The Artist/Educator Conundrum

Today marks my first day of unemployment from the small, mission-driven liberal arts college to which I devoted the first twelve years of my career as an artist/educator. My trajectory as an artist began some years prior, joining forces with academia full-time in 2004 with a faculty appointment in Studio Arts. It’s been rewarding to be an integral part of an innovative, counter-culture curriculum – the very hallmark of this off-the-map college is the motto “for the Liberal Arts, the Environment, and Social Justice.” Taking students to remote earthworks sites and urban landscapes; being instrumental in the renovation of an historic building into a thriving arts facility; and overseeing the inception of a rigorous BFA in Visual Arts; made for solid experience in interdisciplinary, experiential teaching. Besides the paycheck, what could be better?

It’s certainly disappointing, but not surprising, to see this era come to a close. So many of us hoped that the liberal arts would prevail at this dedicated, yet underfunded, holdout. Nonesuch luck. When it comes to eliminating departments, there’s a national trajectory to follow: with funding, the arts are last; with cuts, the arts are first. Counter-culture defeated.

During my own college education (at a state-funded liberal arts college where the arts still prevail), I held steadfast to the belief that small class-sizes, interdisciplinary learning and individual mentorship were the best way to success in higher education. Once innovative, this philosophy has since been subsumed by the traditional university: a different model, on a larger scale, succeeding in reaching many more students. The survival of the fittest is the discourse of evolution. The university has become the last holdout, recognizing the essential role of the arts across disciplines; the pivotal place of the arts in innovation; and, most importantly, continuing to support majors and careers in the arts. For this, I am thankful for a new position, and looking forward to engaging with a new cohort of learners. Onward, ho.



2016-07-01T22:29:38-07:00July 1st, 2016|Blog|3 Comments


  1. Will Flemer November 6, 2017 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Julie,

    I can’t adequately articulate how much I miss the arts program we used to have here, that you worked so hard to create. I’ve done the best I can on my own for the last year or so but it’s not what it should or could have been. I’ve decided that I’m definitely going for an MFA in the future because of the experience I’ve had here, before and after the demise of the art department and gallery. I’m also looking into gallery internships and maybe entry level positions after that; I want to live and work in this world so much, all the more so because of you, Kerstin Dale, Montana Sheppard, everyone here who made this such a wonderful community. Anyway, it was nice to read this, and I hope you’re doing well!


    • Julie Comnick April 10, 2018 at 7:15 pm - Reply
    • Julie Comnick April 10, 2018 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Will,
      I overlooked your post, I’m sorry it took me so long to reply. First: congratulations on your graduation and remarkable body of work. Second: your endurance, intellect and artistry has prepared you for any ride. Please let me know how I can be of help toward your future pursuits. My email is Keep in touch!

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