Studio Art


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Students can pursue a BA with a major in studio art. Studio art also is available as a minor. Studio art at Mary Baldwin promotes a process-oriented and creative practice of the language of visual form. Our students learn to read and “speak” this language, regarding art-making as a thoughtful exploration of visual phenomena and ideas. All students learn the value of understanding their art and creative intentions in the context of historical and contemporary art.

Why study studio art at Mary Baldwin University?

  • The studio art major is very energetic and progressive. It is one of the largest majors at Mary Baldwin.
  • Our studio art major combines technical and formal training with informed conceptual thinking. The result is the student’s ability to find her own way of working as a visual artist. We don’t teach a particular style: rather, we teach the ability to find a way of working in an informed and skillful way, and we encourage a confident yet self-critical approach to creativity.
  • The studio art major at Mary Baldwin offers an impressive range of disciplines and media. Majors select one or two areas of emphasis from the following: drawing, painting, printmaking and photography, and extended media.
  • Each area is coordinated by an experienced, caring teacher who is also an exhibiting artist or practicing designer engaged with the contemporary art world.
  • Class sizes in studio art are small, ranging from 5–15 students. Professors devote substantial time to working individually with students, taking sincere interest in each student’s current and future success as an artist and person.
  • Our studio art program offers the advantage of studying in the context of the liberal arts. The contemporary art world is interdisciplinary in nature, reaching into the explorations, discoveries, and practices of other academic disciplines (the natural sciences, social sciences, literature, cultural theory, etc.). Studying studio art promotes intellectual and creative breadth — a broad body of knowledge and ways of understanding the world that promote conceptual and creative connections.
  • The studio art major benefits greatly from the university’s Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar Program and the Firestone Lecture Series in Contemporary Art. Visiting artists, critics, and curators have included Joan Snyder, Melissa Miller, Richard Fleischner, Thomas Nozkowski, Claudia Bernardi, Margaret Evangeline, Leon Golub, Sharon Farmer, Richard Carlyon, Suzi Gablik, Elizabeth King, Robert Storr, and others. Visiting artists frequently interact closely with our students — teaching, lecturing, leading critiques, or talking individually with students.
  • Students are encouraged to participate in regular department field trips. There is the annual four-day/three-night trip to New York City. Every semester there is a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit various museums and galleries. And often there are trips to Charlottesville, Richmond, or Roanoke to hear lectures or panels, or visit museums and galleries.
  • Hunt Gallery is the university’s art gallery located in the lower east wing of Hunt Hall. The gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary work by professional artists of emerging or established regional or national/international reputation. It seeks to exhibit work that reflects a wide variety of media and artistic intentions. Six or seven professional exhibitions are scheduled during each academic year, and Mary Baldwin student work is shown towards the end of the spring semester and during May Term.
  • Current student work is exhibited regularly throughout the academic year in Deming Hall. The Deming Alternative Gallery (a hallway space) is located on the first floor of Deming.
  • Many of our studio art graduates become professionally engaged in the visual arts. See the “career ideas” section.
  • Students are taught the following skills and practices that are essential in art but that also apply to other life and career areas:
    • perceptual skills
    • analytical and critical competence
    • technical skills related to specific media
    • the importance of process
    • creative problem-solving
    • various means of artistic conceptualization.
  • Goals of the studio art major include cultivating informed student-artists and student-designers who
    • embrace the necessity of process
    • appreciate the intellectual and practical value of studying art in the liberal arts context, making interdisciplinary connections;
    • analyze and evaluate ideas, making plausible and creative connections, inferences, and interpretations
    • work and think independently
    • develop creative and intellectual courage
    • comprehend the written word – reading critically; clarifying and critiquing texts as well as visual work
    • make effective oral presentations, using art and design vocabulary accurately and effectively
    • organize time and establish a strong work ethic
    • listen carefully; be receptive to criticism
    • possess an understanding of important issues in contemporary art
    • respect the importance of the idea of tradition
    • respect diverse traditions throughout the history of art
  • In 100 and 200 level courses students are taught key elements of the language of visual form as well as critical thinking, and they explore various means of conceptualization. Upper-level courses offer opportunities for individualized experimentation and creative communication — projects where students construct meaning about themselves and their relationship to society and culture, and other aspects of the human condition.

