RDP Instructor Celebrates 50 Years of Post-Secondary Education – LacombeOnline.com
Red Deer Polytechnic has seen many changes over the past 50 years, but one constant at the institution over that time has been a dedicated visual arts instructor.
“Since Ian Cook began working at the institution on August 15, 1972, he has been instrumental in building our visual arts program and growing artistic opportunities at Red Deer Polytechnic,” said Kylie Thomas, Vice President, Academic and Provost. . “I sincerely thank Ian for his creative expertise, his passion for teaching and his unwavering dedication to serving generations of learners and the entire polytechnic community.”
After earning two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Calgary, Cook earned an MFA in sculpture at the University of Alberta in the spring of 1972 and then entered the workforce.
“Fortunately, I had two job opportunities – one as a visual arts consultant for the Alberta government and the other as a teacher at Red Deer College,” says Cook. “Fortunately, I made the right choice and chose Red Deer College. I work in one of the best visual arts programs in Western Canada with the best instructors, colleagues and employees.”
Over the years, Cook’s impact on learners and the institution, known as Red Deer College until June 2021, has been significant. When Cook began his full-time role as an art history and visual fundamentals instructor, there was no art curriculum, but that soon changed with Cook’s initiative.
“After obtaining approval from the administration to write a proposal for a new art program in the fall of 1972, I submitted a report in January 1973, proposing a new two-year visual art program at Red Deer College,” says Cook, who was the college’s art program director for more than 22 years. “The program, with a strong studio focus, was designed to be intensive and unique to Alberta. The report outlined the program’s philosophy, structure, courses, staffing, space and equipment requirements, and operating budget. At the time, the deputy minister of higher education was the interim president of the DRC, and about a month later the program was approved. »
The two-year Art and Design Diploma program began in September 1973, quickly filling to capacity and gaining a reputation for excellence.
Cook continually sought to increase learning opportunities for students. He was instrumental in forming a permanent art collection at the institution in 1974, which enabled students and community members to discover original art of historical and contemporary value. With over 1,000 works of art, Red Deer Polytechnic’s permanent art collection is the second largest in Alberta, after that of the University of Lethbridge.
After a review of the program in 1983, Cook was instrumental in expanding the arts programming on site throughout the year. This helped form the series’ Arts Summer School.
“We have heard that Alberta Culture is planning to disband the Summer Series Traveling Arts Program. In a white paper requested by Alberta Culture, I proposed that the Government of Alberta locate the program permanently at Red Deer College and use our studio facilities for the program, and that was ultimately approved,” Cook explains. “In the early years, the program grew from 180 students to 1,000 students and became the largest summer arts program in Canada.
Then, in 1987, Cook helped Red Deer College obtain Class A designation from the Government of Canada for its permanent art collection. This special status has enriched the art collection through donations, which have been certified as national cultural assets, by prominent art collectors.
As visual arts opportunities increased at the institution, Cook’s family also contributed to creative learning experiences for students.
“My parents donated artwork to the permanent art collection and the appraised value of the artwork was matched by the Government of Alberta, creating an endowment that funds the Ian and Hope Travel Bursary Cook,” says Cook. “Two $2,500 travel grants are awarded annually to worthy visual arts students to visit major art museums and experience original works of art.”
Although Cook’s contributions to the arts and to the institution as a whole were significant, he always focused on students.
“My greatest reward is seeing the success of the visual arts students I have taught. Many have gone on to successful careers as practicing artists, teachers, art teachers, illustrators, designers, architects and gallerists,” says Cook. “I also have the privilege and the chance to work in the visual arts department with colleagues who were my former students. »
In the 2021/2022 academic year, there were 1,045 employees at Red Deer Polytechnic. As Cook will soon retire, he will return to teaching in the fall 2022 term at École Polytechnique.
“For me, teaching is what I love to do and I’m looking forward to the fall term,” he says. “I will teach two classes. My position is continuous part-time and retirement is on the horizon.
When Cook officially retires, he plans to travel with his wife Michelle, work on the cars he collected, spend time with his family, and continue making art. Until then, students and the entire Red Deer Polytechnic community will benefit from Cook’s wealth of knowledge, contributions and passion for the art.