Celebrate 50 Years
College of Visual and Performing Arts

Department of Fine Arts

The Department of Fine Arts is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

John Hrehov,
Department Chair and Professor

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
2101 E. Coliseum Boulevard
Fort Wayne, IN 46805-1499

Office: Visual Arts Building
Room: VA117
Hours: Mon-Fri 8 am-5 pm

Phone: 260-481-6705
Fax: 260-481-6707
E-mail: webers@ipfw.edu

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The Department of Fine Arts has graduated over 200 alumni who live in dozens of states across the country and are creating and teaching in their areas of art expertise. Many of our graduates have remained in the region and continue to be the energy of the arts in northeast Indiana.

We highlight alumni accomplishments and successes throughout the year in our electronic newsletter and printed publications. Alumni are encouraged to keep the Dean’s office informed of recent accomplishments and to update your contact information. If you have student success information to share, contact Susan Domer at domers@ipfw.edu or call 260-481-6025.


West’s Work at Cherished at FWMoA

In 2009, Jamie West, then Jamie Cook, a senior at IPFW, made a bold leap and entered a contest. “I remember her telling me she had entered a painting into this contest and that she had won,” said John Hrehov, professor and chair of the Department of Fine Arts. “She also said the Fort Wayne Museum of Art had purchased it from her after the show and I thought she was kidding me, but she wasn’t. I have never had a student receive that kind of honor before or since.”

The painting, titled Cupcake, is a portrait of a giant cupcake rendered in rich colors. It is described by the museum as “a whimsical depiction of a sweet treat, inviting the viewer into a world of happy sentiments.” The painting was the fulfillment of an assignment Hrehov gives to his advanced painting students each year. It requires the use of a style called super realism, which is part of photo realism.

For the painting assignment, the student is asked to take an everyday object out of context through the use of scale. The stretchers are built by the student in the shape of the object they choose. “Using a shaped canvas changes the orientation of the artist, forcing them to work out of the box. The paintings end up having a sculptural quality,” said Hrehov.

Knowing that Jamie's painting is part of the permanent collection of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has given comfort to many who knew her, especially in light of the tragic circumstances surrounding her death. Jamie was killed by a drunk driver while attending Austin’s South by Southwest music festival on March 13, 2014.  She and her husband, Evan West, were riding on a moped when they were struck. Jamie was pronounced dead at the scene and Evan, critically injured, was taken to the hospital where he continues to recover.

“I was so sorry to hear about Jamie's death,” said Hrehov, “She was a student who was loved and admired by everyone in the department and will be greatly missed.”

Many who knew Jamie remember her as a kind-hearted young woman. Jamie and Evan West met while attending Garrett High School in Garrett, Indiana. The two had moved to Austin where Jamie took a job as a sales and inventory clerk for Eliane et Lena Boutique and a second job as a jewelry assembler at Leighelena Jewelry.

“She was a wonderful person and an ideal student,” said Christopher Ganz, associate professor of Fine Arts. “She was passionate about art and very intelligent.”

Ganz recently had recommended West for a fellowship at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. “She was very excited and I’m pretty sure she would have gotten it,” he said. “She had her whole life in front of her. It’s really sad this happened.”

Alumnus “Hooked” on Crochet

Robert Hoffman (’07, B.F.A. in painting) has become well known among the Baltimore, Maryland, art community, where reporters have dubbed him Baltimore Highlandtown’s favorite yarn bomber. Yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk. The yarn installations, called yarn bombs or yarn storms are about reclaiming and personalizing sterile or cold public places.

Hoffman quickly entered the art scene once he moved to Baltimore and participated in several shows for worthy causes, which brought interest in his imagery and sales of his art. Recently, he was involved in coordinating a yarn bomb installation in cooperation with the American Craft Council’s YarnBOMBS AWAY which was on display at the Pratt Street entrance of the Baltimore Convention Center from Feb. 21-23, 2014.

“I have aligned myself with an establishment called Baltimore Threadquarters (BTQ), a fiber store and art collective in the Highlandtown neighborhood where I live,” said Hoffman. “I continue to use my degree by combining my drawings and self-taught fiber art into two-dimensional works that coincided with my three-dimensional fiber work.”

Wearable Art

Students modeled some of Kari Larsen’s artwork in the form of dresses that corresponded with her paintings as part of her senior project. Larsen will graduate with a B.F.A. in fine arts in May. Shown (l. - r.) Chelsea Baumgartner, Kati Larsen, Chancellor Vicky Carwein, artist Kari Larsen and Heidi Christenson. 

Angela Sands Ellsworth (’13, printmaking) will have her work Cataclysm featured in the Mid America Print Council (MPA) members exhibition at the South Bend Museum of Art, March 22-May 25.The opening will take place April 4, 2014. “The MPA council is full of some amazing printmakers, many of whom I look up to and I am honored and humbled to be among them,” said Ellsworth. For more information on this exhibit visit www.southbendart.org/see/mapc. Ellsworth also will have a solo exhibit at the Betty Fishman Gallery at Artlink in Fort Wayne in 2016. 


