The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 3, 1999
May 3, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 33


Art Workshops Turn 25

Reception and exhibit on May 6 will showcase this year's student work

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The Homewood Art Workshops began innocently enough in a small room on the first floor of Merryman Hall on the Homewood campus. It was a modest space where on one afternoon each week a model would come to pose for the gathered budding artists.

It was 1974, and Craig Hankin at that time was a junior majoring in art history. Hankin says the program back then was not much more than a small group of people with sketch pads and a few who actually brought paints with them.

But to Hankin, that small room was a godsend.

Craig Hankin, director of the Art Workshops, has a long history with the program--he was a junior at Hopkins when it was begun in 1974 by Eugene Leake, former president of the Maryland Institute, College of Art. This year marks its 25th year on the Homewood campus.

He recalls his first two years at Hopkins, when there was nothing at all like an art studio on campus. "It was extremely frustrating not to have an outlet for our creative urges," Hankin says.

Then along came Eugene Leake, the recently retired president of the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

Leake approached then university president Steven Muller about whether or not the school had ever had an artist-in-residence. Muller construed Leake's question as an offer and immediately took him up on it.

Hankin says it didn't take long for Leake's studio to catch on either.

"It was immediately a popular thing," says Hankin, now director of the Homewood Art Workshops. "Anyone in the Hopkins community who had the time and the desire could come in and draw or paint for a few hours. There were undergraduates there, and grad students, and there were a few faculty spouses who came," and, Hankin laughs, "a couple of staff members who managed to sneak out for an hour or two."

Fast-forward to today, and Hankin finds it hard to believe it's been 25 years already.

The anniversary of the Homewood Art Workshops will be celebrated at the upcoming annual showing of drawings, paintings and cartoons by the workshops students. The exhibit and reception will be held on May 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Eugene Leake Studio, located in the basement of Merryman Hall.

In the program's early days, the courses were non-credit and informal. But, Hankin says, Leake eventually realized that for students to take the work seriously, credit had to be involved.

"What [Leake] found--which was a bit disturbing but understandable--was that students would start out the beginning of the semester just full of enthusiasm. Then suddenly around midterms people would start to disappear because they had work for their other courses to do. Sometimes they would come back after midterms, and sometimes they wouldn't."

In 1981, one-credit courses began to be offered and were listed for the first time in the university's course catalog. It was a year earlier that Hankin had started to teach at the Art Workshops.

Hankin was encouraged by Leake to enter the Maryland Institute, and he took classes there for two years to immerse himself in his own work. He then attended the institute's Mount Royal Graduate School of Art, where he received his master of fine arts degree.

Following Hankin's graduation, Leake approached him about taking over some of his afternoon classes. Hankin agreed and has been at Homewood ever since.

The curriculum, which when Hankin arrived consisted of just painting and drawing studios three days a week, has steadily developed over the years. The Art Workshops moved in 1982 into its current location, a space three times the size of the original room upstairs in Merryman.

Currently, the program offers two-credit classes in drawing, painting, cartooning, photography, mixed media/composition and principles of two- and three-dimensional design. The program has three faculty members each semester.

And just as in the early days of the program, the courses are extremely popular. But the downside, Hankin laments, is that there is only so much room for everybody.

"All the time I hear from seniors that they have been trying to get into a class for two or three semesters," Hankin says. "Because of the physical limitations of the space, we can handle only so many people. And usually we end up with this long waiting list of people trying to get in."

But Hankin says he hopes that the space crunch will be alleviated when the program moves into the new student arts center in a year and a half.

"I'm very excited about it, needless to say," Hankin says. "We will basically double our studio space. It is something we have wanted to see for a long time."

The arts center will contain two studios that will be connected to a permanent exhibition space, where the work of students, faculty and community artists will be displayed.

Homewood Art Workshops, administered by Homewood Student Affairs, is not presently offered as a minor, but Hankin says he would like to see a fine arts minor be offered in the future. However, he adds that the Art Workshops program is not intended to inspire vocations in the arts.

The students who enroll in the program's courses have typically been upperclassmen who want to take a course perhaps not as demanding as those in their major. Although students have gone on to graduate art schools and entered various art contests, Hankin is not concerned about churning out serious artists.

"The students have so much work to do as it is that the commitments they have to fulfill for this class are more than enough to keep them busy," Hankin says. "Every now and again I'll hear from a former student--someone I taught 10 or 15 years ago--and he or she will say, I still find time to paint, which is nice. But even nicer is to hear from people who say, 'I don't really have time to paint anymore, but I'm a regular gallery and museum goer.' Or even better, that 'I'm on the board of my local arts council or art museum. It was taking these classes that sort of opened my eyes to what art could do for the quality of your life.' "