Art Department update

May 1, 2020
Carla Collins smiles as a student as he applies glaze to a ceramic mug

The daughter of two photographers, Art Department Chair Carla Collins grew up with access to a wide range of mediums and methods for creating art, but ceramic sculpture and teaching are her true passions. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in studio arts and a master’s degree of arts and teaching from Plymouth State University, Collins refined her study of ceramics at the International Ceramic Research Center in Skælskør, Denmark. She joined the Exeter faculty in 2010 and exhibits her work nationally and internationally.

Half of all Exeter students take an art class each academic year, a fact that thrills Collins. “Visual art is a magical place where both our conscious and subconscious meet to explore our place in the world,” she says. “It really helps all students find their voice.”

Through the department’s studio-based curriculum, Collins says, students make creative, hands-on discoveries, guided by faculty who are all practicing artists. Whether students are engaging in printmaking and painting, or 3D design and architecture, each course combines practical, technical skill building with creative analysis — a natural fit with the Harkness methodology. “Sometimes we have collaborative assignments like puzzle drawing or studying perspective and each student has a portion of a painting to do,” Collins says. “The format creates conversation. The students work together and have common experiences.”

“Visual art enables students to form a passion for curiosity, make things with their hands and not lose touch with the intuitive, tactile experience.”

Bringing these conversations to the wider campus through art exhibitions is key to the program’s success. Student work is displayed throughout campus and celebrated every spring with an exhibition in the Lamont Gallery. Upper-level classes like Art 500 and Art 690: Capstone Intensive Studio include individualized, in-depth studio work accompanied by readings, critiques and research of art historical movements and contemporary artists.

These student projects are featured in a Mayer Art Center exhibition and published in a professionally printed book. Collins has recently created a library of these books that features the work of 690 students. “We’ve named it the Art Book House,” Collins says. “We want it to be a friendly space where students can look at art books and magazines and research artists. … It helps students see that art can be a realistic lifestyle and career choice.”

Students working in the printmaking studio at Exeter



Department quick takes


Pursuing passions

Whether it’s learning to throw a pot or compose a photograph, students have many outlets to explore their creative voice. “We’re really here to just guide them,” Collins says. Nicolas Lambelet Coleman ’16 discovered his love of painting at Exeter. Now Coleman works as a financial analyst in New York City and creates contemporary paintings about the Black experience. His work is sold in galleries in Harlem and other places in the city and has been exhibited around the U.S.

Student-teacher collaboration

One-on-one collaboration between students and faculty who are professional artists is central to Exeter’s program. Collins recalls mentoring Ivy Hong ’17 during her Art 500 project. “She really jumped in and experimented,” Collins says. “I love that we can be so supportive of their creative process.” Hong, whose ceramic sculptures incorporated pearls, glitter and even Barbie dolls, went on to attend the Rhode Island School of Design and now designs furniture and large, contemporary sculpture.

Visiting artists

Contemporary artists — including fashion designer Casey Cadwallader ’97, potter Ayumi Horie and photographer William Wegman — come to campus to lead inspiring master classes. Ceramicist Roberto Lugo captivated students during his assembly with a transformational story about how working with clay helped him find purpose. “He inspired many students of color to take ceramics,” Collins says.


As a prep, Ivy Tran ’18 took a 3D design class that changed her academic trajectory. When acclaimed multimedia artist Will Cotton visited Exeter as a guest speaker, he noticed Tran’s design work and invited her to collaborate with him at his New York City studio that summer. From there, more opportunities arose, including a summer internship with fashion designer Nicole Miller. Tran continues to develop her craft as a graphic designer and illustrator in Atlanta.