Associate Professor Aaron Coleman earned the 2021 Provost Award for Innovations in Teaching. The award recognizes faculty whose teaching portfolios and instructional effectiveness merit special recognition.
Coleman arrived at the School of Art in fall 2016, coming from California State University Fresno. Within five years, the program that welcomed Coleman has transformed and is hard to recognize now. He substantially updated the printmaking program and facilities, and those changes have directly impacted the students and their work.
It comes as no surprise then, to know that Coleman has now earned two awards in teaching during his short time here. In 2020, Coleman was awarded the College of Fine Arts Undergraduate Advising/Mentoring Award. The award goes to faculty who exhibit true excellence in undergraduate academic advising or mentoring.
“It feels great to be acknowledged by the University for the work that I do,” said Coleman. “Our students are a major priority for me and I hope whatever work I do here (because I do it for them) gives them the tools they need to be successful in whatever future they pursue.”
Coleman had plans when he came to the School of Art that included reviving the printmaking program by revamping the curriculum and by introducing media to the program, like screenprinting.
He hit the ground running in 2016 and during the past five years he has designed an innovative curriculum in printmaking, including alternative methods in screenprinting and lithography, relevant for art as well as commercial production. His diverse knowledge and excellent skills in intaglio, mixed-media, collage, and other printmaking methods and proficiencies have contributed to the entire 2D curriculum.
“I’m honored that I was trusted and supported in bringing this new program to the school,” said Coleman. “Introducing screenprint has allowed us to bridge a gap between printmaking, painting, photography, installation and even sculpture.”
But curriculum is only one part of teaching. The other part is, well, teaching.
Most junior faculty take a few years to build their reputations and establish rapport with the students. Coleman’s personable approach and his ability to connect deeply with students brought him into more graduate thesis committees than most junior faculty in their first five years.
Coleman’s students describe his teaching style as informal but with a high degree of expertise. They feel comfortable approaching him and he encourages students with flexible, yet ambitious, projects where they feel they have the agency to experiment.
“Aaron was one of the best professors I had in my undergraduate career,” said Alumna Delaney Thomas (BFA ‘20, AVCE). “He was honest, funny, and encouraged me to think about art in new ways rather than just the traditional sense. His unique mindset really motivated me to try new things and expand my work! He is absolutely deserving of this award!”
Alumna Erin Scott (BFA 2D, ‘20) was able to complete and display an ambitious exhibition in the Lionel Rombach Gallery, Matriarchs, with work produced from the first screen print class offered.
Even outside the classroom, Coleman finds ways to mentor students. He is the faculty advisor for the Wildcat Print Association, the ASUA-recognized student club for printmakers, and has been instrumental in establishing the Sienna Collective, a group for artists of color at the School of Art.
Although he teaches 2D media, Coleman has enthusiastically mentored students of color in other School of Art programs such as Illustration + Design and Photography, Video and Imaging.
“I never had a mentor of color in education,” said Coleman. “As I moved through my academic career and on to teaching it became more and more apparent that I was deprived of critical interactions that could have helped me in so many ways regarding my research and studio production … and maybe even just a general understanding of who I am. … I hope that my presence helps them feel as though they belong here and encourages them to speak from a perspective influenced by their own life experiences and interests.”