The landscape of NKU’s art programs has shifted since the new School of the Arts was introduced, many of those changes coming with the administration.
The new school includes the formerly independent departments of visual arts, music and theater and dance.
One of the positions created in the transition was visual arts program head, which has been filled by Brad McCombs.
McCombs has held several other positions at NKU.
“I taught classes here at NKU,” McCombs said. “Then I was the coordinator for new media art. Previous to [becoming visual arts head] I served as assistant chair [in the visual arts department].”
McCombs is taking on his new position with confidence in tow.
“Now that the School of the Arts has been created the chair role has changed,” McCombs said. “It’s now called a ‘program head’ role. I was in a sort of training to take on this new role because I had a year where I was assistant to the chair.”
In the new position, McCombs has taken on quite a few responsibilities.
“Essentially, I oversee the operations of the visual arts program,” McCombs said. “I work with students to make sure they’re succeeding. I oversee the organizing of the budget. I work with faculty and staff to make sure everything is running smoothly.”
With SOTA being new, one thing the program heads are looking towards is outreach.
“We have great facilities, we have great students and we have exceptional faculty,” McCombs said. “I think the main thing is getting our message out. We need to let other people in the region and the Midwest know about our program. We need to improve our communication and outreach to high schools as well as others who are looking into pursuing an arts education or exploring to go to college in the visual arts.”
McCombs explained several ways he and his staff are working towards improving their outreach. They are going to individual high schools to explain to potential students what their school can offer, as well as increasing the amount of portfolio reviews they do.
McCombs wants incoming students to know about their portfolio-based scholarships so that they can get excited about NKU’s SOTA as well as understand the opportunities available to them.
McCombs also said they were working on a new website, which is set to launch the week of Sept. 16.
“We have fresh imagery and new design that’s going to actually help with the rebranding of the website for the whole university,” McCombs said.
Emily Ulrich, a junior in the painting bachelor of fine arts program, can vouch for the program as well.
“The NKU visual arts program is a great environment to work in, with a community of students and professors to offer advice and critiques,” Ulrich said. “The professors are very knowledgeable and I always learn something new and gain a different perspective on art with each class I take.”
Maria Kyle, a sophomore visual communication design major, agreed the faculty in the program are helpful.
“My favorite thing about the program is the fact that I feel like I can go to any of the professors if I need help or information,” Kyle said.
When it comes to the visual arts program and its role in the SOTA, McCombs said that it is an effort of the entire SOTA to bring in more students. The different programs within SOTA combine their efforts.
“The atmosphere in the whole of the building is just amazing, you get the whole spectrum of the arts into just one building,” Kyle said.
When it comes to his own art, McCombs includes his students. His most recent project is called the Driftwood Chronicles, also known as the Driftwood Institute.
“My own art is more conceptual based,” McCombs said,”I usually pick out an idea first and then from that I’ll explore a lot of different mediums. Most of my art deals with ecological or social issues, and also the intersection of technology.”
“In the Driftwood Institute, I worked with students and we collected driftwood along the riverfront. We took that driftwood and we transformed it into sculptures or furniture then sold it to the public. We used the proceeds to help replant trees along the waterways, so it’s helps prevent erosion and improve the water quality,” McCombs said.
There will be an expedition of the Driftwood Chronicles between Sept. 25 and Oct. 31 in the third floor gallery of the Fine Arts building. The Driftwood Chronicles is a video series that goes along with the Driftwood Institute.
Hands-on projects like the one McCombs worked on with NKU students could potentially draw new students to NKU’s SOTA.
“I think the value for your money compared to going to another institution is extremely high because we have excellent quality and we also have a lot of hands-on and one-on-one interactions with the students here,” McCombs said. “We really focus on undergraduate education and I think that benefits our students greatly.”
The program seeks to help students reach their full potential in all of their endeavors with the help of faculty.
“Professors challenge and encourage students on an individual basis and have a genuine interest in their growth,” Ulrich said. “I can’t imagine being in any other art program.”
McCombs is part of a staff that is shaping SOTA to make it a school that fosters student growth.
“I think that here at NKU I think that you’re getting a top quality education with professors that are working both nationally and globally,” McCombs said, “We’re doing outreach, we’re doing research, and we’re focused on our students.”