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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Jason Stuart photo

Dawson Community College art instructor has big plans for the college program

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

When you think of Eastern Montana, the art scene may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but head instructor of the art department at Dawson Community College, Jennifer Wheeler, would like to change that.

The art department at DCC has been very busy since the beginning of the semester with Wheeler leading the charge.

During last Monday’s DCC board of trustees meeting, Wheeler gave a presentation on what the art department has been up to and what she has in works for the future of the art department.

So far this year, Wheeler has taken her students to the Yellowstone Art Museum for the exhibit opening  of “My Hero,” an international show featuring hired cosplayers in costumes and masks.

Wheeler’s students also donated their time and supplies for face painting on Nov. 4 for Meet the Bucs night.

Wheeler has more things in the works for the art department both short and long term. She wants to extend the art program so students could transfer to fine arts program at the University of Montana in Missoula or Montana State University in Bozeman.

“We’re developing articulation agreements so we can reach out to them in a professional and concrete way,” Wheeler said.

As the art program is growing, Wheeler has recruited an adjunct professor to teach the ceramics I class. The instructor, NaDean Brown, is the high school art instructor who is also involved in the DCC dual enrollment for painting I.

“NaDean stepped up and has been gracious enough to do this for us, but she works full time and might not be able to do this for us (in the future),” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also noted the art department is only in the initial stage of developing the articulation agreements with the two state schools, but her hands are tied because she can’t teach more than 10 courses a semester. There are art courses DCC would need to offer for the transfer agreements, like photography and ceramics and sculpting, that are outside of her expertise. She noted that an additional instructor would be needed for those classes.

In the meantime, Wheeler said she wants to hold exhibitions in the college’s Jane Carey Memorial Library. She said she plans to build false, movable walls to create a space for the exhibits. She mentioned this would be a way to make DCC a destination spot in town.

“We’re collaborating with a local carpenter to create thick wood walls,” Wheeler said. “(We want to) create movable, changeable exhibition spaces that can change for every show.”

The walls could be painted or moved to align with the nature of the exhibition.

Wheeler said she would love to have artists in the area showcase their work at the college.

Wheeler said she expects the walls will be ready for a mid to late spring art exhibition.

In an interview, Wheeler also added the art department has started talking to the MonDak heritage museum in Sidney about having DCC art shows at the museum. Wheeler said the museum is an amazing place that showcases work at a museum quality level, but also can showcase more contemporary artwork as well.

The art department will continue to offer various community art classes. An upcoming event will be the stained glass workshop with Joe Drivdahl of DCC. The workshop will be held Saturday Dec. 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Wheeler added she is already scheduling summer art program events for the community. Some of the events/classes she mentioned were a music art camp, a ceramics workshop, a welding workshop, stained glass workshop and a landscape watercolor class.

DCC is also hosting a holiday season open house on Dec. 11 at 6 p.m. which will allow the public to walk through the halls to see decorations while the DCC choir will be caroling throughout the halls. The public will look through the main hall and take the path to the Ullman Center to see the current art exhibit on display.

For information on art courses and upcoming workshops and events, please contact Jennifer Wheeler at (406) 377 9474 or email jwheeler@dawson.edu.

Reach Kyle Vuille at

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