Anderson University alum Matt Smith graduated with a degree in visual arts education in 2006 and is now an elementary art teacher at Danville North Elementary School in central Indiana. During the spring 2011 semester he visited campus to speak to current art and design students about his experiences using the 2010 Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Grant he was awarded.
The Lilly Endowment Fund awarded Smith an $8,000 grant created to enable teachers to take time to pursue their personal interests, explore subjects that intrigue them, and allow them to travel and further their knowledge.
Smith proposed “Color Me Wild: An Artist’s Journey Through the National Parks” for the grant. It involved trips to the national parks that were photographed by Ansel Adams in order to write, hike, backpack, photograph and paint. “My grant took me out to the western U.S. to visit eight national parks where I painted, photographed, backpacked, blogged and lived out of my car for six weeks,” stated Smith. “Upon my return, I taught several lessons based on my trip with my students and had my work displayed at local library and a Broad Ripple gallery.”
The art and design faculty highly encourage students to pursue opportunities like Smith’s and alumni to come back and create awareness about those opportunities. “We have amazing alumni who have achieved great personal success in their fields and are hoping that the current students will gain confidence in what they can achieve in their future professions,” said Tai Lipan, assistant professor of art and director of Wilson Galleries. “The alumni are very generous and concerned to give helpful feedback to the students because they remember what it was like to be in the student’s shoes.”
Smith’s experiences at AU helped him obtain the Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Grant. “The outside the box thinking that many professors and projects demanded was incredibly helpful, as well as the amount of writing that is done in the department,” said Smith. “Getting an art degree at AU is like getting an art, history, English, fill-in-the-blank degree.” In addition to his experiences on campus, Smith also took advantage of opportunities like attending Chautauqua School of the Arts in the summer, which better prepared him for carrying out the art making aspect of his the grant.
By bringing in alumni to speak to current students, the faculty hopes to inspire them to pursue opportunities and gain a greater knowledge of what careers in the art world and ultimately their futures could look like. They encourage students to broaden their knowledge and connections by attending other programs and internships during their time at AU, and plan on bringing in more alumni speakers in the near future.
Smith’s advice for current students is to take advantage of every opportunity and work hard in everything they do. “As far as working hard, you have four years in one of the most intensely creative atmospheres that an artist will ever be in,” stated Smith. “Don't stumble through those four years, grab on and be intentional with your time and energy.”
— Katie Price is a junior from Kokomo, Ind., majoring in fine arts and minoring in communication arts. Price is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.