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"Well rounded” and “socially confident” describe individuals who possess a love for the arts and integrate that passion into their professional careers, according to two PLU students who indeed lead double lives.
As a New American College, PLU’s commitment to providing an integrated academic experience for its students is evident in Stephen Reynolds ’99, a nursing and theatre major, and Darrel Eide ’99, a business and music major. Each finds a direct correlation between the arts and his professional field, whether through classes at PLU, his job or extracurricular activities.
Every day, Reynolds shares his passion for theatre with his other love - nursing. Working part-time as a clinical nurse at Providence Medical Center in Seattle, the 42-year-old Mercer Island resident simply can’t see nursing and theatre as being separate entities.
“There actually was a time when nursing was thought of as the ‘art of nursing’,” Reynolds says matter-of-factly. “Without knowing it, nurses use the arts all the time. As just one example, they make posters to educate the public about breast cancer and various other medical issues.”
“Most of the arts - performing and visual - force people to learn about themselves, which allows them to grow internally,” Reynolds adds. “Once you know yourself, you understand other people very well, and in nursing, the art of communication becomes vital when dealing with patients.”
“For instance, when you walk into a room to see a patient who’s days away from dying, you strive to make their last few days of life good. You find that place that actors go to create a new persona for the sake of that human life and soul,” explains Reynolds, who worked in professional theatre for more than 13 years before moving to the Seattle area in 1988.
“If I had my way,” Reynolds says with a laugh, “I would force nursing students to take some of the 100-level acting courses. The arts that individuals interact better with each other, and what profession these days doesn’t deal with people?”
PLU’s nursing curriculum is indeed being refined to reflect New American College ideologies with the inclusion of more liberal arts classes.
For example, one general university requirement is to take six-to-eight credit hours of Perspectives on Diversity (a GUR focus area). In 1996, nursing faculty implemented a new undergraduate curriculum that includes such courses as “Culturally Congruent Nursing,” which both integrates the liberal arts and satisfies the requirement.
“It [new nursing curriculum] is more reflective of the philosophy of the New American College and is also more responsive to what’s happening in healthcare today,” says Peg Vancini, director of graduate nursing studies and associate nursing professor.
On the flip side, the integration of professional disciplines into the arts brings about an entirely different perspective.
In fact, it is the lack of the integration of business into the arts that poses concern for Eide, a non-traditional student and Enumclaw resident, who was prompted to come back to school - after 25 years - to gain the knowledge needed to help run a non-profit theatre community.
“I’m a very big proponent of the arts and I want to see it succeed,” Eide says adamantly. “It’s both a commercial-business concern and a social concern of mine. I’d like to see the art-business community (museums, professional symphonies and theatre groups) encourage the arts in the civic community.”
The married father of three is the founder and conductor of Western Washington’s Practically Professional Symphony of the South Sound, which is composed of 120 music teachers, retired professional musicians and others. The symphony has performed with local schools and theatre groups for more than 17 years.
The enthusiastic 45-year-old also serves on the board of directors and works as musical director for the Emerald City Players, a civic theatre group in North Seattle. Since 1972, Eide has directed more than 50 plays with a variety of theatre groups.
A former U.S. West Communications employee for 18 years, Eide says after graduation he’d like to work in any capacity to help the arts and has definite opinions on what direction the art business should take.
When asked about his influences at PLU, Eide was at no loss for words. Since he began at PLU in 1995, many professors - business and music - have made a lasting impact and contributed to his well-rounded college experience.
“Stanley Brue, economics professor, was the one who grabbed my imagination. Richard Nance, music professor, gave me a lot of confidence back. Richard Sparks, music professor, taught me to conduct by inspiration instead of intimidation.”
Although nursing and business can be viewed as professional opposites, there lies a commonality between the two with the integration of the arts - a well-rounded perspective. The New American College experience provides students the opportunity to get an edge on life. The refined curriculum at PLU impresses upon students a well-rounded education in order to succeed in a global setting - truly “Educating for Lives of Thoughtful Inquiry, Service, Leadership and Care.” (PLU 2000)
Love for the arts fires successful pottery businessB Y L I N D A E L L I O T T , E D I T O R
It’s a good thing Julie Ueland didn’t listen to her mother.
With typical maternal concern, Ueland’s mom advised her young daughter to stay away from art and teaching if she expected to make decent living.
Ueland has excelled at both.
