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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / Wisconsin women, graduate school, and the professions

Mjaanes, Judith
Chapter 9: Women in the art department,   pp. 79-87 ff.

Page 79

9. Women in the Art Department
by Judith Mjaanes
When Helen Annen came to teach at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison in 1926, the faculty for industrial education and applied arts con-
sisted of three men and three women. When she retired in 1963, the art
faculty had grown to twenty-two, with twenty men and two women. Now in
1977 the art faculty numbers forty-six full and part-time members. There
twenty-one male full professors with tenure and one woman; nine men associ-
ate professors, no women; two men assistant professors on tenure track and
two women; four male visiting lecturers and seven women, two of whom have
full-time appointments. During most of those years the number of women en-
rolled as undergraduates in the department equaled or exceeded the number
of men.1
The changes in what was to become the art department between 1926
when Helen Annen arrived at Wisconsin and her retirement in 1963 were
dramatic. The first classes she taught met in the haymow of a converted horse
barn on the site of the present day Memorial Library. She recalls:
For the first year or two everyone had hay fever. We were never short of
students, forty
or fifty in each class. I taught four courses my first two years, twenty-four
hours each
week in the classroom. Two classes were at Wisconsin High School which was
university lab school and two were design classes at the university. Some
classes were
taught in the old mechanical engineering building where the heavy machinery
on the
first floor kept the whole building shaking violently, and we had to shout
our lectures
above the roar. The kids were really good to get any control over their drawing.
In the
winter is was so cold we kept our overcoats on.
As student interest grew in watercolor and composition, which were her
own specialities, Helen Annen taught full-time at the university, where most
of her students were training to become public school teachers. She feels
the way many art students were taught at that time was "a crime"
- teachers
who demonstrated a technique to be rigidly followed and who worked directly
on students' paintings were producing copyists, not artists. Instead, she
couraged her students to find subject matter which truly interested them.
class often met outdoors and group critiques were an important part of the
learning process.
In 1910, in response to the growing number of students entering public
high schools, a series of courses was established "appropriate for the
tion of teachers and supervisors of manual training." Bench work in
wood and
iron, pipe fitting, and forge and lathe work in metals were considered ap-
propriate. When William Varnum joined the faculty in 1912, the manual arts
curriculum was expanded to free-hand drawing, art metal, and ceramics. Var-
num also introduced cast drawing, watercolor rendering, and the history and
appreciation of design. Della Wilson, who joined the faculty in 1915, taught
elementary industrial art, sculpture (which emphasized work in clay and
plaster) and pottery. During the twenties, portrait painting, block printing,
etching, and stage design were added to the curriculum. A major re-
organization took place in 1930, separating industrial arts from the fine
and establishing the department of art education within the school of educa-

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