Tracy Wascom, an associate professor of foundations and art history at Northern Michigan University, is one of two recipients of the 2020-21 NMU Excellence in Teaching Award. She also serves as foundations coordinator for the School of Art & Design.
“It is challenging to distinguish the most fulfilling or rewarding thing about my position at NMU,” Wascom said. “While not every day in the classroom is ‘sunshine and roses,' it is truly my privilege to do something that I love: teach. The daily opportunities and challenges it presents make it one of the most rewarding undertakings I can imagine. The long-term responsibility and impact it carries on students, self, institution and community—both local and global—is not to be underestimated.”
Within her discipline, Wascom teaches foundations courses that span 100-level to 400-level coursework. Through these classes, every art and design student is introduced to a shared set of approaches that provides an infrastructure around which their studio-specific practice is organized.
“This includes helping them establish a core set of physical techniques; guiding them through enhanced critical assessments of cultural production at-large, including the myriad ways artifacts of art, design and craft impact society; and instilling an understanding of larger institutional, philosophical and aesthetic theories of art and design. The diversity of students, the breadth of media, and the scope of ideas addressed within foundations courses are incomparable and perfectly suit my ‘magpie mind.' To be part of this ongoing and evolving framework, and see the personal and professional successes our students have reaped from it, is a genuine joy and honor.”
Wascom also works to foster educational experiences that enable thoughtful questioning and reflection, including campus-wide initiatives, such as NMU's Diversity Common Reader program. She has also served on the Marquette Public Art Commission since its inception and is currently the chair.
While no discrete moment marks its outset, Wascom said she has been engaged in the arts for almost as long as she can remember. She has utilized a variety of techniques, from photography, video and computers to drawing and traditional sculpting. Her practice is driven by the desire to explore “the myriad edges we use to define and demarcate our world–from our moral and ethical boundaries to the geography of maps.”
Wascom said she enjoys investigating the ways we designate and divide beauty from ugliness, right from wrong, truth from fiction, dangerous from safe, even here from there by borders that seem clear but are often more deliciously ambiguous.
Her work has been shown in galleries and museums across the United States and, more recently, in Budapest, Hungary. Wascom earned her BFA in Art from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and her MFA in Photography from Syracuse University.