By Michael Chesnick
School of Art
From accomplished artists to cutting-edge educators, the University of Arizona School of Art welcomes two full-time faculty members and two visiting professors as the 2023-24 school year begins.
Yana Payusova has rejoined the school as an assistant professor of practice in First Year Experience, while Jenn Liv has been hired as an assistant professor in Illustration, Design & Animation.
Meanwhile, Kate Collins (visiting associate professor) and Shivani Bhalla (visiting assistant professor) have joined the school’s Art and Visual Culture Education program.
Here’s a closer look at the four new faculty members:
Yana Payusova: Received her MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and worked full time in the Student Services area of the School of Art here before becoming an assistant professor of painting, area coordinator of painting and assistant chair of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Arlington three years ago. She has had recent solo exhibitions at Epperson Gallery in Crockett, California, and Conduit Gallery in Dallas. She is also in the permanent collection at the Crocker Art Museum and was recently commissioned to create work for the new Meow Wolf location in Grapevine, Texas. Website
Jenn Liv: Is an award-winning Chinese Canadian American illustrator who had been based in Toronto. Among her prestigious clients include The New York Times, Washington Post, Google, Microsoft, All Nippon Airways, AirBNB and NPR. Liv received her Bachelor of Design and Master of Design from OCAD University in Toronto and has taught at both OCAD and Sheridan College. Her personal research interests focus on investigating the intersections between gender studies, feminism, decolonization, and Asian diasporic identity. Jenn also has a keen interest in emerging technology, particularly in mixed reality, searching for new and innovative ways to expand upon her artistic practice through interdisciplinary methodologies. Website
Kate Collins: Received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University and spent eight years as assistant and then tenured associate professor at Towson University before joining the Baltimore Museum of Art as director of Learning Communities in July 2022. As a community arts scholar/practitioner/leader, she has been published in the Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education, The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance and Public: A Journal of Imagining America. Her most recent project, YAAS (Youth Artists and Allies taking Action in Society) provides arts programing to resettled refugee youth in partnership with the BCCC Refugee Youth Project and Patterson High School in Baltimore. Bio
Shivani Bhalla is completing her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Dissertation title: “Visual Autoethnography: Exploring my Disability Experience Through Art Works, Written Narratives, and Conversations”). Prior to that, she received her MFA in Painting from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Vadodara in India. During her Ph.D. program, she has been teaching at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as well as SUNY New Paltz. Her research exploring art and disability in art education spaces has been published in Art Education and presented at a long list of conferences and professional gatherings, including the Art Education Research Institute (AERI) and National Alternative Education Association (NAEA).
The four professors recently reflected on joining the School of Art:
What are you looking forward to in your first semester?
Payusova: I am looking forward to welcoming all the incoming BA and BFA art students in my First Year Experience classes. I love the energy of the new academic year and the usual excitement of seeing both familiar and new faces. I am also quite looking forward to studio time. In June I finished a big project (“The Real Unreal” exhibition in Grapevine, Texas) that monopolized all my time last year and then took a short break to develop new ideas. I am now fully rested and eager to get back to work. I am looking forward to experimenting and working on a few projects that have been sitting on the backburner.
Liv: I’m looking forward to making new meaningful connections and sharing my knowledge about the illustration field with the students. My goals are to help demystify the inner workings of the industry and to help the students to develop their own visual stylistic identity.
Collins: I get to teach TWO community arts courses — one for grads and one for undergrads and both in my very first semester. What a dream! I’m just thrilled that the AVCE program has an emphasis on community and museums. Looking nationally at art education programs, it’s a unique focus and one of the things that made this opportunity so appealing. I’ve been cultivating a passion for community arts since I finished my MFA at Arizona State in 2002, so coming back to Arizona to teach and engage in community arts research is deeply gratifying. One of my initial goals is to become familiar and build relationships with the various community art organizations in Tucson so we can hopefully find some fruitful opportunities to collaborate.
Bhalla: To connect with students, learning from and growing with them. I see teaching as a form of collaboration, and classrooms as community spaces to support, nurture and help each other grow.
CAN YOU RELATE one of your most rewarding experiences?
Liv: What I find the most rewarding about being an educator is seeing all the wonderful work that comes out of my classes. It brings me great joy to see students demonstrate growth and development under my mentorship and guidance. A recent experience as an artist that has been rewarding for me was finally being accepted into the American Illustration 42 Book this year. This is an achievement I’ve been working toward for nearly a decade now, therefore having this recognition means a lot to me.
Payusova: There are so many rewarding experiences in both teaching and doing my creative research that it’s difficult to think of one. The most rewarding experience for me always in teaching is seeing the students’ “light” go on, so to speak. I love helping the students discover their voice, the direction, their passion. It never gets old. In my creative research, I just finished a large sculptural installation for Meow Wolf (which was the big projects I was referring to earlier). The experience has been the most rewarding and challenging (in all the right ways).
Collins: Building and leading an interdisciplinary arts graduate program over the course of eight years at Towson University in Maryland was incredibly rewarding. During that time though, I was able to design and lead a program called YAAAS (Youth Artists and Allies taking Action in Society) and out of that has evolved a highly impactful pedagogical framework that simultaneously supports learning and wellbeing. Creating YAAAS and the research and publications that have followed have made it a truly a transformative experience that I hope to reinvent here in Tucson. The project embraced collaborative artmaking as a vehicle to build a dynamic partnership between working educators and newly resettled refugee youth in high school. It was beautiful in that it evolved into something that was mutually beneficial and valued by all. Partnering teachers expanded their global competency and gained confidence with employing arts-based strategies to support the growing population of English learners in their classrooms in a manner that is culturally sustaining, and trauma informed. Meanwhile our young partners gained a sense of agency and belonging, built critical relationships, expanded their facility with English, and through artmaking, enjoyed a critical outlet for self-expression that isn’t always possible when you don’t speak the language. It’s incredibly rewarding work that I can’t wait to dive into here in Tucson.
Bhalla: While I taught a disability studies course to preservice art education teachers, it was most rewarding when I realized students were already applying the theory that we were studying to the real-life classroom’s settings. They had become self-critical and reflective of how they were perceiving disability and responding to students with disabilities.
What advice can you give to students?
Payusova: Get off social media! No, really. It’s a great tool for networking and showing your work but it can also feel very intimidating to see so much good work. It can feel as if everything has already been done by someone else. It’s important to take breaks from hearing other people’s voices out there so that you can hear your own. Be patient and kind with yourself. It takes time to develop both techniques and ideas. And finally enjoy this time at the university. It’s a fantastic experience to be a part of this great institution; to learn and grow with faculty and students from all over the country and the world.
Liv: My advice for students learning illustration is to identify what are the values that are most important to you as a person. This will be fundamental in helping you to develop your own visual identity as an artist. Illustration is a challenging career that rewards persistence over artistic talent alone. It is more important to strive for continuous growth and self-improvement rather than perfection.
Collins: Get to know Tucson. Go hiking and get out in nature. Got to the local farmer’s markets. See the local art shows and support the local artists. Find every cool mural in the city. Tucson as a city has SO much to offer. Go be a part of it! Bring a friend, bring a group, or go solo. Having been a college student for ELEVEN years of my life, I realize how insular we can be on campuses, often barely ever leaving the immediate vicinity. I know now I missed out by not spending more time getting to know the spaces and places and people around me. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I’d work much harder to get out there, especially here in the Southwest when there’s so much beauty and richness all around us.
Bhalla: Be yourself, and value your experiences. Grad school can be tough, but the fact the fact that you made it here is a proof that you are wonderful and your experiences matter. So never doubt that!