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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 29, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 28
Homewood Art Workshops at 30

Homewood Art Workshops instructors Craig Hankin, painter/critic; D.S. Bakker, dioramist/performance artist; Jay VanRensselaer, photographer; Tom Chalkley, cartoonist/illustrator/writer; and Phyllis Berger, photographer. Hankin directs the program, which has grown nearly threefold since the opening of the Mattin Center in 2001.

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Craig Hankin, director of the Homewood Art Workshops, said the now 30-year-old program he oversees remains faithful to its "bread-and-butter" courses: painting, drawing, photography and sculpture. Yet, take a glance at the program's course catalog, or stroll down the halls of the Mattin Center, and it's evident that there is more bread-and-butter to go around these days--and various other morsels on the menu.

Hankin, now in his 18th year as director, said the program turned a major corner three years ago, when it moved into the 53,000-square-foot Mattin Center. Previously, Homewood Art Workshops existed in the basement of the now-demolished Merryman Hall, where there was practically no natural light, only one classroom and a modest five-course schedule that had three times as many students waiting as there were seats available.

Since 2001, however, the program has nearly tripled. The 2004 catalog contains 14 offerings, including newer classes such as Basic Black and White Photography, the Art of Architecture, Still Life/Interior/Landscape and Visual Reality, a course in dream imagery and surrealism.

The program currently uses two large studios on the second floor of the Mattin Center's east wing and next fall will use an upgraded room on the building's first floor for photography courses.

Since the program's last milestone birthday, Hankin said, it's been all onwards and upwards.

"We are just trying to keep growing and doing what we do even better," said Hankin, who was a junior at Hopkins the year the program came into being. "This new building has raised our profile tremendously. The fact an arts center exists on campus has been a huge boon for us."

The program will kick off the celebration of its 30th birthday today, when painter John Hull presents a slide talk titled "American Narrative Visions." The talk will take place at 5 p.m. in room 101 of the Jones Building, Mattin Center.

The recipient of numerous grants and awards, Hull is considered one of the country's foremost narrative artists, capturing elements of American history, sports, literature and other subjects. Hull, who taught painting at the Homewood Art Workshops from 1985 to 1986, is currently a professor of drawing and painting at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Hankin said the anniversary year will feature at least two other talks by visiting artists, both tentatively scheduled for the fall.

Homewood Art Workshops was founded in 1974 by Eugene Leake, former 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. The program's first home was a small room on the first floor of Merryman Hall, a modest space where on one afternoon each week a model would come to pose for the gathered budding artists.

Today, in its two studios, one that bears Leake's name, all manner of artistic invention occurs. In addition to traditional paintings and sketches, students create three-dimensional sculptures using all manner of material, including colored plastic tiles, down, matchsticks and the dismembered limbs of toy dolls (all currently on display on the Jones Building's first floor).

Hankin said the program still follows its original mission, to provide an informal opportunity for Hopkins students, regardless of experience, to learn the fundamentals of drawing and painting and to learn to see the world in a different way.

The program has seven faculty members and in November presented its first faculty exhibition, which featured drawings, paintings, photographs, cartoons, sculpture, dioramas, digital imagery and text by Hankin, photography coordinator Phyllis Berger and instructors Tom Chalkley, Barbara Gruber, Larcia Premo, D.S. Bakker, Jay VanRensselaer and Sherwin Mark.

Hankin said the program took a significant step forward in January when it made Berger its first full-time photography coordinator. "Phyllis has done amazing work here," Hankin said. "She has built the photography component of the Homewood Art Workshops out of nothing, actually. She started when we were still in Merryman Hall, teaching an intro photography class before we even had a darkroom for students. We would shoot slide film and send it out to be processed."

Photography classes presently rank among the program's most popular offerings, Hankin said, "which I think is fascinating, that in the age of digital photography there is always a long list of kids who want to learn traditional darkroom techniques," he said. "It's nice to know the interest remains strong."

Appeal remains strong in all the classes, apparently. The courses continue to have waiting lists, albeit not as long due to the increased space and offerings.

Since 1980, the program has held an end-of-term exhibition displaying the best works by its students. Each year, Hankin said, he is amazed by the results.

"We see students who are tremendously talented and motivated taking our classes. We've always had that, but we are seeing more and more each year. I think the Admissions Office has done a great job of attracting well-rounded students here, many of whom have obviously taken art classes in high school," he said. "I feel we have a higher percentage of accomplished students now than we had in our Merryman days. We see stuff that is tremendously creative and different than we had in the past, partly because we offer courses that we just didn't have room for in the old building."

As for its current location, Hankin said the program is approaching the max-out point in terms of studio space. He said presently there are no plans to increase the number of course offerings, or to offer an arts minor.

He did leave open the possibility, however.

"Sure, the arts may become a minor here one day. I would love to see it," he said. "You never know; it's amazing how rapidly things can turn around. I do know we have gotten off to a really great start. Our mission is to teach people to draw, paint, sculpt and take photographs. That is what kids want to learn and what we have found they want over all these years. We have a strong foundation, and we're going to build on it."


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