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Our History

THE ORIGIN OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ART

DSC_4772The Department of Art at Youngstown State University began in 1935 as an initiative of Howard Jones, the first president of the University. He supported the concept that aesthetics and art play a major role in the development of the individual in society. Howard Jones appointed Margaret Evans, former director and curator of the Butler Institute of American Art, to teach and direct the development of art courses in the curriculum. Evans began to establish a curriculum leading to a career in art education in elementary and secondary schools. During this period of development, art classes were held at the Butler Institute of American Art, the Mill Creek Park art museum and various locations on the campus, ranging from private mansions along Wick Avenue to the World War II army barracks built on the campus.

In 1939, the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in art was offered. However, World War II interrupted the development of this major. Immediately following the war, the G.I. Bill of Rights stimulated rapid growth in student enrollment at the College and along with that, an increase of first generation college students. In 1947, an official major in art was established and Margaret Evans became the first chairperson. David Skeggs was appointed as the first full-time instructor in the new program and later became chair after Margaret Evans' retirement in 1953.

In 1958 the department moved into its first permanent home in West Hall, a carriage house on the main campus and in 1976 moved to its present location in Bliss Hall. An important expansion of the department’s programming came about with the opening of the McDonough Museum of Art in 1991. Through the generosity of Dr. John J. McDonough, a new facility was created for the exhibition of work by students; faculty; and local, regional, and national artists. A prominent local resident and collector of American impressionist paintings, Dr. McDonough donated the auction proceeds from the painting Gloucester Harbor by Childe Hassam to establish a building fund for a university art museum. The McDonough Museum provided opportunities that were never before available to students, from fine arts majors exhibiting their own work to advanced art history students curating exhibitions. The first senior shows were begun there in 1992.

In 1995, the Butler Institute of American Art received a gift of $1 million dollars from local philanthropist Eleanor Beecher Flad and her family. This gift formed the basis for a cooperative project between the BIAA and the YSU Department of Art when the state of Ohio designated an additional $2.5 million to create the funding for the Beecher Center for Art and Technology. Completed in 1999, this 19,000 square foot facility houses a high-technology auditorium, exhibition spaces for new-media artworks, research and conference areas and studio space for YSU students and visiting artists.

In 2003 the department opened an 18,000 square-foot state-of-the-art studio building connected to Bliss Hall, which contains production facilities for painting, metal fabrication, bronze and iron casting, hot glass, woodworking, and three-dimensional computer visualization. The $3.3 million-dollar building expanded the Department of Art’s production facilities to over 60,000 square feet of specialized media labs.

Since 1935, the department has grown to over 30 full-time and adjunct faculty members who teach 400 art majors studying two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics, sculpture, art education, art history, graphic design, and digital imaging. The exceptional arts programming by the YSU Department of Art is acknowledged by full accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, an organization whose membership includes 309 schools out of approximately 2,500 art departments nationwide.