This academic year, Professor of Art Byron Wolfe is stepping into a new role as Art Department Chair, a critical leadership position in connecting Tyler’s eight studio arts disciplines (ceramics, fibers and material studies, glass, metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture) through curriculum planning and developing methods for cross-departmental success. This year, Wolfe’s responsibilities will include working with faculty on course development, day-to-day operations, and determining the department’s long-term goals.
Wolfe cites the longstanding conversation between faculty and the desire to explore and revise the curriculum, especially following the integration of design and built environment courses under one roof. “Faculty have expressed that they’d like to see a better degree of communication, collaboration, and cooperation between faculty and students. There’s a real desire to further foster this community in response to COVID because we didn’t get a chance to fully explore that. Interdisciplinarity is something that’s been widely discussed. Historic forms of making see a lot of overlap because of how our tools and technology have changed. This is an opportunity to really nurture how we can all work together better.”
On his desire to accept the Department Chair role, Wolfe says that the expectation of mentoring colleagues about their teaching practices as well as observing the various ways disciplines intersect are things that he has been doing since he arrived at Tyler nine years ago. “Now we’re at a place where we can continue to build on the work that’s been done, and we’re really excited to think about and redefine what it means to be a 21st-century art school.”
Wolfe also noted what he feels are Tyler’s strengths, including our “exceptional faculty across the board. They're incredibly dedicated and devoted to the welfare of their students. Even though the pandemic absolutely had an effect on us, it’s a very supportive and hardworking community. The facilities we have here are also some of the best I’ve ever seen, and that’s something that faculty always appreciate.”
During Wolfe’s sabbatical last academic year, he spent most of his creative time collaborating with Dr. Erin Pauwels in the Art History Department researching glass plate photographs taken by the famous photographer Eadweard Muybridge in the 1880s.
The work is from Muybridge’s revolutionary series titled Animals in Locomotion. Wolfe is considered an expert in this area of research and co-wrote the book Phantom Skies and Shifting Ground: Landscape, Culture, and Rephotography in Eadweard Muybridge’s Illustrations of Central America in 2017. He was cited as a source for the Apple TV film, Exposing Muybridge, alongside actor Gary Oldman, an avid Muybridge fan.
In order to accurately reflect the way his personal creative work impacts his teaching at Tyler, Wolfe says he always shares the research questions he’s asking with his students. “Often times, long-term, complex projects begin with asking a basic question,” he says.
This fall, Wolfe is teaching Graduate Projects in Photograph I and Directed Studio Practice in Tyler’s Photography program.