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Jacob Hanson builds skill and community as a candidate in IU’s MFA sculpture program

Nov. 2, 2016

Most artists design and create work to be viewed by others. This relationship between artists and their audience is a vital factor in creative work.

On Oct. 28, artists in the various IU School of Art and Design programs showed off their work and interacted with their audience at the school's annual Open Studios event.

Jacob Hanson

Jacob Hanson, appearing here in his campus studio space, is a master's candidate in the sculpture program in IU's School of Art and Design. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BAILEY BRISCOE, IU COMMUNICATIONS

This year was Jacob Hanson’s first time participating in the campus event. Hanson is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in the school’s sculpture program. Sculpture isn't the most portable medium, so he had to leave most of his undergraduate work behind when he came to IU. Being in the early stages of building up a new portfolio meant that he didn’t have any finished work to show at Open Studios. 

However, it was important to Hanson to interact with the attendees in some way, so he got creative. Hanson set up a photo area, staged with props he found lying around his studio such as plants, athletic equipment and even bananas.

“Inviting the public into my studio was a little nerve-wracking, but then a switch flipped,” he said. “I had built a scenario with defined roles (photographer and model) and a specific structure (you sit there; I sit here). I let that weird little project take care of itself.

“When I saw people wander by, I simply asked them to sit for a portrait, and it was a great way of starting a personal and specific dialogue,” he said. “I got the feeling that people didn’t completely know what was going on, but it resulted in some really interesting conversations and photos, which is all I could have hoped for.” 

The set-up Hanson chose for the event reflects his passion for sculpture. When Hanson began his undergraduate journey, he thought he wanted to become an illustrator. Then he took a 3-D design class and was introduced to a new way to look at art. Instead of being daunted by the challenge of an area he had never studied before, he was drawn to it. 

“Two-dimensional composition was taught rigorously to me during my public school education, but other than making coil pots in ceramics I had never really explored sculpture in the same depth,” he said. “I realized how much I had to learn in that area, and that was exciting to me. The whole point of going to school was to learn as much as possible, and the area of sculpture was the biggest opportunity for me to do that.” 

The events that led Hanson to IU for his master’s degree began during his undergraduate career at the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

He had the opportunity to work on an installation project with Blane De St. Croix, an associate professor of sculpture in IU’s School of Art and Design. Through that project, Hanson was on IU’s campus, working in the studios and getting a glimpse of what it would be like to study here.

Open studios scene

Jacob Hanson photographs visitors at the School of Art and Design's 2016 Open Studios event, incorporating them into his artful display. | PHOTO COURTESY OF KAREN LAND, IU COMMUNICATIONS

But, in lieu of grad school, Hanson opted to move to New York City after graduation. After a year and a half of struggling to maintain his studio practice with limited funds in a cramped apartment building, Hanson knew he had to go in a different direction to continue producing his work. Then he got the call that a spot had opened in IU’s sculpture program. 

“The stars aligned in a way,” he said. “I got the call at just the right time, and because I had seen the studios here and I could really see myself here working and being productive, the decision was easy.”

While he has been at IU for only a few short months, he has no doubt that he made the right choice. He said that art events on campus and in the community are well-attended, making Bloomington a great home for an artist.    

“As an artist, you really feel like you’re a part of the community,” he said. “It’s not a sideshow or accessory that IU or the city flaunts as an illusion of culture. They really care about artwork and artists coming in and talking about their work and do all they can to support that.” 

Hanson also came to IU as the new School of Art and Design brings together art, design and merchandising. 

“The program really embraces interdisciplinary artwork and artists. The boundaries between the different areas of art are shrinking,” he said. “I think that’s a direct response to the way that we as students and artists want to work, as well as a reflection of the contemporary arts. It’s great that IU supports that.”

Jacob Hanson's experience at IU aligns with priorities outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success.

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