Tani Hartman has been appointed Chairperson of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design at Michigan State University, effective July 15, 2021. She currently serves as Chairperson of the Department of Visual Art at the University of Kansas, where she also is Co-Director of the School of the Arts and a Professor of Painting and Drawing.
Hartman has worked at the University of Kansas for the past 24 years and served as Graduate Director of the Department of Visual Art for two of those years. Prior to the University of Kansas, she was an Adjunct Instructor of Painting and Art Appreciation at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York; a Guest Lecturer on Images of Childhood in Western Art at New York University; an Adjunct Instructor of Painting, Basic Drawing, Intermediate Drawing, and Color Theory at Norwalk Community Technical College in Norwalk, Connecticut; and a Teacher of Basic Painting, Life Drawing, and Fundamentals of Drawing at Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island, New York.
Tani Hartman is an accomplished and gifted artist whose work is at once attuned to human suffering and trauma and to the joy and beauty we find in the world.Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters
“Tani Hartman is an accomplished and gifted artist whose work is at once attuned to human suffering and trauma and to the joy and beauty we find in the world,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “She brings extensive leadership experience to her role as Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and has demonstrated a transformative capacity to listen and respond with ethical imagination. I am delighted to welcome her to the College of Arts & Letters and Michigan State University.”
As Chairperson of MSU’s Department of Art, Art History, and Design, Hartman will serve as the chief representative for the department and provide long-range and strategic planning for development of departmental programs. She also will be responsible for educational, research, and service programs; budgetary matters; physical facilities; and personnel matters within the department.
Hartman has an MFA in Painting from Yale University and a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design. After graduating from Yale, she did post-graduate studies in painting and printmaking as a Fulbright Research Fellow at the Konsthogskollan in Stockholm, Sweden.
Throughout her more than 25-year career, Hartman has managed to write and paint every day, which she considers as one of her biggest accomplishments.
“On days when I teach, I arise before dawn and go to my studio,” Hartman said. “This work ethic allows me to weather with equanimity the many rejections and the few acceptances that are common to my field. However, I delight in each new success.”
Among those successes include several solo exhibitions at venues in Kansas, Missouri, New York, Illinois, and South Dakota, including at A.I.R. Gallery in New York City and the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, Missouri, which functioned like a mid-career retrospective. She also has exhibited at the Center for Book Arts in New York City, and her exhibitions have been reviewed in The Pitch, The Kansas City Star, and in Review magazine.
I cherish my role as an educator and find it to be as soulful an experience as that of being in my studio. For, ultimately, teaching is a way to explore how best to be in community, how to be ambitious while sharing resources, how to think deeply without being pretentious, how to create self-sufficiency in another person while still being reliably present to them throughout their careers.Tani Hartman
As an artist, she uses painting to express her abhorrence for injustice and sorrow about human brutality. Her creative motivations are rooted in a family history of persecution in which her paternal grandparents were forced to flee Germany during World War II and later left Sweden as the threat of German forces grew near when they occupied both Norway and Finland.
Hartman turned to drawing to express the pain and disorientation felt by her family. This and the story of Jewish diaspora became the focus of her creative life. And when war erupted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, her art began to focus on the plight of refugees and on survivors of torture and war trauma living in the Midwest. She has interviewed people from war-torn regions around the world and used their testimonies as the basis for embroidered, text-based works of visual art in which each word of each testament is cut out individually and adhered to an embellished substrate.
“I create narratives in which each utterance is respected as a sacred artifact of suffering and survival,” Hartman said. “Sometimes, I record myself reading the survival stories that I have compiled and include an audible component to a work of art. Other times, I paint portraits of survivors and embed the images into fields of glimmering glass beads to evoke the iconography of holiness. It is important to move across genres and to be inclusive of all peoples, all styles of making art, and all versions of storytelling.”
Hartman has received numerous awards for her work, including a Hall Center for the Humanities Fellowship (2019), three Hall Center Creative Work Fellowships, a residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (2018), Ucross Foundation (2014), Jentel Residency at the Archie Bray Foundation (summer 2012), an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Rocket Grant (2012), two Puffin Foundation Grants (2011 and 2001), semi-finalist for Creative Capital (2011), a Lighton International Artist’s Exchange Grant (2010), a Keeler Family Intra-University Fellowship (2009), two Virginia Center For Creative Arts Fellowships (2010 and 2001), and a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship (2010).
She’s also a sought-after arts writer whose critical writing on art has appeared in The Kansas City Star and in Ceramics Art and Perception magazine.
Hartman’s teaching interests include Painting, Drawing, Advanced Drawing, Life Drawing, Visual Memoir, Themes in Art and Literature, and Materials and Techniques Across Cultures.
“I cherish my role as an educator and find it to be as soulful an experience as that of being in my studio,” Hartman said. “For, ultimately, teaching is a way to explore how best to be in community, how to be ambitious while sharing resources, how to think deeply without being pretentious, how to create self-sufficiency in another person while still being reliably present to them throughout their careers.”
In recognition of her teaching excellence, Hartman has received four Center for Teaching Excellence awards from the University of Kansas, a Kemper Award for Teaching Excellence, a TIAA_CREF Award, and an Outstanding Professional Mentor Award.