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CAS in the Media Arts and Sciences Media Headlines

WSU undergraduate education benefits from eight Smith Teaching and Learning grants

Joe Hedges.
Amy Nielsen.

Amy Nielsen, clinical assistant professor of chemistry, and Joe Hedges, assistant professor and coordinator in the Dept. of Fine Arts, are developing a new course in which students will learn the chemical origins of color perception and create painting projects from pigments they have synthesized themselves in the laboratory.

Their project, “Chemistry and Art: Exploring the Painted Surface,” uses lecture, lab, and studio venues to foster students’ formation of a tactile link between chemistry and painting. It also looks at the evolution of colored pigments from natural ones used in cave paintings to the development and industrial synthesis of modern chemical pigments in the 20thcentury and beyond.

Nielsen and Hedges are among 15 WSU faculty members on three campuses pursuing eight projects to improve undergraduate education, thanks to funding from the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment.

Since 2000, the endowment has provided support for dozens of faculty-initiated ventures that focus on enhancing the education of students. Thousands of learners at WSU have benefitted directly or indirectly from scores of innovative ideas to transform pedagogy and curricular issues.

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WSU grad’s art brought Apollo‑era space flight to millions

Before an age of digital cameras, the world had to rely largely on artist renderings to help visualize the various stages of early space travel, particularly the pioneering Apollo 11 mission that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon 50 years ago this month.

And the artist whose work NASA relied on heavily was WSU alumnus George Mathis.

Rendering of a rocket ship and capsule in orbit around a planet inouter space by artist and WSU alumnus George Mathis.
Rendering by artist and WSU alumnus George Mathis.

Mathis graduated from WSU with a degree in art in 1932 and moved to Oakland, California, to focus on becoming a commercial artist. Along with his wife Jean, he founded a thriving business in lithography, where he focused on capturing the Old West through his art.

But in 1959, he also started working with the Aerojet corporation, America’s largest producer of rocket engines. Aerojet built the engines for the Apollo and Gemini missions and used the artistic renderings by Mathis to illustrate how the propulsion systems were designed to work. He called the art, “engineering concept” renderings and worked closely with Aerojet’s engineers, who studied the images for technical accuracy.

Back in 1969, with international interest in the Apollo 11 mission soaring, the Mathis renderings were widely broadcast by television networks and published in newspapers and magazines to help explain how the astronauts were actually getting from Earth to the moon.

He worked with Aerojet until 1970. Over the course of his career, he became nationally recognized not only for his work depicting space travel but for his art celebrating scenes of the Old West and the California Gold Rush, earning him the affectionate title of “pictoral historian of the Mother Lode.”

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Center for Arts and Humanities awards fellowships to eight faculty

The Center for Arts and Humanities (CAH) and the Office of Research are pleased to announce eight faculty members are recipients of the 2019 Arts and Humanities Fellowships. The fellowship program awarded a total of $62,320 to faculty representing Fine Arts, the School of Music, the Department of History, Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs and the School of Design and Construction. Each project supports faculty professional goals and advances university‑wide arts and humanities initiatives. The fellowships will support exhibitions, music recordings, research travel, and course releases. Many of these activities will lead to publications. In addition to their individual efforts, the Fellows will meet for monthly discussions, hosted by the CAH.

This is the third year in which CAH and the Office of Research have awarded the fellowships. In April 2019, the Board of Regents gave formal approval for the center. With this recognition, the CAH will continue the fellowship program and further expand and advance arts and humanities at WSU through speakers, seminars, and other activities.

“This year’s fellowships reaffirm the vibrancy, relevance, and creativity of the arts and humanities at WSU,” said Todd Butler, director of the CAH. “Particularly impressive is the fact that most if not all of the fellowship winners envision a public component to their projects. This is land‑grant work in action.”

Learn about the fellowship recipients for 2019

WSU Insider

3 CAS faculty awarded WSU seed grants

Washington State University has awarded 10 New Faculty Seed Grants (NFSG) to encourage the development of research, scholarly, or creative programs. The program supports projects that will significantly contribute to the researchers’ long range goals by kick-starting a more complex project or idea. The seed funding to junior faculty helps build the foundation for their research programs, allowing recipients to gather preliminary data, build collaborations, or establish creative programs. The funding also effectively provides a basis for faculty to seek extramural funding as well as opportunities for professional growth.

The Office of Research, the Office of the President, and the Office of the Provost fund the NFSG program. The 10 proposals selected this year represent the range of scholarly activity taking place at WSU. The total amount of grant funding is $212,524.

Awarded faculty and their projects include:

  • Deepti Singh, School of the Environment, will analyze the influence of multiple climate factors that govern the extent, severity, and duration of the impacts wildfires have on air quality and water resources.
  • Joe Hedges, Department of Fine Arts, will create and exhibit a new body of innovative intermedia art works that combine oil painting and new media objects, such as flatscreen televisions and tablets.
  • Rock Mancini, Department of Chemistry, will develop a new type of reaction to generate synthetic-biologic hybrids, enabling the synthesis of many new biomolecule therapeutics.

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Viewing the ordinary with new eyes

Avantika Bawa.
Avantika Bawa

Sporting a Portland Trail Blazers jersey, artist and Washington State University Vancouver associate professor of fine arts Avantika Bawa is talking about her new solo show at the Portland Art Museum.

The show, which opens Aug. 18, includes almost two dozen drawings of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the Blazers won their most recent championship … in 1977.

The drawings are inspired by Bawa’s fascination—her “obsession,” as she says—with the coliseum. “Some people find it extremely boring, but I chose to take this building and put it on a pedestal and worship it like a mad person.”

The result is a suite of drawings that are intricate and, while certainly architectural, are also poetic, urging the viewer to blaze a trail alongside the artist in order to see the building in a new way.

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