Sophomore Jenna Roberts knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she signed up to model for the art and design department this semester.
For seven weeks, Roberts and several other student models will pose for art students studying the human form in their classes at the Buchwald Center. The models sit three times a week
for two-hour sessions. They are paid minimum wage.
Female models wear neutral colored leotards and male models wear bike shorts in an effort to reveal as much of the form as possible, yet stay within the university’s modesty guidelines.
In secular academic art programs, and even at some faith-based schools, models pose nude so art students can study the human form uninhibited. In an effort to stay true to the University’s Christian standards, the MVNU art department keeps models covered without compromising the integrity of the students’ education.
The art and design department has been working with live human models for 26 years, since art professor John Donnelly began teaching at MVNU. According to Donnelly, studying the human form is essential to having a competitive art program.
“If you can draw the human form accurately, you can draw anything,” Donnelly said.
It’s imperative to work with a real model, rather than just try to recreate an image, he added.
With a live model, each artist makes creative decisions like what to include or exclude, what aspects of the scene to emphasize and the contrast of light and dark in the space. Working from a photograph would detract from the artists’ creative decision-making process, Donnelly said.
Jeremiah Wrucke, a junior art education major, knows this project is important for him not just for studying his craft, but for teaching his own future students.
“I’m tucking this all away in the back of my head,” Wrucke said.
Drawing and painting from a live form “evokes emotion and gives life to our work,” he said.
While some Christians may question the use of live models, Donnelly said MVNU has been “very supportive of the art and design department and its academic pursuits of aesthetic concerns.”
The screening process for choosing models is simple. Models must be available during drawing and/or painting class. They must also be comfortable as the center of attention in the attire described. Roberts met these criteria this year.
“I wanted extra money, and it’s easy,” Roberts said. “It’s been a positive experience.”
She took the painting class last year, so she was already familiar with what would be required.
Donnelly expressed no concern that studying the human form partially clothed hinders students’ education.
On the contrary, the art and design program boasts several graduates that have gone on to prestigious Masters of Fine Arts programs and beat out other applicants for scholarships.
Three examples are Annemarie DiCamillo, currently attending the University of Georgia; Hannah Cooper, now at New Castle University in England; and Hillary Wagner, studying at Parsons School of Design in New York City.