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Emporia State Invests in Department of Art

Students seated watching professor at white board demonstrating graphic design

Changes come from strategic review of all academic programs

EMPORIA, KS – Emporia State University has a long history of excellence in the Department of Art. A tight-knit community of educators, artists and designers, Hornets work with internationally recognized faculty to get a degree in one of six studio concentrations, pursue a teaching degree in art education, or prepare for masters’ study in art therapy.

Today, the university is pleased to announce the following investments to further enhance and expand the Department of Art to create new opportunities for current and future aspiring artists.

  • Ceramics, Assistant Professor - Tenure Track
  • Art Historian, Assistant Professor – Tenure Track
  • Graphic Design, Assistant Professor – Tenure Track
  • Art in Practice, Full-time Instructor
  • Gallery + Outreach Director, Staff
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, Gallery + Outreach

“We are looking forward to what these additions will bring to the Department of Art in the fall of 2023,” said James Ehlers, art department chair. “This is a transformational time for the department to better serve students and the community. In the coming months we will be working on curricular changes and honing the details of what these positions will do for the department.”

Ceramics is a popular area for the department and will serve students pursuing art education, pre-art therapy and studio. For almost a decade, Emporia State has not had a full-time tenure track Art Historian, a position necessary to maintain specialized accreditation. Both positions were eliminated during earlier budget cutting.

“During previous budget-cutting exercises, eliminating faculty and staff positions that were not filled at the time seemed an easy cut to make,” explained Brent Thomas, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The elimination of those positions was not strategic and only exacerbated some long-term challenges in the art department.”

Recruitment for these two positions will begin soon so teaching can begin in fall 2023.

The addition of the new Graphic Design tenure track position will introduce motion graphics curriculum that will complement the existing Graphic Design program, the most popular and fastest growing concentration in the Department of Art. The new assistant professor of graphic design will begin teaching in fall 2023.

“I am thrilled about the concepts brought forth to bring new opportunities to our students and further bolster ESU’s long history of excellence in the arts,” said Ken Hush, ESU president. “Art is the fabric of the world’s history, culture and community and that is certainly true for our unique campus and local community.”

The new Art in Practice Instructor and Gallery + Outreach Director are exciting additions as Emporia State and the city of Emporia continue to work together to foster art in the community. These positions are focused on creating opportunities to bring art to others — to the community through mural projects and by hosting a variety of exhibitions, actively promoting the department, collaborating with Emporia First Fridays and the Emporia Arts Center to engage the community and aspiring artists of all ages. Both positions will begin fall 2023 and will be supported by a graduate teaching assistant from the art therapy master’s program.

“As a native Emporian and a 2013 bachelor of fine arts graduate from Emporia State University, I have worked hard to bridge the gap between ESU and the arts community that exists in and around Emporia,” said Kaila Mock, executive director of Emporia First Friday Art Walk and owner of Trox Gallery and Gifts in Emporia. “Since its inception in 2016, the Emporia First Friday Art Walk has illustrated the importance of visual arts as an economic and cultural benefit to our community and demonstrated ESU’s vital role in helping to cultivate a robust arts scene in Emporia. “I am pleased with ESU’s proposed reinvestment plans for the Department of Art, and hopeful that the changes implemented today will help art students face current challenges and better understand the enormous impact of art on a local economy.”

Emporia State University is also investing over $1 million in King Hall, home of the art department, including improvements to Bruder Theatre, HVAC, and other general maintenance that has already been invested.

“King Hall renovations in support of ESU’s Department of Art are a priority investment, as demonstrated in the 5-Year Capital Plan submitted to KBOR earlier this year,” said Cory Falldine, vice president for infrastructure.

Discovery planning and funding identification are getting underway to commence significant King Hall building renovations with preliminary estimates totaling upwards of $4 million to $5 million over the next five years.

“It is motivating to see Emporia State University's investment into the arts,” said Lelan Dains, director of Visit Emporia. “Visit Emporia has already been in collaboration with the ESU art department and other community organizations by way of the recently created Community Arts Coalition. We are excited to see what new opportunities lie on the horizon for our community through this reinvestment at the university.”

“These reinvestments will greatly improve the art department and student experience at Emporia State as well as benefit our great community,” said Thomas. “I look forward to watching students learn and grow as artists in these exciting new programs.”