The first pottery firing of the year

Heather Croyl

Lately, on Thursday, Feb. 7, Professor James Schietinger lit one of the art department’s kilns for the first time this semester.  Schietinger explained that this is an essential part of the ceramics program as students need to learn how to properly use and build their own kiln. However, it is interesting to think that Millikin University did not always have this program and that Schietinger sculpted the program as if from clay.

Now a well-known art professor, Schietinger has had a long and interesting history here at Millikin, although he will only admit to having worked here for “a little while.” During his time at Millikin, Schietinger has seen a lot of changes in the art department, and on campus.

Although Schietinger first attended college in Florida to study biology, his connection and love of studio art led him to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he obtained his Master of Fine Art, the highest degree in studio art. After graduation, Schietinger worked as a potter and began teaching college students at schools such as Miami Gate Community College, University of Vermont and University of South Florida.

Humorously, Schietinger never applied to work here at Millikin. Instead, while at an art conference in Champaign, he met the then Chair of the Art Department. At the time, Millikin was looking to hire a ceramics professor, and Schietinger fit the qualifications. In order to impress, Schietinger was brought to Decatur, shown the campus and taken to the winery. By the end of the day, Schietinger was offered a job, which he accepted.

At the time of Schietinger’s arrival, Staley Library was finished being built and RTUC’s construction was under way. The art department only had 15 majors, and Schietinger taught ceramics, jewelry making, art appreciation and art for teachers. In the early 80s, Schietinger created and implemented both the sculpture and photography programs that are still in use at Millikin. As the university had then just canceled the welding program, Schietinger’s art students took over the one story Mueller building that stood where the quad is now in order to have a sculpture studio. As the number of art students grew and Mueller was torn down, a new 3-D art studio was created 10 years ago behind Hessler and across the street from Griswold Center.

Throughout Schietinger’s time, he has given students instruction both on and off campus. He has taken art students out West camping to work on photography skills. Other students have accompanied Schietinger to European destinations such as Greece, England, Scotland and Ireland. Additionally, Schietinger has seen both of his two sons around campus as his eldest son, at 17, is the youngest student to ever graduate from Millikin. Schietinger’s younger son is currently a junior here at Millikin.

Through Schietinger’s dedication to this campus and to students, he has gained a positive reputation, to the point of an art student saying, “Holy sh*t, I love that man,” when being asked about the professor. In a more formal statement, senior art student Charlie Huth explained, “What sets Jim apart from other professors is that not only is he a great teacher, but a great person. He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.” It is obvious that having a professor like Schietinger is one of the reasons why Millikin’s art department has flourished over the years.