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Ceramics And The Liberal Arts At Monmouth College, Monmouth, IL

This blog contains direct quotes from websites as of 2023. Programs and policies do change, at colleges, from time to time, so please check with the colleges directly to receive any updates. These are not, necessarily, the biggest, best, or most popular programs at the college, but they are the ones that just “caught my eye” as unique, special, interesting, or just plain awesome. Enjoy!

(Originally written on July 22, 2021 and posted in my website)

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted by one of my favorite professors at Monmouth College, Janis Wunderlich. I worked for Monmouth for 27 years, and for all those years I was so impressed by the entire art department, but the ceramics opportunities that are offered at Monmouth are unusually robust, so I asked Janis to write this for me. Thank you Janis! You are the best!

Liberal ARTS Degree---Sometimes students who are serious about a future in the fine arts assume that art school is the only option, but a Liberal Arts degree can offer a unique alternative, especially for those with broad interests. Students who want to intersect social justice, history, and visual art, for example, or dual major in art and fields such as math, music, or business can expand their creative learning potential by attending a Liberal Arts college.

Ceramics- a Perfect Liberal Arts Platform---At Monmouth College, art majors often choose a second major or minor to explore and expand their interests, and many of them end up finding their passions align in the Ceramics Lab. Ceramics is a perfect Liberal Arts learning material, as it immerses students in the tactile application of art and design to physics, engineering, and chemistry. Art professor Janis Mars Wunderlich gets pretty excited about the possibilities of clay, and teaches students to create functional forms on the wheel and to sculpt complex hand-built forms. She explains that “working with clay to visualize three-dimensional forms is an exhilaratingly creative problem-solving experience.

WATCH IT BURN!---Ceramic processes such as throwing on the wheel, glazing, and kiln-firing, offer tactile opportunities to witness changes, reactions, and limitations of materials. Some of my best students are chemistry or physics majors who pair their theoretical knowledge to creative and artistic applications.” Since Monmouth College’s program is small, there are opportunities for students to do specialized projects and activities. Wunderlich has taken students to Wisconsin to participate in a three-day wood-firing, exposing them to new kilns and firing techniques.

DON’T DISCOUNT THE POWER OF A GOOD MUG---“One of the greatest benefits of ceramics class is that students get to make objects that they will keep or gift to others. Those ceramic mugs, bowls, and sculptures will be enjoyed for years and decades. Starting off the day by drinking your morning tea out of a unique handmade mug is a set-up for a wonderful day,” says Wunderlich. “Many students come in with a plan of all of these things they want to make for their future home or to give to special people in their lives, and we work together to expand those ideas into an unforgettable learning experience.”

THE BEAUTY OF FAILURE---Students get to practice a lot of patience and resilience with ceramic materials. Clay will often crack, or collapse if not handled carefully or built properly, and learning how to modify, rebuild, and repair is an essential tool of problem-solving,” Wunderlich explains. “Clay is a fragile material full of dualities. It will teach students how to fail, and the resilience they gain is a valuable and empowering gift that will stay with them for life. The Ceramics Lab is a safe place to ‘mess up’, and students will often gather there to practice their skills, sometimes staying late into the night. In the process, they build strong bonds with their classmates while making ceramic objects that they can use and appreciate for years. My students tell me that Ceramics class is often the highlight of their college experience.”

Check out Janis Mars Wunderlich’s ceramic work on her website:

@janiswunderlich on Instagram

@wunderlichceramics on Instagram (student work)

Monmouth College Ceramics on facebook (student work)

Janis Mars Wunderlich on facebook

About the entire Art program at Monmouth (taken directly from the Monmouth website in 2023):

“Our goal is to shape artistic vision and prepare students for a life of experience with visual art through systematic development of their visual sensitivity and technical skills in studio practice.

“Grounded in art history, expanded through studio work: The goals for students who participate in art department courses are to develop an appreciation of the elements of art and the principles of design in artworks, understand the techniques, art materials, tools and processes used in various media, understand how viewing and interpreting artworks is enhanced by knowledge of the content of art and understand art, including their own, in a historical context.

“Courses emphasize creative problem-solving, develop artistry and craftsmanship, and enhance mindfulness and professionalism. Explore and learn in ceramics, drawing, graphic design, painting, photography and sculpture.

Art Teachers Inspire: So many artists credit an inspiring art teacher as being why they pursued a life of art. The Art Education major that leads to Visual Arts PK-12 Teacher Licensure allows you to carry on the legacy of inspiring the artists of the future.”

Monmouth College is one of the featured colleges in my new book (click image for additional information):

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