MAKING AN IMPRESSION
In the art world there are a few ways to experience relief. One of these is by observing someone working with the process of relief printing—when an artist carves a design into a block and inks the raised sections to stamp on a surface and create an image.
IPFW Associate Professor of Fine Arts Christopher Ganz is the expert on campus when it comes to this method of printmaking and makes enduring efforts to pass on an art form that dates back over a thousand years.
“I think the visual perception that I teach in all my classes makes the world a little bit more interesting,” Ganz says. “When I was a student and started learning all this, it made me really excited to learn more because I found that the more I looked around and tried to understand what I was looking at, the more interesting it became to me.”
LAYING THE MATRIX
Ganz went to the University of Missouri Columbia for his undergraduate schooling and originally intended to use his art requirement for a metalsmithing course. However, the metals professor was on sabbatical and printmaking was the only open class that met the requirement standards.
“I was also a work study student in the art building,” he shares. “I was just a janitor for the most part. I would go into the print shop and clean up and I didn’t even know what was going on. Then I eventually took a class in it and got it right away. Drawing was my main media—I love to draw—and when I went into printmaking, I realized it was basically drawing. It was a natural fit.”
He says he fell in love with the printmaking process as a whole—including the parts that were normally out of his control.
“I’d get results that were unexpected and it expanded my visions of how to create a piece of art,” Ganz says. “I didn’t come into things with preconceptions like I had before and I thought that was really important. The fact that I could make multiples and there were tests along the way also liberated me to take more risks making art, which is something I encourage in my students. That’s why I think it’s important for them to take printmaking, regardless of what type of artist they want to be.”
Since 2002, Ganz has been using his artistic skillset to teach others—all because he happened to see an ad for the position in the Indiana University printmaking studio in Bloomington, where he attended graduate school.
“I was teaching part time after I graduated,” he explains. “I didn’t plan on staying in Indiana necessarily, but I’m glad I found out about the position. I went out for an interview at a national conference for the College Art Association and met the chair and another professor who would eventually be my colleague. I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”
Part of what attracted Ganz to IPFW was the faculty—those he met at the conference were just the beginning of a professional and supportive network of individuals. It was also Ganz’s opportunity to create a space—he was able to take charge of his own printmaking facility.
“I could tell everyone here was really passionate about teaching as well as being an artist,” he says. “I felt that environment was just really positive. I enjoy how the students here come from all different types of backgrounds—because of my own personal background, I felt that I could relate to them well.”
MEET THE PRESS
Ganz teaches all levels of printmaking from beginning to advanced—he also teaches drawing, including foundations and figure drawing classes. In terms of printmaking, he primarily teaches etching, woodcut and relief, and monotype and lithography—recently he has been incorporating digital and photographic methods into his curriculum as well.
“Printmaking is really about graphic design,” he explains. “It has a lot to do with just blacks and whites, positives and negatives. One of the design teachers a few years ago said that printmaking was one of the best graphic design courses there is. I do have quite a few graphic designers that are encouraged to take my classes. For anyone who wants to do anything visual, printmaking’s going to really help with that sense of design, pattern, process, and order.”
Ganz shows his work annually at a national printmaking show situated in the Art Link Gallery in downtown Fort Wayne, which is a great opportunity for students to see work from artists all over the country.
“Generally, I give a talk before the opening and explain printmaking techniques to the students,” he says. “One thing I like to do as well is bring in visiting artists from other colleges or countries to show students how international the printmaking field is, because it goes on in every country and every nook and cranny of the world.”
Ganz’s art students come from all walks of life, but their connective factor is their curiosity about art and the art world. He says a lot of them come into the program not knowing too much about art, and then—once the gears start turning, so to speak—they really take off and do outstanding things.
“I’ve had some students go on to be really successful and open up their own businesses and go into graduate programs,” he says. “It’s exciting when that happens. I’ve also found that this school allows a real chance to build relationships with students—you’re with them a lot. Over the course of four or five years, you get to see a lot, see them grow and change, and that’s what I really enjoy—seeing the beginning and the end of at least their academic career here. They go on and do other things, obviously, but it’s exciting to have that chance to work so closely with them. I don’t think that’s typical of most universities.”
Ganz takes his students to national printmaking conferences so they can mingle with artists from all over the world—he also leads the study abroad trip to Italy, where he teaches drawing.
“Just for them to go and to see the greatest artwork ever made and to be in the presence of it and to realize that a whole culture of civilization is built around its art— that’s something that I think is very important in order to see how powerful art can be,” he says.
THE ARTIST’S PROOF
As he’s passing on what he knows to his students, Ganz remains aware that these students have a direct impact on the community at large.
“They’re the future of the community and the present, too,” he says. “They’re going to be the leaders of Fort Wayne. There’s a lot going on right now and I think students are more interested in making changes where they see changes that need to be made. They feel like the arts scene needs improvement and can get better. They want to be a part of it. They feel empowered now, more than I’ve ever seen, to take charge and feel like this is our town and our community. It’s important to support that.
“I also feel fortunate to be a part of that. It’s exciting to see where these students go. I can tell usually early on which students are going to be the ones who are going to really make a difference. There are more and more of them, and it feeds off of itself. The more that you can support the arts at IPFW, the more it’s going to blossom in Fort Wayne.”
Ganz has watched IPFW and his department grow in the years he’s been teaching at the university and believes that he and his colleagues have a better vision on how to make students become better artists because of that.
“Every year we get more and more of them out in the world doing amazing things,” he says. “I think I’m the proudest of the students and what they have done and how we’ve helped them to get to where they’re going. We’re a small department. We definitely have finite resources, but we do a lot with what we have. I’m excited about where things are headed.”
Ganz has experienced a lot of support from the department, college, and university levels—last summer he was able to spend two months in Venice, Italy, at a printmaking studio thanks to a summer research grant from the university. He was also awarded travel grants to go to conferences for smaller visiting artists, where he can travel and take his artwork with him. Grants from both the department and the university have been large supporting factors for his creative endeavor.
“I feel like we’re really lucky here,” he says. “I can’t say that I’ve ever been denied doing something just because someone didn’t feel it was worth it or there weren’t funds for it on campus. The dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts—John O’Connell—has been really supportive of faculty and their research, and so has the chair of our department, John Hrehov. Really, from Vice Chancellor Carl Drummond on down, the university been really supportive of faculty research and projects, and I just think there’s a lot of interest in the art program across campus.”
As an artist, Ganz wants to keep creating new work and developing his skills—as part of that, he hopes to continue his relationship with the Anne Nathan Gallery in Chicago, where he’s shown his work for the past five years. He would eventually like to show internationally and follow through with his plans to do a visiting artists residency in Venice again next year for his sabbatical.
PROGRAM SNAPSHOT: DEPARTMENT OF FINE ARTS
What shape does your art take? The Department of Fine Arts can help you hone your craft in modern studio spaces and connect your work with major regional galleries and organizations. We graduate painters, sculptors, printmakers, and more. Our program includes ceramics, painting, drawing, printmaking, metalsmithing, and sculpture. Learn more.