University welcomes new art professor

Courtesy Photo / Collin Bradford
Professor Collin Bradford

Courtesy Photo / Collin Bradford Professor Collin Bradford

Samantha Butcher

After three years as a visiting professor, Colin Bradford joins Grand Valley State University as an assistant professor of art and design. Bradford, who works with digital media, time-based media and interactive art, is teaching several studio art courses at GVSU this fall. He is also an avid cyclist, and bikes to GVSU’s Allendale campus from his Grand Rapids home. Bradford sat down with the Lanthorn to discuss his new position.

Lanthorn: What made you decide to make art your career?

Bradford: I started my undergraduate an electrical engineering major, and after my first semester I was convinced that I didn’t want to spend every day doing that. So I applied to the art program where I was studying and it was kind of a gradual thing. I bounced around and did bits and pieces of a bunch of different degrees, and art was the only place where I could think about anything I wanted to. If I felt like thinking about engineering things, I could and my art could involve that. If I felt like thinking about philosophy, I could do that. It’s an open zone where I can pursue whatever interests I have and make work out of what I’m thinking about.

Lanthorn: When did you decide that you wanted to teach?

Bradford: Probably at the end of my undergraduate time. I had a few professors that were really good and whose ideas excited me, and the kind of work I make is not particularly saleable. I wanted to go to graduate school because it was, once again, a kind of open space where you can spend time kind of really diving into whatever area you’re interested in, so I went to graduate school. I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to teach at a university when I started but because of some experiences I had with some professors and because I was married with a son, I wanted a job that was steady. Teaching is fun, I love working with students. It’s a continuation of the reason I decided to go into art. With the classes that I teach, I can explore lots of the areas that interest me and do that with students.

Lanthorn: How would you describe your teaching style?

Bradford: In studio art in general, instruction is pretty informal. Professors all go by their first names because we have a room with 15 students or so and we’re in class for three hours at a time so people get pretty comfortable with each other. I think my style is pretty informal, but that doesn’t mean that it’s wimpy. I’m fairly demanding of my students, I expect a lot of work and I expect them to think hard, but I also try to create an environment that is supportive and where they could take risks with their work and not be afraid of taking those works, because when you take risks there’s always a chance of some kind of failure.

Lanthorn: What’s been your best moment at GVSU so far?

Bradford: I’m not sure I can pin it down to one, but I think the best moments for me have been when students who have been working on things and kind of chewing through stuff and maybe having some frustrations, when I see their final work and sometimes it’s really impressive. I think that’s certainly a great moment for everyone – for me because I can see the difference between where they started and the final product, and for them because they can feel proud of something they made that’s really good and their classmates can really feed on that energy.

Lanthorn: What are your goals for the upcoming year?

Bradford: I’m teaching two classes for the third time now and each time they go through more and more refinement, and I think they’re both in a place where I can really kind of hammer them down. What that means is that hopefully the students will hopefully emerge with really excellent work. That’s kind of the goal of all of my teaching, to have my students make excellent work and have that be something that continues past just the class, to be something that’s self-sustaining.

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