Meet the Chair: Laurel Lueders, Visual Studies

Laurel LeudersLaurel Lueders chairs LIM College’s Visual Studies department. She is a practicing artist who combines teaching and administrative responsibilities with exhibiting her work in galleries and museums worldwide.

How does the curriculum in the Visual Studies department prepare students for career success?

What is unique about the program here at LIM is that we’re preparing students not only with a visual skill set, but also for the business world. For myself, being an artist means that one must also be a businessperson, because there are ongoing business demands, such as applying for grants, developing a budget, and completing various administrative tasks. Most studio programs don’t teach important business skills like LIM does and that’s what makes it stand out.

What are some new things happening in the Visual Studies department?

We recently updated the curriculum so that students can tailor the program more to their specific career interests. The result is that there are fewer required classes and more electives. One course I am particularly excited about is Visual Literacy and Creative Process. In this class, students study famous designers and iconic designs in tandem with studio projects focused on fostering creativity. Developing visual literacy is crucial. There’s a sense that everyone is a photographer now, but if you’ve worked in a visual field for a long time, you understand there are a lot of unsuccessful images out there. In the global context of business and fashion, we’re bombarded by images all the time, so learning how to filter through and read those images, place them within a historical context, and find a deeper meaning is something from which everyone can benefit.

Laurel Leuders with LIM College studentsWhat type of students does LIM’s Visual Studies major attract?

The students in our department aren’t necessarily only into fashion. They are more broadly interested in art and design in various creative industries. What they have in common is that they’re creative and hands-on, but also want a business education to pursue a visual career.

What kinds of careers are Visual Studies majors interested in pursuing?

There are a variety of interests among the Visual Studies students. Some plan to seek visual merchandising and display careers. A lot of students have specific career goals in other visual and creative industries, such as interior concepts, visuals for social media, digital design, photography, or set design. Some students identify as artists or creative makers but don’t know which direction they want to go in. They study at a career-focused college to develop business and creative skills while building a portfolio and resume.

What types of resources does LIM College offer for Visual Studies majors?

Visual Studies majors have many opportunities for real-world experiences both on campus and externally. For example, students create set designs for photo shoots for the student-run magazine The Lexington Line. They regularly install displays and exhibitions across campus. There are also many outside opportunities, both in NYC and elsewhere. For instance, students have installed holiday windows for major retailers such as Bloomingdales, designed a pavilion for a trade show at the Javits Center, and have had funded visual internships in Italy over the summer. We often have industry competitions. Most recently, students presented fixture designs to the creative team at Vera Bradley and one student’s designs were chosen for production. All students have the option to study abroad and this is an inspiring resource for Visual Studies majors. I developed and lead a Study Abroad program to Florence, Italy each summer, which is an amazing opportunity to experience the great art and architecture of the Renaissance in a creative, hands-on program.

In the midst of your role at LIM, are you able to find time to pursue your own personal projects in the visual arts?

Yes, I see it as an integral part of my role as Chair of Visual Studies. In the last year, I had two solo exhibitions and my work was included in various group exhibitions. I also did a residency with Annex:art Berlin where I worked on an abstract travel photography project with field work in Italy, Germany, Spain, and France.

Being an international artist means traveling a lot, and train stations, and especially airports, are places where one needs to show up early and then you end up waiting a long time. I started making photographs while I waited and these transportation hubs became a makeshift studio of sorts. This led to travel as an impetus for a new series. For example, how do you visually capture the dizzied mix of excitement of a new place combined with the disorientation of jetlag? This project took several years to develop and I exhibited the series in a solo show this summer in Germany.

My other major project this past year was a series of new works taken and then exhibited at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, a museum in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Many have photographed this iconic place, but I focused on abstraction rather than straight documentation. Again, how does one capture the essence and feeling of being in a particular place?