Dean Jeff Pike stands outside Bixby Hall; in the background is Doors: Linear by Mark Rozansky, B.F.A. '03 (sculpture). The artwork was part of a B.F.A. exhibit.


Illustrating a Collaborative Vision for the Art School

by Terri McClain

Jeff Pike wants to ensure that students in the School of Art absorb all the basics of a traditional studio art education, and benefit from all the skills, knowledge, and experience of its nationally renowned faculty.

He also wants to ensure that students are exposed to everything else that Washington University has to offer. Doing both means integrating a rigorous art curriculum with 21st-century technology. It also means finding new and creative ways to integrate the School of Art into the broader academic community.

One avenue toward this goal is the promotion of combined studies opportunities. In only five years, the number of students from the University's other undergraduate schools who are working on minors in art has grown from 23 to more than 150. Likewise, nearly one-third of undergraduate art students are now pursuing minors, second majors, or second degrees in other schools.

"Our combined studies program is nationally distinctive and a primary reason why undergraduate students choose to enroll here," Pike says. "We've tried to take advantage of our unique position as a freestanding art school within a major research university and the wealth of in-depth academic programming that provides."

"Way back when Jeff was associate dean, he helped get the double-major/double-degree programs worked out across the University so there would be a mechanism in place for students to pursue combined studies," says Associate Dean Sarah Spurr. "That's been a tremendous asset to the art school. We've been able to recruit really remarkable students because we're one of the only places in the country where you can get a professional art degree along with a second major or a second degree in another discipline."

Also, the School of Art under Pike's leadership has taken the initiative to establish programmatic and curricular relationships with other parts of the University. "We're developing a joint major with computer science, we have a strong relationship with the business school, and we are developing our study abroad program in collaboration with architecture and art history," adds Spurr.

This collaborative spirit is embodied in the Sam Fox Arts Center. The center's five units—the School of Art, the School of Architecture, the Department of Art History and Archaeology in Arts & Sciences, the Art and Architecture Library, and the Gallery of Art—will share curricula and programming as well as educational resources such as the Whitaker Learning Lab, a new media center.

"The Sam Fox Arts Center is focused on the arts, but in a sense will resonate throughout the University," Pike says. "The idea is to create a place where students in, say, engineering or medical imaging can have a conversation with architects and graphic designers. Right now, for example, we're developing a basic platform to support the use of digital images in teaching and research—a platform we expect to share and maintain with the School of Medicine, the College of Arts & Sciences, and University Libraries."

An award-winning illustrator, Pike began and directed the School's illustration program and later, as associate dean, was responsible for the undergraduate program. As dean and a member of the Sam Fox Arts Center's Executive Committee, Pike has directly overseen plans for the renovation of Bixby Hall and the development of the new School of Art building. He's had input into the new Museum Building, the renovation of Steinberg Hall, and programmatic studies, as well.

"The Sam Fox Arts Center represents a new, cross-disciplinary approach to the study of the visual arts," says Mark S. Weil, the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts and director of the Sam Fox Arts Center and the Gallery of Art. "Dean Pike has been deeply involved in realizing the goals of the center and fostering a greater sense of community and collaboration within the School of Art."

One of Pike's most important goals is to improve the graduate program, which, he says, "must reflect an increasingly complex and multimedia visual landscape." He hopes that, by offering more interdisciplinary structures, the program will better prepare students for the varied professional experiences awaiting them outside the classroom.

"Our students have an important advantage," Pike says. "In addition to strong studio skills, creative problem-solving abilities, and a digital facility that enriches both, they also have high-quality academic training. They can make things, but they can also think analytically, write well, and stand up and present their work. This combination gives them incredible flexibility, and allows them to take advantage of a wide range of opportunities."

For the School of Art, the prospects are exciting. The School currently has three off-campus studio facilities. Faculty and students who work in the studios spend most of their academic hours away from the Hilltop Campus. Sheer distance makes collaboration among disciplines difficult. With most graduate students working off-campus, integrating the graduate program into the School has been particularly challenging. Combining these facilities within the Sam Fox Arts Center will change this dynamic.

"Collaboration requires self-knowledge," Pike says. "Unifying undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from all areas into a single 'arts campus' will literally transform the School. It will reinforce both our distinctive identity within the University and our identity as a full, committed partner in the Sam Fox Arts Center.

"From a strategic viewpoint, I always want to make sure that the School's initiatives are designed to better integrate the visual arts into the intellectual life of the University, to strengthen our ties with the Sam Fox Arts Center and the professional community, and to distinguish us from the competition."

Terri McClain is a free-lance writer based in St. Charles, Missouri.





Peer Review

"I think Jeff has been very effective at articulating a vision for the School of Art that's based on collaboration and exchange. He has supported faculty initiatives that lead in that direction and, as a result, has played a very important role in establishing the Sam Fox Arts Center."
—Douglas Dowd, Professor of Art


"I have worked with Dean Pike for over 17 years. Throughout this time we have had the opportunity to face challenges, invent new ideas, and see many programs grow and develop into the exciting place the School of Art currently occupies. During all these activities, Dean Pike has been committed, industrious, and genuinely vested in the improvement of the School for its students, faculty, and staff."
—Ron Leax, the Halsey C. Ives Professor of Art


"Jeff has a very keen interest in the potential of linking different parts of the University through the Sam Fox Arts Center. Creating that sort of collaborative structure takes a pretty broad vision because many of the questions about potential and technology really don't have answers yet. But Jeff is asking them anyway."
—Pat Schuchard, the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration


"Jeff Pike is a creative and effective individual who has brought dynamic leadership to both the School of Art and the Sam Fox Arts Center. He is a great University citizen who has earned the respect of his faculty members and his colleagues in the art community."
—Mark S. Wrighton, Chancellor