Pioneer Spotlight: Richard Moninski
Richard Moninski, distinguished lecturer of art at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, arrived at the university in January 2001. He teaches Painting II, Painting III, Drawing II, Drawing III, Basic Design 2-D, Basic Design 3-D and Art Survey.
Moninski was raised in Massachusetts and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in painting at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He lived in New York City, N.Y., for 16 years and researched folk textiles in Norway before moving to Wisconsin in early 2000.
As a painter, Moninski is strongly influenced by textile and surface design, having studied surface design at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Awards include a grant from the American-Scandinavian Foundation for research in Norway, and artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Ragdale Foundation.
His paintings and drawings have been exhibited nationally. Solo exhibitions include the Dubuque Museum of Art, Dubuque, Iowa, and the Anderson Art Center, Kenosha, Wis. Notable group exhibitions include the Wisconsin Artists Biennial, as well as shows at the Drawing Center, Curt Marcus Gallery and New York University, all in New York City.
His current project involves creating and painting on printed fabrics, especially those with a camouflage or foliage print. Outside the classroom, Moninski enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, trail running, cycling and backpacking.
What do you enjoy most about teaching art classes?
It's hard to pick one thing, but I enjoy using creative energy to help people. I enjoy seeing the look of revelation on people's faces when they realize the things they can do. Seeing dramatically surprising results is a satisfying feeling.
What do you want students to take away from your classes?
I want them to take away the thought that this is the beginning of the lifelong pursuit of creativity and making their ideas real. It won't happen without a lot of hard work.
Professors in the art program are rooting for students. Students may not realize how much we want them to succeed. Sometimes, they get the wrong idea about grading and critiques and they take it at a personal level. We are trying to be supportive and get them to be the best artists they can be and prepare them for professional life.
What is most challenging about going into art as a career?
The economic structure in art isn't as well defined compared to other fields, unless the role is very specific, such as graphic design for a large company. There are a lot of career options for artists, but how to find and pursue those options isn’t as clear cut as in other professions. Many artists have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. An artist could be a teacher and a studio artist, or a graphic designer and an illustrator.
What is most rewarding about going into art as a career?
It is the hardest job you'll ever have fun at. It is interesting and different every day. The challenges can be frustrating, but the results are always rewarding. You always learn from your most dramatic failures. It is important to build networks, because the first jobs out of school help enlarge professional contacts.
What advice do you give students who are thinking about pursuing art as a career?
Hard work as a student really pays off down the line. It's easy to just coast, but making important discoveries as an undergraduate student puts you in a much stronger position when you graduate. I learned a lot after college by being exposed to people who were really savvy about art and aggressive about promoting their work, and their insight made me wish I had worked even harder in school.
Do you have a favorite painting, drawing or artwork? Why is it your favorite?
The one I just finished. My favorite is always the last good thing I finished. I look back on things from long ago and keep the ugly ones to learn from.
Why is hands-on learning so important in art?
As visual artists, you need to produce. Artists need to develop ideas in the studio, but there needs to be a conceptual underpinning that theory and history provide. You can't make art in a vacuum, it comes out of context.
How does student artwork on campus benefit students and the university?
It makes art much more accessible compared to being in a museum with a guard standing by. People are sometimes intimidated by an institutional context. I think that having people on campus being inspired by student work is the natural end product of the whole process that art students engage in. Maybe the viewers will then want to make art themselves.
Do you have your own studio? If so, what types of artwork do you display there?
My studio is now a workspace, not a gallery. I ran a gallery for 11 years and it got to be too much with campus responsibilities and I couldn't give it the attention it deserved. I am ultimately more interested in teaching than running a retail space.
What type of art do you specialize in or most enjoy creating?
I think of myself primarily as a painter. I enjoy painting and drawing in different forms. Currently, I am painting on printed fabrics and it is an idea I've been able to sustain without feeling bored, as I’ve been able to stretch the idea in a number of directions.
Why is it important for people to try to include art in their lives?
It's an important part of being a human being; to nourish creative impulses is a really satisfying thing.
Interview conducted by: Connie Spyropoulos, College of Liberal Arts and Education
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