EDITOR’S NOTE: College Relations is publishing a monthly series of news articles, features and Q&A interviews highlighting various departments on campus in an effort to assist the faculty and staff in gaining an increased awareness about and understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
The April Q&A is with Laura Bentz, chair of the Visual and Performing Arts department.
Q: What are your duties as Department Chair?
As department chair, I coordinate departmental meetings to discuss and assist with the implementation initiatives set forth by the college administrators. These initiatives include planning and facilitating curricular assessment and development, budget allocations, course scheduling, student retention, and scholarship selections.
Q: What do you like best about teaching at Chadron State?
Chadron State College appeals to me for several reasons: It is a small, public, liberal arts college that provides students the opportunity to get to know their instructors, comradery amongst the employees, and its location, being situated between the Pine Ridge and the expanse of the Great Plains that provides a solace for creativity.
Q: What are some of the unique aspects of the Visual and Performing Arts program?
The Visual and Performing Arts department is comprised of two distinct programs, Art and Theatre. The department is housed in Memorial Hall along with the Music department which helps to foster creative collaborations between the disciplines.
Q: What student opportunities are offered in the Visual and Performing Arts department?
The department strives to provide students with hand-on experiences, as well as introduce them to professionals within the art and theatre fields. Art students gain experience in exhibiting and selling their work by participating in the annual All Art Student Exhibition and the annual Art Guild Sale. The Theatre students have the opportunity to direct, act, design and execute sets for performances. This past fall, the Theatre program had an alumna come work with students to create a stage set and two years ago, the Theatre department secured funding from the Nebraska Arts Council to bring in a guest director to work with the students. Over the past few years, there have been several regionally and nationally renowned visual artists who have had exhibitions on the Chadron State College campus and have talked to a number of art classes. Every February, Graphic Design students attend the Meet the Pros conference in Omaha. These are just a few of the events that provide students to interact with professionals from outside the campus.
Q: What types of technology does the Visual and Performing Arts department use in its curriculum?
Both programs expose students to a broad range of techniques, skills and tools used to express themselves whether it is creating an art object or working in a theatrical production. There is equal emphasis on cultivating all skills used in the visual and performing arts whether it is drawing with a pencil on paper, constructing an exhibit or a stage set with hand tools, shooting black and white film with a camera, or designing an events poster on the computer.
Students in both programs are provided opportunities to work with digital technology that is comparable to industry standards. Design students work on Apple iMacs loaded with the latest version of Adobe Creative Cloud, and have access to Wacom tablets. Theatre students create 3-D imaging through the use of CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) for set design, and learn to use digital controlled sound and lighting.
Q: What advice would you share with students interested in a career in Visual and Performing Arts?
Follow your passion and persevere. Creativity and problem solving are essential in navigating all paths in your life. And I encourage everyone to find time to attend events in Memorial Hall and enjoy the creativity that abounds in the building.
—Alex Helmbrecht, Director of College Relations