Special to the Arkansas Delta Informer – When Dr. Karen DeJarnette, chairperson of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Department of Art and Design, speaks about the opportunities afforded art majors, she makes a point to take none of the credit. Instead, she points to a very pivotal gift to the university in 2018. She believes that award has significantly impacted and helped to turn the program around. The fall 2022 semester has close to 55 students enrolled as art majors, more than double the number of majors during the 2018-19 school year.
“This is a revival of sorts,” DeJarnette said. “We’re building on the rich, rich, legacy of amazing artists who came from UAPB… artists known worldwide such as Kevin Cole, Jeff Donaldson, Henri Linton and the founder of the department, John Miller Howard, and Windgate is pushing us to another level.”
Windgate Foundation awarded a $2.2 million gift to establish the Windgate Foundation Scholarship Endowment in 2018. Consequently, there are more students graduating with Bachelor of Science degrees in art education and visual arts, more alumni pursuing graduate art programs, and the department has hired two alumni of the program to its faculty.
Additionally, Windgate has funded four projects; the current project centers on providing monthly events for diverse groups, including pre-K and K-12 students and teachers, veterans, seniors, and those experiencing homelessness. The foundation has also assisted the department with the purchase of art equipment, such as pop-up canopies, folding tables and chairs, and an outdoor sink.
“We can support our students with supplies and take instructional periods outside of the traditional classroom. We’re able to go anywhere in Pine Bluff and set up an outdoor studio,” said DeJarnette. It’s a major testament to what can happen when private organizations partner with UAPB to support students through scholarships and out-of-classroom projects.”
She said that collaboration with community organizations has also helped strengthen the department as students gain exposure and experience in environments around Pine Bluff.
“A painting class last semester did traditional instruction in the classroom but also went into the community and painted a mural. We want our students to see that UAPB is our campus and our home, but this community is our classroom,:” said UAPB Art Department chair. “We’ve partnered with the Pine Bluff Arts and Science Center to host our senior exhibitions at Art Space on Main Street, and that’s another way we’re connecting them with community. Going off campus is making our community so much larger.”
Three seniors, Asia Brown, Alliza Bolden and Robert Butler (pictured below), currently have exhibitions at Art Space through Friday, Sept. 23, and this past summer, Amanei Johnson ‘22, painted a mural at Art Space after completing an internship at Princeton University through the HBCU Alliance of Galleries and Museums.
“That paid, summer internship creates an amazing opportunity for UAPB students to visit other university campuses and get more exposure to art conservation and preservation and leadership in art fields. Combined with the Windgate grants, it’s made a tremendous difference in students choosing to study here.”
Johnson is now the first UAPB alumna to be accepted into an international graduate art program.
Top photos: Asia Brown explains the process she undergoes while painting oil on canvas.