Students with an emphasis in painting learn technical fundamentals and explore a variety of painting languages. At the advanced level students are encouraged to pursue a direction of their choice that is aesthetically and conceptually vital. They may pursue a two-dimensional and/or three-dimensional approach to form. Formal, conceptual, and critical considerations, and openness to new ideas are important. Respect for tradition as well as receptivity to and engagement with contemporary practices is encouraged. One of the goals at the advanced and senior project-level is the establishment of a competitive portfolio and preparation for graduate work.

Photography and Printmaking
The photography portion of the emphasis teaches both traditional black and white, digital and alternative techniques. An in-studio digital media lab supports alternative techniques and color printing. The lab includes Macs, Epson Perfection scanners, laser printer (used for both film positives and polyester plates), NuArc MSP 3140 multi-spectrum exposure unit and an Epson Stylus® Pro 4800 printer. The studio promotes a non-toxic environment. Students receive instruction in both traditional and cutting-edge techniques, providing them the opportunity to build competitive fine art portfolios.

The printmaking portion of the emphasis introduces both traditional and alternative processes. Students explore lithography (polyester plate), book arts, relief, silkscreen, monotype and monoprint techniques, etching and “non-etch intaglio type” (photopolymer film) processes. Printmaking is supported by a digital media lab which includes Macs, Epson Perfection scanners, laser printer (used for both film positives and polyester plates), NuArc MSP 3140 multi-spectrum exposure unit and an Epson Stylus® Pro 4800 printer. The studio promotes a non-toxic environment and includes a Conrad E-30 intaglio/litho press, ventilated etching room with an airbrush aquatint station and a vertical etching tank using ferric chloride. Students receive instruction in both traditional and cutting-edge techniques, providing them the opportunity to build competitive portfolios.

The definition of drawing is very broad within our studio art program at Mary Baldwin; it is not considered as merely a supplemental or preparatory activity for other media. Drawing is a vital, multi-media activity that explores and embraces many creative, conceptual, and technical possibilities. Immediacy, intuition, gesture, attention, deliberateness, system, randomness: these are just a few of the unlimited physical and conceptual practices that comprise the flexible and surprising acts of drawing. One of the goals at the advanced and senior project-level is the establishment of a competitive portfolio and preparation for graduate work.

Extended Media
This emphasis is designed for the serious student who has a specific goal in studio art that cannot be met in one of the seven other areas of emphasis. Some possibilities include illustration, the artist’s book, video, performance art, and installation art. This area of emphasis requires the approval and guidance of the full-time studio faculty.

Visiting Artists and Scholars

The Department of Art and Art History regularly invites exciting and prominent artists, critics, and art historians to campus to give public lectures and to interact with students. Both the Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar Program, which began at Mary Baldwin in 1996, and the Susan Paul Firestone Lecture in Contemporary Art, inaugurated in 2006, have greatly enriched the atmosphere and curriculum in the studio art major. For information on other upcoming speakers, visit the Mary Baldwin Lectures page.
Past Visiting Artists and Critics

  • Stephen Vitiello, 2015-16 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art
  • Josef Bolf, 2014-15 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art
  • Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, 2013-14 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturers in Contemporary Art
  • Aurora Robson, 2012-13 Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Doenges Visiting Artist
  • Inka Essenhigh, 2012-13 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art
  • Laylah Ali, 2011-12 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art
  • Oliver Herring, 2009-10 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art
  • Judy Pfaff, 2008-09 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art
  • Janine Antoni, 2007-08 Susan Paul Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art
  • Alberto Rey, painter
  • Ron Johnson, painter
  • Leon Golub, painter
  • Suzi Gablik, critic
  • Robert Storr, curator and critic
  • Joan Snyder, painter and Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar 1998-99
  • Melissa Miller, painter and Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar 1999-2000
  • Richard Fleischner, site-specific artist and Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar
  • Thomas Nozkowski, painter and Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar 2003-04
  • Elizabeth King, sculptor
  • Terrie Sultan, curator
  • Richard Carlyon, multi-media artist
  • Sharon Farmer, photographer
  • Claudia Bernardi, mixed-media artist and Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar
  • Margaret Evangeline, painter and Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art


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Contact Information


Jim R. Sconyers Jr.

Associate Professor of Art; BA, University of North Carolina at Asheville; MFA, Indiana...
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Martha Saunders

Assistant Professor of Art (part-time); BFA, Virginia Commonwealth University; MFA, Mount Royal...
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Nancy H. Ross

Adjunct Faculty Member; BA, University of Maryland; MA, James Madison University...
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Shay Herring Clanton

Adjunct Faculty Member; BA, Mary Baldwin College; MFA, James Madison University...
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