Sherk lists the caliber of recent Muhlenberg art students among the biggest changes he has seen in his 19 years in the department. “Certainly, the department has gotten a lot bigger,” he says. “There are many more students and many more faculty. I think that we have many more serious and highly motivated students than we have ever had, and we have students that are coming with a certain degree of sophistication, bringing to their work a sophistication that is very exciting.”
And, while both Sherk and Elliott can point to the fact that overall the art major has been growing more popular over time, Sherk says it is tough to say which concentration within the major is most popular. “It’s pretty evenly distributed,” he says. “Painting is really popular right now -- this year the senior show was mostly painters -- but it fluctuates.”
Sherk tips his hat to the rest of the faculty in the art department and the “unusual” way the faculty in the department interact with one another as one of the reasons for the art major’s continued appeal at Muhlenberg. Currently, there are six full-time faculty and several adjunct artists in the department, according to Sherk.
“There is a really good energy in the department,” he says. “All the studio faculty are all artists ourselves and that really has an impact on our students. We are really passionate about what we do and we want to share that. We take our students seriously as artists themselves and we are not just learning about art, we are making art.
“Faculty like to participate in what the class is doing, not as a demonstration but from the perspective of ‘this is an important and interesting problem which hasn’t been solved yet and this is how I am going to try to solve it today,’ just as everyone else is.
“We have a wonderful faculty who have really worked together particularly well as a team which is unusual since artists are kind of prickly personalities,” Sherk adds. “We have really figured out ways to work together and to get along. Everyone contributes a little bit of something else. We feel and understand the value of every part of the department.”
In terms of life after Muhlenberg, Elliott says that there are typically about 15 art majors in a graduating class and they go on to do a broad spectrum of things after leaving the College.
“Some go on to grad school, some go on to jobs teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Some go on to work in the fields of, say, publishing or art. Some go on to museums, some work in art education,” Elliott says, remarking that art majors – like most liberal arts graduates – find satisfying work in endless professions. For them, art simply works.