This past semester I had the huge honor of studying under George Fox’s new Art & Design professor, Jillian Sokso, in her Drawing II class. I was finally able to sit down with her one day and learn a little more about her and her plans for Art & Design. She was previously a professor at Houghton College in up-state New York, and had been working there for nine years (with five of those years spent keeping her eyes open for an opportunity to teach at George Fox!). The Pacific Northwest called both her and her husband because of the bike culture, the weather, and the landscape. “My work is all about place and landscape, and the history of the landscape and the identity that we draw from it, so both of us were attracted to this landscape.” Initially, she didn’t think George Fox would consider her simply due to the fact that the position description seemed so open-ended; it could have been filled by an art historian, any kind of studio artist, or even a designer. But with her commitment to Christian higher education and her husband encouraging her to apply, saying, “You’ve always wanted to work at George Fox. You never know,” she applied for the position, and the rest as they say, is history.
As a master lithographer, Jillian will be teaching printmaking which will include screen printing and lithography, and will also teach Drawing II and 3-D Design. Over the Christmas break, the printmaking studio received a major facelift a facelift, complete with a new lithography press.
She is also working to introduce two new concepts to the Art & Design Department, the first of which would be a required course for all art majors. It will be a rotating series of lecturers, both art practitioners and anyone who has their hand in the art and design world. They would be invited to tour the facility, meet with faculty and upper-class students, do studio visits, and do critiques. Secondly, they will make themselves available for public lectures and question-and-answers, which will then be a required course. Students would pay a lab fee, with the money going into a pot to pay for the artists so the Department will not have to rely on a budget that can be changed or manipulated. If approved, the class will begin next fall and incoming students will be required to take it five out of eight semesters.
The second concept Jillian hopes to introduce is an “Art CSA”, Community Supported Art, which models the Farming Initiative in which people who subscribe to community-supported farms pay at the beginning of a season and receive the rewards of the harvest. Art collectors will pay either $500 for a half share or $1000 for a full share and will receive either three or six pieces of artwork created by artists that come to the University. For example, a guest photographer will come on campus and spend time creating a piece using the facilities and will create an edition of the artwork that will then be given to the patrons. This will also allow students to get involved in the production of the work.
Many students want to know, “How do you get to be where you want to be?” And that is one of the main purposes of both the class and CSA. It will not only build community among the students and practicing artists, but the language of the students will begin to change. There will be endless opportunities to talk with contemporary artists and learn about their influences and their studies, and it will change how we as students carry ourselves as artists and how much effort we put into our work. The artists become peers. There is also an open invitation for alumni to visit.
These two programs will help students find their voice. Jillian says, “It sounds cliché but it really is how the Be Known promise at George Fox translates to Art and Design, because we want you guys to be creative individuals that can function as part of society and know where you can make relationships with contemporary artists and practitioners.”
Below is a selection of Jillian’s work as seen on her website.