Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Tyler Ostergaard

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Pioneer Spotlight
Tyler Ostergaard
September 29, 2017

Exposing students to new material that helps them see the world in a more multi-faceted manner is what inspires Dr. Tyler Ostergaard, assistant professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, to teach every day. His favorite moment in teaching is when students come to grasp the complex interplay of social and creative forces embodied in a work of art.

As the university’s sole art historian, Ostergaard teaches all of the art history courses, supervises the art history minor and assists with a variety of art programs, including multiple exhibitions on and off campus each year such as the November Show and the Senior Show. This year, he also will lead students in his art history courses on new trips to the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.

Why is education and engagement in the arts an integral part of the development of students?

Art and its history are our human patrimony. I often tell my first-year art history students that art works are the most important objects produced by a society. I don’t mean to say that art is more important than other elements of societal production, but rather that art works are among the fullest expressions of a society’s beliefs, aspirations and priorities. By studying these works and their history, we can gain an immensely compelling and accessible view of past cultures and peoples.

How do you inspire creativity in your students?

I am lucky in that my classes get to look at the greatest known works of human creativity. I tell my students that I do not care if they personally like the works or not – what matters is that they understand their historical importance. That being said, most of the work we get to analyze is stunningly beautiful, in its own right.

This semester, my Art History I and II students will be going to the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time. Going forward, the classes will go to the Art Institute every fall and spring. I am incredibly excited for my students to see many of the works we study in class, life-size and in person. The Art Institute’s collection is truly world class and it was the first collection I came to know well, thus I cannot wait to start sharing that experience with UW-Platteville students.

What is one of the challenges art majors will face in their future careers? How do your classes help prepare them for this challenge?

I would say the biggest challenge, just like most fields, is competition from peers for a limited number of jobs. This fall, the Department of Performing and Visual Arts will offer two additional degrees: Bachelor of Fine Arts (the standard professional degree in the arts) and Bachelor of Fine Arts in education. The new degrees will make our students more competitive on the job market or if they choose to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in graduate school. I personally hope my classes will help our majors develop their visual literacy and become sophisticated connoisseurs of art and its history.

You were chosen to participate in the recent UW System 2017 Faculty College at UW-Richland Center. How did this experience impact you personally and professionally?

Faculty College was a fantastic experience. It gave me the opportunity to discuss my teaching with some like-minded and extremely accomplished peers. Above all, the other Faculty College participants and instructors challenged me to think through how I can assess and improve my pedagogy. I was particularly excited by the number of UW-Platteville faculty members who attended. I hope to see some really interesting projects on campus in the next year.

What research areas are you most interested in and why?

My primary research interest is the depictions of industrialization in 19th-century European art. I am particularly interested in the depictions (and absence) of the railroad as a subject in fine art, with a focus on the art of the Impressionist and their peers. I am drawn to this subject as it is one of the most dramatic instances of a society coming to grips with a radically new technologic innovation. Given our own societies excitement toward and issues with new technology, I believe modern viewers can offer unique perspectives on this period, and by studying this history, we can gain an understanding of our efforts to make sense of rapid, transformative technologic change.

Interview conducted by Laurie A. Hamer, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, email pr@uwplatt.edu.

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