associate professor of art, 2001-present
By Rachel Lapp
Associate Professor of Art Merrill Krabill sees an unformed piece
of clay, unexposed film or a blank canvas as a question for him
or his students: What am I going to do?
To help them answer that query, Krabill finds it important to demonstrate
his own thinking and work as part of who you are as a teacher.
You put who you are into a piece in many ways, said Krabill.
I try to tell, and to show students, to use their own experiences
to generate their work not to give them parameters or exact
directions, but to allow them to explore different ways of thinking
Krabill encourages students to look at work from different perspectives
in order to see how one project or one life decision, for
that matter might lead to the next.
Patterns and directions do emerge, said Krabill. There
are differences between something linear and something three-dimensional,
more multifaceted. We need both to understand the world around us.
Discovering and developing interest in multiple mediums has been
part of Krabills art education after college as well. He found
himself on a path that put him in touch with internationally known
visual artist Paul Soldner, who works in clay, bronze, prints and
photography. Soldner, himself the son of a Mennonite minister, became
a mentor to Krabill teaching him to learn by watching. At
Goshen, that is deeply engrained as part of who you are as a teacher.
Soldner encouraged Krabill to enter the ceramics program at Claremont
Graduate University, where he earned his masters degree in
Krabill has used various mediums to explore his experiences and
to teach art students. During the 2001-02 academic year, his course
load included Ceramics, Creating for the Web, Basic Design and two
Said Krabill, Those types of combinations arent unfamiliar;
I covered even more media areas at Bethel College, his previous
teaching post. You try to be honest let students know
what you know, which is healthy pedagogy and show them you
are serious about the field and teaching through your explorations
At the same time, students come with a range of experience
and expectation for art classes. I am comfortable with
that whether a student is interested in making a mug or taking
better photos or creating modern art, said Krabill.
That range, for Krabill, typifies the balance he appreciates within
liberal arts education, which encourages students to become well-rounded
and create from their talents that span a wealth of subjects, concepts
I like the liberal arts, I believe in the product; I feel
much more vested in the kind of education students are receiving
here. The campus is integrated, not islands of isolated fields,
said Krabill. And the integration of the spiritual and vocational
just makes a lot of sense to me. It changes the way relationships
happen not that we cant always make them better, but
there is an understanding that this is a Christian community that
provides a rich context for understanding the interconnectedness
of other areas and other people.
In his first professorial exhibit in the colleges art gallery,
Krabill focused on connections within his own family through their
journey with daughter Emily, who has Downs Syndrome. The show
prompted students to ask questions about whether the work took advantage
of Emily, and wonder about his references to Job when describing
times of challenge for his family.
I took a risk in the paired photos in showing the negative
parts or struggles of what has largely been a positive experience.
Emily is a blessing. I think you need to see both perspectives in
order to understand the world.