculpture students in the University’s Hartford Art School (HAS) are experiencing a unique chance to study with two renowned artists Jamie Isenstein and Michael E. Smith, who have displayed their art in Amsterdam, Berlin, Lisbon, Los Angeles, New York, Prague, and Paris galleries. These artists are on campus thanks to the Koopman Chair visiting artists program.
Each year, a Koopman endowed faculty chair is selected from a different area of study at HAS. Assistant Professor of Sculpture Colin McMullan says it’s incredibly rare that Smith and Isenstein—artists with international reputations for excellence—have been able to take time from their busy schedules to work with our sculpture students. “One of the ways to succeed in the arts is to build your network,” explains McMullan as he discussed the beyond-the-classroom benefits with the story of a recent grad who audited Smith’s class and then got a job helping to install Smith’s gallery show in Los Angeles. “The visiting artists can be a great reference for students when they apply for a grant, graduate school, or an art residency,” McMullan says.
After working with the visiting artists, Carlin Morris ’17, a sculpture major from Deep River, Conn., is creating work that’s radically different from what he has done before. He says it’s a fantastic opportunity for him to work with artists who have such a large body of work and an international track record. “They are very, very fresh and bring a lot interesting ideas into how I plan on making art in the future,” Morris says.
Isenstein, a mixed media artist, is having the class work on three major projects. “I walk the students through thinking about the theme and how, as an artist, they can use it as a strategy and how they can use research in their work,” she says. To help research of the theme of “deception,” the class is spending time outside the sculpture studio. They visited the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s Austin House in Hartford, which is 86 feet long, but only 18 feet deep. Future trips are planned to the PT Barnum Museum and the Skinner Museum’s Cabinet of Curiosities at Mt. Holyoke College.
Sierra Edwards ’19, a sculpture major from Manchester, Conn., says the one-on-one interaction with the artists and the field trips are giving her a different point of view when she approaches her work. “I ask myself, ‘what opportunity do I have in the future to do something different?’ This course has opened up a lot of things that I didn’t think about before,” she adds.