Nurturing Student Artists for Over 18 Years

Mark Arctander

When a student says, “I’m not artistic; I can’t draw anything,” MCC art instructor Mark Arctander is quick to respond that there’s no such word as “can’t” in any of his classes, including  painting, drawing, sculpture or 3D design. Instead, he brings his 30-plus years of professional art experience to show students how they can make good art—whether they are aspiring artists or retirees who want to express their creativity.

After he guides their skills in whatever medium they are working in, he watches their confidence soar when they see their work displayed in the art hallway galleries, win awards at the Skyway Conference competitions or exhibited at MCC’s new Satellite Gallery at the Woodstock Courthouse, which opened last September. Arctander thought of the idea to open a student gallery in the community as a way to showcase MCC student painting, ceramics, photography and sculpture to the public.

“It’s great to showcase our students work in the community so more people can see the exceptional work being made in the MCC Art Department,” said Arctander, who served as art department chair from 2003 to 2010.

Arctander joined MCC in 1996 as a part-time art appreciation instructor and became full-time in 2001. Throughout his tenure, he has maintained a loyal following of returning students—some who have been taking his classes for up to 10 years.

“I love teaching. I guarantee my Painting I students four good paintings when they leave here, including a still life, a collage, an abstraction and the final project, which is the student’s choice,” he said.

 “I feel lucky that I teach at a community college, because of the diverse student body. I have traditional-age students sitting next to someone in their 70s. It’s nice when we’re doing critiques, because students can see a variety of types of work.”

Arctander earned his bachelor’s degree in art from Western Illinois University and his MFA from Northern Illinois University, where he also earned a fellowship to teach art for one year. He also taught at DePaul University for several years. He also was the recipient of a $7,000 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Grant in 2001, a highly competitive grant for artists to use in personal art-making. Arctander has earned more than 60 graduate credits beyond his MFA through advanced placement and professional development programs at MCC.

“There is no place better than academia,” he said.


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