Julie (Semler ’79) Ueland, owner of Backsplash pottery, is known around the world for her striking, hand-painted tableware and other items. Her most famous pattern is known simply as “Fish.” The handsome plates and bowls with their colorfully painted salmon penned in by a thick trim of deep forest green and purple are popular sights in airports, Made in Washington stores, and many other high-end gift outlets. (A more affordable design is licensed by Enesco and sold at such outlets as Hallmark and under Ueland’s name.)
The petite and elegant woman, who almost looks out of place in jeans and a work shirt, credits quite a bit of her success to mentors, friends and family associated with PLU. She also believes the inclusion of the arts in PLU’s curriculum was integral to her development as a person.
“There’s a well-roundedness about life that is so important with the arts. It teaches you multiple skills and you can’t afford to cut those things out, because they have a deep effect on who you become,” says Ueland, who has degrees in art education and psychology from PLU.
“(Art) doesn’t have to be the way you pay the bills, it can simply be the way you express yourself.”
Ueland staff member Jim Matthias ’94, agrees. “I’m a geology major and I’m here painting fish - how more well-rounded can you get?” he jokes. Another in a long line of PLU alums associated with Ueland, Matthias is son of PLU Adjunct Biology Professor Dixie Lee (Likkel ’62) and the Rev. Paul F. ’68 Matthias; and he is husband to Mari (Yokers ’94) Matthias, whose mom, dad, sister and many other relatives all graduated from PLU.
It was former PLU art professor Tom Torrens who advised Ueland that she should come up with a recognizable item in order to make a living in art. Though she’d always been somewhat successful, when Ueland created “Fish” in the early ’90s, orders skyrocketed. Since then, despite the demand, Ueland has purposefully kept Backsplash small. Working out of a small, friendly studio in back of a sandwich shop in tiny White Salmon, Wash., Ueland and a modest staff of six lovingly turn out 500 pieces of pottery a week.
“We don’t want this business to own us,” she says, referring to her husband, Hal ’80, a teacher-turned-electrical-engineer who temporarily handles the business end of Backsplash, and the care of their children, 12-year-old Dane and 7½-year-old Kent. As she talks, she deftly etches dragonflies around the rim of a freshly painted, clay bowl. Her hands move swiftly and with ease. She could do this with her eyes closed.
Each cup, bowl, mug, pitcher, platter, plate, lamp, urn and vase produced by Backsplash is painstakingly done by hand. Practically every staff member touches each custom-made clay form before it is deemed ready for shipment. One person paints the trim, two are responsible for painting and etching the main design, then the piece is fired, glazed and fired again in one of eight modern kilns in the studio.
Watching the whole process brings new meaning to the words “hand-crafted.”
Her items were definitely a hit her “seconds” sales were regularly mobbed by hundreds of eager customers. At one point the business employed 50 people and life was one hectic jumble. That’s when down-home Ueland and husband Hal (they married in 1982) said “enough.”
In the fall of 1991, she and Hal packed up the kids and moved to rural White Salmon (pop. 2,000) where good friends Howard ’78, ’82 and Christine (Edgren ’79) Kreps were living with their son, Aaron. They still love it.
Abandoning jewelry, Ueland started from scratch and began custom painting backsplash tile the tile that goes behind the oven and sink area in a kitchen - hence the name of her business. She was prepared to be a struggling artist for years, but Washington’s Skamania Lodge caught wind of her talent and commissioned her to create a unique Northwest design for their gift shop. “Fish” was born, and life hasn’t been the same, laughs Ueland.
So what’s next? Although Ueland will keep Backsplash’s distribution at its current level, you should start seeing her designs popping up on such things as aprons, stationery, sheets, towels and throw rugs. And, while a distributor is busy peppering the country with her work, the Uelands will be breaking ground this spring on a new house.
You can email the Uelands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biochemistry major from the ’40s finds easy transition to arts classes in the ’90sB Y L A U R E L W I L L O U G H B Y ,
A S S I S T A N T E D I T O R
Whatever you say to Katherine Piper ’75, don’t let it slip that you’d like to audit some classes at PLU but “don’t have the time.”
The 60ish, retired teacher and Smith College biochemistry alumna is likely to fix you with a steely gaze and say directly, “You make time.”
Between running her small pack of German shorthaired pointers and black labs every morning, horseback riding, swimming five or six days a week at the PLU and Ft. Lewis pools — and, oh, pheasant and quail hunting, fly fishing and cross-country skiing when conditions permit — Piper keeps her schedule full with classes she audits as part of her membership in the Society for the Arts.
