Art Department Celebrates 50 Years

Photo courtesy Calvin College Art Department
Photo courtesy Calvin College Art Department

This semester, Calvin College’s art department is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Their campaign, “Celebrating Fifty Years of Light,” officially begins homecoming weekend this year and will culminate in a weekend full of activities in October of 2015. A web page with details about upcoming events will be available soon.

For the 2014/2015 academic year, “all art department events will be connected to the ‘Celebrating Fifty Years of Light’ campaign,” said art history professor Lisa Van Arragon.

“The crucial year is really 2015,” explained department co-chair, professor Craig Hanson, “We’re thinking of this academic year as a kind of reflection [and] culmination, marking the past 50 years, and then thinking of the next academic year as looking forward and articulating what we need to become.”

The department chose the theme of “light” to reflect the purpose of the art department at Calvin College. The theme addresses “the relationship between light and understanding,” says Van Arragon. “There is an obvious importance of light in the arts, but “also the double meaning of lightness (levity) that the arts bring to our campus and broader social community.”

The arts are also essential to Calvin’s identity as a Christian liberal arts college.

“Originally the arts were incorporated into Calvin’s curriculum and became a department because there was a sense that the arts really do contribute something meaningful to Christian communities,” says Hanson. Light is also important “in the sense of making you see the world more fully.”

Senior art history major Mattie Koppendrayer expressed her appreciation for the way she is learning to see the world more fully in art history classes at Calvin College.

“Our society is so visual,”  she says. “Art history prepares us to understand what a culture is trying to tell us visually from all different points.”

The campaign has given the department an opportunity to work and celebrate with alumni, students, faculty, emeriti, and the larger art community in Grand Rapids. Alumna Rachel Hyde has been instrumental in helping the department develop the mission and brand of the “50 Years of Light.”

“She’s been fantastic,” says Hanson, “It’s really been neat to see an alumnus get excited about the department. She’s donated tons of time into it.”

Current students also express enthusiasm for the celebration.  Caitlin Smits, an art history and BFA student says, “I enjoy the slight tongue-in-cheek irony based on the ‘50 Years of Light,’ and yet we are in the basement.”

“The Art Department was founded by the work of one remarkable visionary, Edgar Boeve, who gradually built the department one faculty member and classroom at a time,” explained Van Arragon. Boeve was hired in 1958 to help develop the arts at Calvin; art became its own distinct department in 1965.

Since then the art department has been in several different locations on campus. In the 1970s, the department was temporarily moved to the basement of the Spoelhof Center where it has temporarily remained ever since. The Center Art Gallery, in operation since 1974,  moved to the Covenant Fine Arts Center after renovations in 2010.

“I appreciate the legacy of the art department at Calvin College,” says Koppendrayer. “And I’m excited to celebrate with the department.”

About the Author

Julia LaPlaca

Julia LaPlaca is a Chimes writer for the 2013-14 school year. She is a junior at Calvin majoring in literature and art history.

View all posts by 

Comments