Center for Arts named for retiring WCU professor
● By J. Chambless
In advance of his retirement, artist John Baker, chair of West Chester University's Department of Art + Design, earned an honor reserved for a rare few in the University community. Thanks to a generous endowment he has made, the gallery in E.O. Bull Center for the Arts was officially renamed the John H. Baker Gallery, in ceremonies held on March 19.
“As gallery director, curating exhibitions has always been a passion for me,” Baker explains. “To endow the gallery is a way of giving back to the department and university. The endowment will provide support for the department to continue to have visiting artists and exhibitions that will enhance the curriculum.”
Baker graduated from West Chester in 1974 and was asked to stay and teach part-time, when he found a mentor in art department chair Jack Hawthorne, in whose name Baker created a scholarship. Baker has guided the department with an inclusive attitude, sharing opportunities to get faculty noticed and involved regionally and beyond, even at China's Guizhuo University, where “both junior and senior faculty could exhibit at the international level.” He has connected the University with the regional art community in many ways, including the Art Trust at 16 West Market Street in West Chester, which promotes regional and emerging artists, links businesses and art philanthropically, and has brought scholarship dollars into the department.
He also directed the department's move, with the entire department participating in the building renovation plans. “The move to Bull Center recognizes our corner as the 'arts parts' of campus,” he said. “We are the supporting foundation. As a department, we really are like a family, and our students recognize that.”
“There couldn't be a more fitting and appropriate name," says Rhoda Kahler '95, a ceramic artist and former student of Baker’s. “John has been the face of this art department for many years and has fostered thousands of students. As a WCU alumna, I am so proud to say John Baker was my ceramic professor and he introduced me to the medium I love so much.”
“To me, John is a rock star in the art world,” said Darcie Goldberg, a photographer and a former executive director of the Chester County Art Association. “Everyone who knows and has worked with him feels that way. He has made everyone feel so welcome in our art community.”
Goldberg first met Baker when she started working at the art center 20 years ago.
“We became friends; we did collaborations, public arts programs,” she said. “He helped me greatly as the executive director of the association. He is a great peer, a very good listener and he encourages you. He allows you to use your creativity at a level I never thought I could achieve. I think there are very few John Bakers in this world, and I'm just lucky that I got to know the real John Baker.”
・ Richard L. Gaw