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Art Professor Wins Prestigious National Prize

Art Professor Wins Prestigious National Prize

Ken Steinbach, professor of art, won the Arlin G. Meyer Prize for Under the Rose.

College of Arts & Sciences Professor of Art Ken Steinbach ’83 recently received the 2014 Arlin G. Meyer Prize in Visual Arts at the Lilly Fellows Program National Conference at Xavier University-Louisiana in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This prize was given by the National Network Board of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts. Bethel University is one of 96 church-related colleges and universities that make up the Lilly Fellows Program National Network. This award is given biennially in the visual arts category to a network full-time faculty member. The prize is awarded solely on one body of work within the previous three years that demonstrates Christian artistic vocation.

His colleagues from the Department of Art and Design nominated Steinbach for his work Under the Rose. The work consists of multiple pieces of muslin wool with several patterns intricately laser-cut. The patterns were derived from many sources, including European confessionals of the Middle Ages, images of Islamic architectural sites in India and Spain taken by Steinbach himself, headscarves of local Somali schoolchildren, and even modern fatigues worn by U.S. military in Afghanistan. These delicate patterns are juxtaposed with their layout-a full-scale General Atomics MQ-1 Predator drone. Under the Rose debuted at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis last year.

In the nomination letter, Barrett Fisher, associate dean of the arts and humanities, wrote, “The choice of Under the Rose is an especially appropriate one because it epitomizes the quality of his craft, the depth of his thought, and the intentionality of his commitment to a profound integration of art and faith, as well as his collaborative spirit; significantly, in creating Under the Rose Professor Steinbach included his undergraduates.” Under the Rose was created with the assistance of three of his undergraduate students, Ben Jasmer ’15, Heidi Kao ’16, and Ashley Zapata ’15. They helped in locating some of the patterns and with rendering for the laser cutting.

Steinbach has been previously recognized for his strength in teaching. In 2012, he was presented with the Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching. “What Ken is so good at is helping students generate ideas, to learn to think like an artist,” says Wayne Roosa, chair of the Department of Art and Design. “Instead of the traditional teacher-student model, the environment is oriented on peer review. It’s a horizontal creativity that engages students in critiquing each other and helping one another develop ideas. His teaching methods pare away fear for students in both of those areas.” One of the ways Steinbach contributed to the development of the B.F.A. degree program was his formulation of a “Creative Practices” course for sophomores. In the spring, art faculty meet individually with students to see their growth as artists. After the first few groups of students took “Creative Practices,” Roosa says, “we found during the sophomore student reviews that the development of their ideas and their ability to articulate during critiques was about the same level of our seniors in years past. For students in their sophomore year, this was remarkable.”

Roosa continues, “The amount of work and number of shows Ken has done, in the last year alone, is incredible.” In 2013, Steinbach had three solo and five group exhibitions shown around the country. So far this year, he’s had two more solo shows and has been part of several additional group exhibitions. This past summer, Steinbach was one-half of the design team behind The Uncertainty Principle, the eighth hole of the Walker Art Center’s annual summer mini golf course. “He has an impact and engagement outside of Bethel as well as inside our community,” Roosa adds.