|James Knutson (right), professor of art at Black Hills State University, received a surprise announcement during class from BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp and Dr. Rod Custer, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, honoring him with the 2012 Distinguished Faculty Award. Knutson, a 1972 BHSU art graduate, has been a member of the BHSU faculty for 36 years. He is recognized for his continued excellence in teaching and for his creative talents in expanding an appreciation of the arts at BHSU and throughout the community.
James Knutson, professor of art at Black Hills State University, received a surprise announcement during class from BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp and Dr. Rod Custer, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, honoring him with the 2012 Distinguished Faculty Award. Faculty members are chosen for the award by their peers.
Knutson, who was very excited to receive the award, said he was actually really nervous at first when he saw Schallenkamp and Custer enter his Introduction to Visual Arts class. “When the President comes into your classroom and closes the door…you’re not sure what to think,” said Knutson. Schallenkamp and Custer praised Knutson for his dedication to education and to the University and for his outstanding work through the years with the Ruddell Art Gallery.
Knutson, a 1972 BHSU art graduate, has been a member of the BHSU faculty for 36 years. He received his master of arts and his master of fine arts degrees from the University of Wyoming. He is recognized for his continued excellence in teaching and for his creative talents in expanding an appreciation of the arts at BHSU and throughout the community.
According to a colleague who nominated Knutson, his commitment to art education in the public schools and preparation of BHSU graduates is central to Knutson’s success. “He is driven to prepare his students to succeed as art educators. He has supervised countless art education majors during their student-teaching experiences and has placed many of his graduates in teaching positions. He has served his profession and the University well as an advocate for art and art education.”
Dustin Price, a 2006 art graduate who is now an adjunct art instructor at BHSU, said that he always knew he wanted to become an artist, but it was having Knutson as a professor that made him realize he also wanted to become an educator.
Knutson credits his former BHSU art professors - Richard DuBois, Richard Hicks, and Dick Termes – as the reason he began teaching art.
Lisa Koch, art education major from Spearfish, said Knutson is the most influential professor she’s had at BHSU. “He has always been there to answer my questions and help guide me in the right direction with my art. He definitely started me off on the right track for becoming an art educator and because of him, I am more confident in myself, my abilities as an artist, and my abilities as a future educator.”
Knutson says it may sound like a cliché, but it is in fact the students that are his favorite aspect of teaching. The most important thing he hopes his students take away from his classes is the fact that they need to continue to learn. “I give them as much knowledge and information as I can, but the most important skill my students can be taught is to be able to carry that knowledge with them their whole life and to be able to think critically,” said Knutson.
One of his proudest moments as an art professor was when west river region art teachers were invited to enter their work in the West River Art Teachers Exhibit at the Dahl Fine Arts Center in Rapid City. Of the 20 teachers that participated, more than half were his former students.
During his second year as a BHSU art student, Knutson became heavily involved with the Ruddell Gallery located in the David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union. The gallery was then known as the Little Gallery and Knutson recommended the name be changed to the Ruddell Gallery to honor Jo-Marie Ruddell, an avid supporter of the arts who held several positions on campus including director of the Student Union. He has been involved with the gallery ever since, organizing the exhibit schedule, acquiring and returning artwork from locations across the United States, hanging the shows, and maintaining the gallery.
Knutson was also involved in establishing the Student Union Collection in collaboration with Jane Klug, director of the BHSU Student Union. The two work together and attain artwork to adorn the walls and hallways of the building. The collection contains over 45 pieces including work from students, alumni, faculty, and former faculty members.
Beyond preparing future educators and promoting the arts, Knutson has also hosted various summer workshops for a number of years. He ran a summer program funded through a grant from the South Dakota Arts Council, which provided art and pedagogy courses for the state’s high school fine arts and elementary classroom teachers. He also hosted a program that offered art classes for high school students, which included visiting artists from the state. Several of the high school students attending that program later enrolled and graduated from BHSU.
Knutson has also been active in serving on many state and regional art education boards. He is a founding member of the South Dakota College Art Association, past president of the South Dakota Alliance of Arts Education, and a member of the South Dakota Arts Association, which discusses local and state issues concerning art education promotion and improvement. He has served on the South Dakota Discipline Council as BHSU’s art representative, and continues to serve on the South Dakota Alliance for Arts Education Advisory Board.
This year marks the end of an exciting career for Knutson as he plans to retire from teaching. He does plan to remain actively involved with the arts on campus and throughout the community.
The BHSU Distinguished Faculty Award is presented each spring to encourage and reward outstanding teaching and professional dedication by faculty members at BHSU. The recipient is formally recognized during the spring commencement ceremony and is invited to deliver a keynote address at the following year’s commencement ceremony. In addition, the recipient receives a monetary award for personal and professional growth.