Susannah Strang

Title:  Clinical Associate Professor, Fine Arts

Degrees: BFA, The Rhode Island School of Design; MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; MAT, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Hometown: West Logan Square

Courses taught: ACFNA 100 Art & Visual Culture, ACFNA 112 Two-Dimensional Foundation Studio

What attracted you to Arrupe College?

Arrupe’s commitment to access and educational equity was very compelling to me from the start; I also continue to be drawn by the emphasis on the humanities as a part of an education that supports a student’s intellectual curiosity and independence. I love being a member of this lively learning community— I have worked with students of all ages, but I really enjoy the spirit and energy of people in late adolescence and early adulthood!

Talk a little about the classes you teach.

Art and Visual Culture (ACFNA 100) was developed to fulfill Arrupe students’ Fine Arts requirement through a more creatively and culturally relevant model of art history study that is issues-based instead of traditionally chronological, and that critiques eurocentric perspectives. We use creative assignments, museum visits, and an emphasis on observational and analytical skills as a diving board into the world of the visual, in order to better understand our culture and ourselves in the context of our own complex present.

The Foundation Studio course (ACFNA 112) offers students an opportunity for intensive, hands-on experience with a wide variety of media including watercolor and acrylic painting, charcoal, pastel, and collage. The emphasis is visual communication, explored through a wide range of assignments where students’ unique approaches and experiments are encouraged. My hope is that at the end of the course each student will be enthusiastic and confident to make more art—whether in other college classes, on their own, or in the larger creative community.  

How did you get involved in teaching in the arts?

There is more than one answer to this question! In short, I focused my undergraduate and initial graduate work on being a studio artist, and did a lot of compartmentalizing of my other intellectual and academic activities. I come from a family of teachers, and when I was younger I was pretty determined not to get into the “family business” until I started to realize that teaching is the praxis of much of what I feel is important in the world, as well as an ongoing inspiration and motivation for my own studio art practice (which is mostly textile-based sculptural work), and creative craft endeavors.

What's your favorite part about teaching? And the biggest challenge?

My favorite part of teaching is the daily recognition that our fundamental humanity connects us all, no matter how different we feel, or how much we might disagree! On the practical side, I love the feeling of supporting  students as they work towards their own solutions, ideas, or skills, and there’s nothing better than the shared feeling of a whole class working together towards a common goal.

The biggest challenges include how to make one required fine arts class best serve the interests and needs of a diverse range of students and their goals, and how to continue to de-emphasize traditional assessments in favor of more student-centered models that help build confidence proficiency, and enthusiasm.