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Liz Kowalchuk

Associate professor of design

Liz Kowalchuk

Anthony Mattingly/University Relations

Liz Kowalchuk, associate professor of design, studies the intersection of community art and art education. She is also president-elect of University Senate.

Years at current job: 14.

You’ve studied the intersections of community art and art education. What is most important for a community and educational entity to have a successful artistic relationship? Well, first, it’s important to recognize that there’s a great deal of overlap between art in community and art education. In many ways, community art IS fundamentally a form of art education. Art education in community settings such as art centers or city-sponsored programs may be more informal and aimed at achieving broader outcomes. Of course, community art also includes exhibitions, tours lectures and even projects that involve collaborations between artists and community members like the creation of murals. Successful art educators recognize the importance of good school-community partnerships and work to bring the community into their classrooms and their students into society. This circular, overlapping relationship depends on artists, art educators and community leaders recognizing the value of public participation in the arts.

As a professor of visual arts, what mediums of art do you specialize in, and how do you differentiate them from others? My focus is art education and my teaching duties entail preparing students to be art teachers in school and museum settings. My research involves educational activities and issues in public art. My visual arts background started in drawing and painting with undergraduate and graduate degrees in these areas. After completing my art teaching credentials, I taught art in the public schools for six years before returning to graduate school for a doctorate in art education. In the field, art educators are prepared to teach a broad range of studio areas, and my visual arts interests are diverse as well. Most recently, my studio work has focused on functional objects created from recycled materials, primarily textiles. I am also involved with a group of art educators concerned with design issues. For me, this includes public art and the built environment, community and individual identity. As with the relationship between community art and art education, there’s a lot of overlap.

You are president-elect of the University Senate and a senior administrative fellow. How do you feel these activities benefit you as a professor and a member of the KU community? It’s important to understand how the university works and that we have collective, institutional goals. Having a sense of the varieties of academic experiences and processes is useful, too. Getting to know individuals across the university and learning about research beyond my own area is valuable. I like being around people who are active and engaged. At the same time, the arts can provide a unique contribution to issues, problems and tasks. In my service activities, I try to provide an arts perspective and represent the arts as best I can.

In your opinion, why is it important for KU employees to be involved in governance? We are fortunate here at KU to have a shared system of governance that is valued at the highest levels of decision-making. It’s important for KU employees to be involved in governance because the success of the university depends on all our contributions. Diversity of vision, voice and experience is essential.

What do you enjoy most about your profession? I enjoy preparing art educators and helping people recognize the ways that the arts contribute to the quality of life and society. I like that I have the opportunity to continually learn within and about the arts and teach people about it. Who wouldn’t want a job where curiosity, creativity and innovation are required for professional success?

In your service with organizations such as the Lawrence Arts Commission and the Kansas Art Education Association, what have you learned about the artistic relationship between KU, Lawrence and the state of Kansas? We have a rich cultural and artistic heritage and striking natural beauty in Kansas. Many Kansans give to their communities and champion the arts across the state. In fact, active community service is a unique feature of those in the arts in Kansas. It’s common for Lawrence and KU artists, arts educators and arts supporters to be involved in local activities as well as functions beyond Douglas County. But, this is true of most individuals involved in the arts in Kansas.

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