Chilling with Randos: meet the IWU art instructor who inspires and composes

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Anna Lowenthal, Editor-in-Chief

 

It isn’t often that you bump into a random instructor and end up talking half your class time away, but that’s how I met Mark Genrich, an adjunct instructor in the Ames School of Art.

After hearing about his passion for three-dimensional art, music and teaching, I knew he was one of those randos everyone would want to get to know.

With a bit of hesitance and concern that he wouldn’t be interesting enough to write an article about, Mark agreed to let me interview him for the Argus. He was anything but uninteresting.

Mark graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in Art, and has now come back to campus to teach.

“I teach 3D Design in the spring and the fall,” Mark said. “We think about the form, shape, texture and color of objects, and do woodworking, bronze casting and using found objects – and we’re gonna get to welding soon!”

He spoke humbly about himself as a teacher but has an impressive resume.

“I’ve taught at ISU and ICC in Peoria. I taught at Milllikin University for eight years, and I also taught at Heartland,” he said.

Alongside teaching, Mark spends the time that he has creating unique sculptures, bronze castings, furniture pieces and installation artworks.

“I just love making things,” Mark said. “An installation is basically like walking into a piece of art. It’s almost more architectural. It’s a new environment that takes you out of the ordinary world and creates a place for a new kind of interaction.”

He also loves music, and plays the electric upright bass in a band.

“I’ve been playing the bass it since I was in grade school, so I know the way that it feels,” he said. “The bass is more intuitive, because everything is centered around the neck – the way that it feels is the most important thing. I thought, ‘I’m a sculptor. I know how to make things. I bet I can figure it out. So I did.’”

He has since made several electric upright basses and sold some of them as well. Though he considered turning it into a business, he decided to put that on hold for something better.

“I was asked to come back and teach. And that’s what I really love to do,” Mark said. “I like to work with students, find out what their ideas are and help them find a direction for their work.”

Mark is especially excited about the possibility of the Design, Technology and Entrepreneurship program being offered at the School of Art.

“I think, like a lot of people, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of art,” he admitted. “This Design, Technology and Entrepreneurship major would be helpful to students who need to learn some of the business aspect of being an artist. Because it is a business – making art is a business.”

“The major would combine science with art and business and aspects of design,” said Kevin Strandberg, Chair of the Art Department. “We’ve done exhaustive studies of Entrepreneur programs and the one at Wesleyan is like no other program anywhere else.”

If the Design, Technology and Entrepreneurship program is brought to Wesleyan, Mark’s 3D Design class will be one of the courses on its list.

Next February, Mark’s artworks will be featured at the Merwin and Wakeley Gallery in the Ames School of Art.

“There will be some of my installations, some of my older works and some of my newer work as well. I’m excited that I’ll have to be creating new things for this – now I have no excuses!” he said with a smile.