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The lost department

Laura Laws | Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My figure drawing teacher gets coffee at Starbucks in LaFun every morning. One day he came to class and told us about his barista that particular day. She asked if he was a student. I’m guessing he laughed at that and said no, he taught drawing and painting. This girl, allegedly, was amazed and said something to the effect of, “Oh, cool! I didn’t know we had that!” and he responded, “Umm, we have an art department.” At this she was all “Nuh uh! No we don’t!” Jason probably felt like responding “No, you’re right. I lied. I haven’t devoted a chunk of my life to the Notre Dame Department of Art, Art History and Design. I just come in everyday at 8 a.m. to get coffee and then bum around campus, sleeping in the bushes and chasing squirrels. I just made up that art professor crap.” But being somewhat tactful, he said something like, “No really. Our building, Riley, it’s connected to Nieuwland.” To which she continued to look skeptical.

As much as I laugh, this conversation also makes me a little sad. I think our department is severely under-appreciated here. All of the College of Arts and Letters is, but because the Department of Art, Art History and Design is my home, that is what I want to focus on.

We do awesome things in the art department. I know people who can exactly replicate photographs using pencils and paint. I know people who can take physical reality and turn it on its head for the viewer. “Anyone can draw a picture,” but not everyone can do what these people do – breathe life into paper or canvas or clay or wood or metal. Only once you’ve really seen or experienced this could you understand.

The design branch is arguably one of the most successful in the country. Graphic and Industrial Design are the quickest growing majors in the College of Arts and Letters. We have one of the few Industrial Design programs in the country. It pulls in tons of awards, nationally and internationally.

The percentage of Notre Dame graphic designers who are hired after graduation exceeds the numbers from other schools, including the Art Institutes. And remember all you business students: an important part of selling is the customer’s perception. And the design of the company’s branding, packaging and product impacts perception on every level of consciousness.

We work just as hard and long as you do and are just as successful. Never forget that there is another side to Notre Dame. I challenge you to check it out sometime. I bet you’ll be surprised by what you find.