Five Questions with Jane Cole, Professor in Art and Design

Jane Cole, VIU Professor, Art and Design

February 26, 2021 - 1:30am

The year 2020 marked 45 years as an educator at Vancouver Island University for Jane Cole. She has been a professor of painting, drawing, design and art history throughout that time. As she reflects on her years of service, her continued passion for art and teaching is palpable, even though she is now teaching through Zoom.

Her first job was a summer position teaching painting classes for Malaspina College’s Continuing Education program offered in the Duncan high school. She walked in and asked if she could offer some art courses. The manager at the time told her they would advertise them and if well subscribed, they could go forward. Enough enrolled and that began Cole’s career at our institution. After she completed her Master of Arts in Art, she was brought on as a sessional at the old Kennedy Street location, and later was hired into a regularized position teaching art history and studio courses.

Cole has been fascinated by art ever since she was a young child. During high school she attended visual art summer sessions at the University of Calgary. Later she received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Music and then went on to graduate school in the Visual Arts.

Cole and her husband have raised their family in the area, having two daughters who went on to attend VIU and later achieved fulfilling careers in the arts. When not occupied at VIU, Cole can be found painting in her studio or conducting genealogical and historical research. She has written about and continues to do ongoing study involving Canadian artist E. J. Hughes.  

Cole has a great love for nature and is very concerned with the need to preserve natural areas and the effect of the ever-expanding human footprint. She can often be found outdoors sketching, bird watching, cycling, fishing or boating and doing community-building work.

We asked Jane to answer our five questions as the only 45-year, long-service honouree of 2020.

1) What do you like most about teaching?

I love sharing my knowledge about art history and art-making and I enjoy meeting people and helping others. We have so many wonderful students – watching their progress through a course or program is very rewarding. I like the freedom to be creative in our jobs, to develop our own teaching methods and courses, develop new degrees or expand extracurricular offerings to students such as developing an annual student art sale, campus exhibits of student work or leading field schools overseas. Taking students and community members to Europe or North Africa and visiting original art and architecture is an amazing experience –  a lot of work, but very fulfilling. I think the creativity that’s possible in our jobs has kept the boredom of sameness away, which is probably part of the reason 45 years have gone by so quickly!



2) What are some of the take-aways you have from the pandemic – good or bad – what about it has stood out the most?

Well, there is definitely the good and bad. I miss the liveliness of campus life, interacting with people and the physical activity of moving from space to space, yet there are some good things. I find that in many cases I’ve gotten to know students’ personal lives better through Zoom, and I find I can follow a beginning student’s development more easily than in the classroom. This, of course, is true only with media that can be judged digitally. Zoom provides no ability to judge surface or materials and severely limits equipment and many technologies.


2b) What do you miss most about being on campus?

I miss my friends and other employees, the facilities and what they enable, and of course the students, and last but not least – the invigorating view we see every morning when we round the top of Fifth Street!


3) If you could do something different, anything at all, what would it be and why?

I’d get a vaccination today!


4) What trait do you appreciate most about yourself?

I suppose a melding of curiosity and creativity. I like taking on new things which hopefully will improve our world, and people’s experience in it.

5) I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you for a piece of advice after being at VIU for 45 years.

I think to try to be creative in your job – to see beyond your job that we are all here to work together for the good of the University, so we can keep educating students. If there are aspects you don’t like about your work, try to be creative to fit in some things that you do like, that matter to you so you can enjoy it more. I often think we have more control over our day-to-day, moment-to-moment than we realize. 

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