SOFA was founded in 1987 to foster a consistent, long-term relationship between PLU’s School of the Arts and the community at large. SOFA promotes PLU art exhibits and theatre, music and dance productions on campus, along with financing scholarships for PLU communication and arts students. SOFA also makes it possible for members to audit selected communication and arts classes at no charge.
Piper has made good use of the audit option and lists “History of Theatre, Film Production” and “Modern Art” among her recent experiences. She also plans to take “Theatre History II” this spring.
So how did a young biochemistry major transform into an arts aficionado later in life? Quite smoothly, actually.
Raised in Massachusetts, Piper tucked the Smith degree under her belt just in time to fill positions vacated by the men sent off to fight in World War II. She worked as a research assistant at Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and Yale Medical School. Subsequently, she and her husband, a Harvard-educated M.D., raised three daughters during his medical assignments in Pennsylvania, Texas, Tokyo and, finally, Tacoma. (The Pipers’ daughters are now grown, and the couple is divorced.)
It was at Annie Wright in the early 1980s that Piper caught the auditing bug, taking a seat in the art history class during her off-time from teaching Latin.
One thing this lifelong learner can’t understand is why more people don’t audit classes through SOFA. (After all, the price is right, and, well, you already know how she feels about using time efficiently.)
“They’re pretty used to seeing my face in class now, but I’m one of the few who audit,” said Piper. “I just don’t get it - it’s so interesting to explore new subjects.”
Why CEOs need to make pots (or act in a play, or learn the piano)B Y K I T S P I C E R , D E A N , S C H O O L O F T H E A R T S
In order to offer a useful education we need to provide our students with two sets of abilities: immediately applicable and necessary for the long-term. The immediately applicable are those abilities our students need right after graduation to get that first job or get into graduate school. Long-term abilities are those that will enable them to succeed long after they leave PLU.
In this article, let me identify the necessary abilities that our best guessers suggest will be most important for success in the future, and indicate ways in which immersion in the arts enhances those abilities.
There will always be a need for the basics such as listening, seeing, talking and touching. A good education should emphasize all four of these abilities throughout a student’s academic journey.
After the basics, though, what skills will our graduates need to succeed in the rapidly changing workplace? Based on my reading of a number of recent studies and surveys, the abilities most mentioned include: flexibility and adaptability, responsibility, initiative and self-starting, imagination and creativity, welcoming diversity, computer and Internet literacy, entrepreneurial spirit and risk taking, teamwork and collaborative leading, and commitment to learning.
As art proponent Carol Sterling summarized, “Routinized behaviour is out, and the ability to adapt, diagnose problems, and find creative solutions-even at the most basic levels of production and service delivery-is critical.”
Lawrence Wilkinson, president of the Global Business Network, suggests that the key determinate of success in the coming decade will be the ability to improvise. Think for a moment how we characterize “improvisation”: living on the edge, willingness to fail, learning from mistakes, working quickly, combing ideas in new ways, and thinking on our feet.
My firm belief is that exposure to the arts enhances our abilities to improvise.
All of our disciplines contribute to a student’s education. Often forgotten or overlooked, however, is the increasingly central role of the study of the arts: visual arts, music, drama, dance, storytelling or film, among many.
Performances in theater and music, for example, foster collaborative teamwork. The skills necessary for teams to succeed are found in our participation in the arts, often in ways we do not readily think about.
The arts foster creativity, but that creativity grows from solid analysis, synthesis, critique, questioning, watching, reflecting and luck. Rarely does creativity just happen-it comes from long hours of commitment and practice, from trial and error, from learning from mistakes and the critiques of others, from an understanding of technique and history. In short, creativity emerges from an ability to improvise.
From my experience, participation in the arts helps students of all ages develop imagination and vision, enhance self-esteem, learn cooperation and teamwork, foster creative approaches to unique problems, appreciate others, maximize critical reflection, link information from diverse sources, think nonlinearly, grasp novel connections, cope with ambiguity, search for multiple solutions, and gain technological competence.
What a student learns from the arts will become the necessary default basics in the very near future. I think this is especially true as visual modes of communication become increasingly important in our culture. Visual literacy, our ability to analyze, critique, and create visual images, is becoming a crucial need for our students.
I enjoy being dean of the school of the arts because I enjoy the fervor my colleagues and their students bring to the task of making art. In whatever guises it eventually appears - a painting, a piece of music, a performance on stage, a forensics speech, a video - I am charmed by the process by which the product takes shape.
The process of art-making teaches us soon-to-be critical abilities with which to build a future.