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Alumni Profile, cont.

Frankly, though, I donít know that I even think about it as public service. I just do things that interest me, and where I think I can make a contribution. Being in this particular community is part of it, as well. I moved to Minnesota for graduate school, by way of San Diego, Washington DC and Milwaukee. I didnít expect to be back in the Midwest, but 16 years later, this is definitely home. My connection to community began with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, where I have gone from being a faculty member, to serving on the artist advisory board, and now a member of the Board of Directors. There are so many small, dedicated arts and education organizations here, and people who are committed to improving not just the arts but also the wider social/cultural environment. Itís exciting to be a part of that.

As a graduate student, Wirth enjoyed the breadth of courses available at the University of Minnesota. She also found that the sculpture courses she took in the department taught her more than the technical skills commonly associated with such courses.

Although I worked predominantly with Tom Rose, each of the faculty members in sculpture brought different strengths to the program. Together they offered a balanced mix of technical and conceptual skills wherein I could always find what I needed to do my work. Two classes still stand out for me-Tomís Spatial Problems and Wayneís Foundry class. Spatial Problems had the right combination of open-ended problems, challenging readings, and provoking discussions. There happened to be a lot of grad students in it, both sculptors and painters, which kept things lively. Foundry was so unlike any other studio experience; you absolutely have to work as a team, you have to trust that your partners will be responsible. That taught me lessons far beyond the melting point of bronze. I also enjoyed the academic courses; there is so much to choose from at the University. I like intellectual challenge, and taking semiotics, literature or art history classes with graduate students from those areas definitely provided some bite.

Karen Wirth has enjoyed great success as an artist, an educator, and an administrator. She passionately embraces all that she sets out to accomplish. What will Karen Wirth be doing in 10 or 15 years?

The key for me has always been about staying flexible. There are so many options and opportunities, and Iím willing to take a risk if I can imagine something coming out of it at the other end. Sometimes it doesnít pan out the way I thought but even then the experience paves the way for something else.

I would like to write and publish more- not just artistís books but critical articles. It forces me to really focus on an issue and come to terms with my own contradictions. I would like to do more public lecturing along with travel; it adds layers to the experience that canít happen any other way. But I also imagine that I will continue to do many of the same things I do now, because I enjoy them- interactions with students, planning and executing administrative projects, bringing an idea to life in my studio and getting it out in the public, collaborating with other artists. I have a great life.

Alumni Art-E-Facts Newsletter,
College of Liberal Arts,
University of Minnesota, Fall 2003