Alumna Julie Wall Toles (’10, printmaking) is opening an independent printmaking studio called Hedgehog Press. Located at 1136 Columbia Avenue in Fort Wayne, Hedgehog Press is an independent fine art print shop offering multiple services for artists seeking the tools to work in the field of printmaking and for potential students. For a weekly, monthly or yearly fee artists are given the opportunity to create their own prints with the equipment housed in the shop. Workshops and classes also will be given to children and adults. Hedgehog Press will hold an open house on Saturday, March 30, from 5-8:00 p.m. Visit www.hedgehogpressfw.com

Fine Arts associate faculty member Derek Decker (’06) has been chosen to be part of the FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Social and Politically Engaged Art at Eastern Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., from November 1-29, 2013. Decker’s piece, titled Air Quality #2 was selected to be part of this exhibit at the University’s Tipton Gallery. The exhibition features 50 works by 50 artists from different parts of the country. Each of the works was chosen for its significance and expression of passion regarding social and political issues and injustices.


Arts Education alumni Karrie Detwiler (’06 B.F.A. Metals) was named Sandhills South/Central Regional Teacher of the Year in North Carolina on December 12, 2011. Detwiler teaches art at J.W. Turlington Alternative School. This prestigious honor positions her to compete for North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

Art education graduate Erin McKeever ('12) now teaches art at Lafayette Meadows Schools for the Southwest Allen County School Corporation.  Erin is replacing Sachiko Janek ('09 art education) who is moving out of state.


Kendallville Mayor Suzanne Handshoe and members of the Chamber of Commerce joined artist, owner and IPFW Fine Arts alumni Peggy Tassler ('05) on Nov. 18, 2011 for a grand opening, ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new SOZO Art Studio & Gallery.  Located in the heart of Kendallville’s beautiful historic downtown district at 102 S. Main Street, SOZO originally opened in 2008.  SOZO expanded into its new home due to their popularity and the loyal support of their patrons. SOZO offers art openings, art-for-sale and a variety of art classes for all ages.


  • Jon Burns (B.F.A. ’07, sculpture) was accepted into the M.F.A. in Ceramics program at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
  • Derek Decker (B.F.A. ’06, ceramics) was accepted into the M.F.A. in Ceramics program at Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pa.
  • Christine Mathews (B.A.’09, art education) secured a full-time position with Fort Wayne Community Schools as a traveling art instructor for Glenwood Park, Fairfield, and Northcrest Elementary schools in Fort Wayne.
  • Jennifer Clemments (B.A. ’07, art education) secured an art education teaching position at Elmhurst High School in Fort Wayne.
  • The SOZO Art Studio and Gallery in Kendallville, Ind., owned by Fine Arts Alumni Peggy Tassler, held its 1st Annual Artists’ Reception February 13, 2009.  Jen Idle Brandenburger (B.F.A. ’04, painting) received Best of Show for her oil painting “Red Firescape.”  Mike Burman (B.F.A. ’04, sculpture) was awarded Second Place for his wood sculpture “The Three Friends,” and Laura Gooley (B.F.A. ’06, painting) took Third Place with her oil painting, “Winter at Pisgah Wetland.” The entries were on display until March 30, 2009. 
  • Holly Dowidat (B.F.A. ’09, ceramics) won a People’s Choice Award at the Artlink Members Show for her ceramic sculpture “Silvanus, Forest of Driftwood.”
  • Julie Wall (B.F.A. ’09, printmaking) exhibited a print in Artlink’s 29th Annual National Print Exhibition.
  • Andrew Lemmon (B.F.A. ’07, sculpture) won a $500 cash award along with two other artists at Artlink’s Seventh Regional Exhibition in October 2008. The artists have also garnered an invitation to present a three-person exhibition in Artlink’s Main Gallery in December 2009.
  • Pam Bradshaw (B.F.A. ’06, printmaking) won a cash award for her collagraph artists’ book “Over Beneath Over” at Artlink’s 28th Annual National Print Exhibition in 2008.
  • Jon Burns (B.F.A. ’07, sculpture) received a second-place award at the annual Wildfire Pottery Showcase in 2008. He is a member of the Clay Guild of the Cascades in Bend, Ore.
  • Jason Stopa (B.F.A. ’07, painting) is attending the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, N.Y., while Joshua Hoering (B.F.A. ’08, printmaking) is attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Both men are working toward an M.F.A. at their respective schools.
  • Peggy Caron-Tassler (B.F.A. ’05, painting) opened Sozo Art Studio LLC, a new way to experience, teach, and create art in Kendallville, Ind., in 2008. Sozo’s downtown facilities feature an open studio environment. (www.sozoartstudio.com)

Recent art education graduates are teaching in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area.

  • Karen Montoya (B.A. ’08, art education), Veritas Academy in South Bend, Ind.
  • Angela Grogg ( B.A. ’08, art education), Education department at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art
  • Jennifer Clements (B.S.Ed. ’06; B.A. ’07, art education), Forest Park Elementary School in Fort Wayne
  • Krystal Booth (B.F.A. ’06; B.A. ’08, art education), New Haven and Meadowbrook elementary schools in New Haven, Ind.

View Alumni Successes by Department: Fine Arts | Music | Theatre | Visual Communication and Design