Betsy Byers, MFA

Betsy Byers, MFA

Chair and Associate Professor of Art and Art History, Environmental Studies Faculty

What are your areas of research and teaching expertise?

I teach courses in painting and printmaking at Gustavus, as well as a specially developed course for ES, Climate Change Art, and for FTS, Good Art, Bad Art. My courses explore art as both a subjective and objective experience, allowing students to explore how we can communicate visually and utilize art to enhance our daily experience.

My studio practice explores the symbiotic relationship between our bodies and the surrounding environment. The work births from potent encounters with the natural world, anchored in the relationship between perception, landscape and cultural consciousness. Of late, my work is inspired by the intersection between art and science, specifically climate change and ice loss.

What is your teaching style?

As an art educator it is my responsibility to teach individuals how to engage in creativity and to think deeply about its impact on our culture. This dual challenge is one that I accept daily with devotion and gratitude. My classroom is hands-on with the creative process, every day engaging curiosity, determination, problem-solving, risk-taking and flexibility.

My advice is to learn how to be present in all the facets of your life.

Describe your "lightbulb moment."

I didn’t pick up a paintbrush until I was 20 years old because I was too afraid I would fail. I fell in love with painting by taking a course that was required by my liberal arts undergraduate institution as a sophomore. Now, I help students to take risks every day by making art and I love it! I realized then that learning happens when we step beyond our comfort zone of knowing, and dwelling in uncertainty allows time for growth and new understanding.

What do you enjoy outside the classroom?

Outside of the classroom you will find me hiking, camping, swimming in a lake, or sitting around a bonfire with my family including my husband Matt, my son Augustus, and my daughter Gretel. You might also spot me painting on a glacier!

Do you have an academic mentor?

Throughout my education, painters Wendell Arneson and David Rich helped me to develop my skill and vision as an artist. I am grateful for the passion and dedication they instilled in me.