Visual arts program becomes a full academic minor

After nearly 40 years of giving Johns Hopkins University students an outlet for their creativity, the visual arts program has become a full academic minor.

University leaders expect the designation to give the program, which includes painting, drawing, cartooning, sculpture, and photography, an even higher profile on and off campus.

"The Krieger School is eager to see Johns Hopkins increase its footprint in the practice of art, and hence we are delighted that the Academic Council has approved the minor in visual arts," says Katherine S. Newman, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "Increasingly, we are seeing our community become a 'destination' for filmmakers and drama students, following on the heels of our storied programs in creative writing and poetry and, of course, the legendary program in music at Peabody. Adding the fine arts to this array only strengthens our reputation as a locus of creativity."

A driver for the change was Rachel Riegelhaupt, a rising junior determined to minor in art. An international studies major from New York who has taken classes in drawing and painting every semester, Riegelhaupt drafted a petition in 2012 and addressed it to university President Ronald J. Daniels and the board of trustees. Riegelhaupt collected several hundred signatures.

"I … ask that you consider implementing a program that would offer formal recognition to the community of students who devote much of their time towards art," she wrote. "Though visual art is not my intended career path, it is a part of my life that I hold close to my heart."

Homewood Art Workshops Director Craig Hankin drafted a proposal for the minor, and the Homewood Schools Academic Council approved it this summer, allowing students to minor in art starting immediately. The new minors will be able to focus on traditional studio arts or a digital curriculum centered on digital photography.

"Research is so important to Hopkins, but it can happen in a tactile, hands-on, soulful way, too," says Eric Beatty, director of the Homewood Arts Program. "That sort of research is just as likely to inspire growth in a young adult."

The Homewood Art Workshops began in 1974, when Eugene Leake, a landscape painter and former president of the Maryland Institute College of Art, became Johns Hopkins' first artist-in-residence. He founded the program, which was completely elective, so students could explore their creative side while learning the basics of drawing and painting.

Johns Hopkins first offered a studio art course for academic credit in 1981.

Now the program offers at least a dozen courses per semester, with two full-time instructors and several adjuncts. Enrollment averages 128 students each semester, with another 109 on waiting lists. Students who take art come from every discipline. Of the roughly 70 percent who are in the School of Arts and Sciences, 18 percent are majoring in biology.

"What we hear over and over is our classes are completely unlike nearly all of their other classes, particularly in the sciences and engineering," Hankin says. "We're making things with our hands, eyes, and brains, taking our emotional and intellectual impressions of the world and releasing them tangibly through paint and ink and clay."