Creative spirits thrive on fine arts classes at WSU Vancouver

Small but mighty, the WSU Vancouver department of fine arts offers courses that strengthen artistic skills and independent, critical thinking.

The WSU Vancouver Department of Fine Arts has much to offer students, no matter their majors. The department’s unique studio classes are something many students never take time to experience.

The Department of Fine Arts is small and personal. Fine arts instructors encourage hands-on creativity and expression, and classes emphasize dialogue between student and professor, lessening academic barriers.

The department offers a minor in fine arts and fills students’ core requirements for degrees in general studies, humanities and digital technology and culture. These classes also fulfill electives for other majors.

Avantika Bawa, assistant professor of fine arts, one of two full-time WSU Vancouver fine arts professors, believes the approach and process of the fine arts department is fundamental to helping students realize their artistic ability.

“Hands-on making cannot be undermined. Especially in a day and age where everything is being digitalized, we forget the importance and nuances of actual, physical making,” Bawa said. “If you take a class in fine arts, you go back to that primal way of operating.”

Lessons taught in fine arts classes are applicable across multiple disciplines. They encourage and promote critical thinking. The small class environment, personal interaction with the material and with other classmates is unique. Students who are not art majors are often encouraged to take a fine arts class for the experiences they may transfer to work in their major.

Amil Haddad, a junior majoring in biology with a pre-med emphasis, plans to become a plastic surgeon specializing in facial reconstruction. He decided to take a drawing class this semester to develop artistic skills he may need in his career.

“I have always had a love for medicine as well as a love for art,” Haddad said. “This is the perfect place to express, experiment with new things and try new media — and I love it.”

“It is the challenges you put yourself through in the making of a fine arts piece that changes your thinking,” Bawa said. “When you go back to your lab, or to your sociology research, you’re interested, comfortable and keen on this kind of experimental thinking that is critical analysis.”

Fine arts classrooms are located on the second floor of the Multimedia Classroom building. A rotating exhibit in the hallway outside showcases student work. The gallery outside the cafeteria in Dengerink Administration building also exhibits an annual show of student and faculty art.
Increasing the campus’ awareness of both fine arts and the fine arts department is one of Bawa’s goals. She would like to see the number of students enrolled in fine arts classes increase.

“We need this on our campus, and if a minor is all we can offer, we will make it the best possible minor we can,” Bawa said.

Bawa points to the small number and availability of faculty as factors that limit the growth of the department.

This spring, the fine arts department will offer classes in drawing, beginning painting, digital photography, print-based media and visual concepts. Student seeking an elective or wishing to expand their horizons should consider registering for a fine arts class. It is an
opportunity to push expressive talents to the limit.

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