Photo by Tim Schoon/University of Iowa Office of Strategic Communication
Clar Baldus, art education professor emeritus, has a simple but powerful mantra: play more.
“To stay in touch with my own personal expression and creative processes is vital to my life and work,” Baldus says. “I preach the need for play in everyday life to all who will listen, and I certainly adhere to that doctrine. All curricula I wrote for my courses had a play component built into the structure.”
Although Baldus retired from the College of Education in December of 2021, after more than two decades of inspiring the next generation of art educators, she continues to play every day.
An Iowa alumna, graduating with her doctorate in Psychological and Quantitative Foundations in 2001, Baldus began working at the college in August 2000. She first worked as a Belin-Blank Center administrator and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations from 2000-11, and then as faculty in art education from 2011 to 2021.
“My career and research have been guided by my passion for art, interest in creative processes, and a commitment to talent development,” Baldus says. “I believe supporting the development of artistic processes provides a path not only to success in the arts, but to success in every field of endeavor.”
Baldus was nationally recognized for her research in creative processes and in gifted education and talent development, making significant contributions to the arts.
“While at the Belin Center I worked with some amazingly gifted educators and schools all across Iowa and beyond,” Baldus says. “This included working teachers and students through student programs such as Invent Iowa and the Iowa Online AP Academy, as well as Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. I had many opportunities to present locally, nationally, and internationally during my years in the College of Education.”
Early in her teaching career, Baldus taught high school art and says she was delighted to return to her art education roots as coordinator and faculty in art education.
“This gave me the opportunity to give back to the field and help aspiring art teachers reach their goals,” Baldus says. “I also appreciate all the faculty and staff in the College of Education—truly a team effort with amazing colleagues.”
Alumna Lauren Linahon, (BFA ’14, MA, ’21), United Action for Youth Arts Program Coordinator, says she would not be the person she is today without Baldus’s influence.
“She had a tremendous impact on who I’ve become, not only as an artist, but most importantly as an art educator,” says Linahon, who graduated in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics and completed coursework for the College of Education in Secondary Art Education. In December of 2021, she graduated with her Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with a focus on Social and Emotional Learning.
“She saw potential in me when I doubted myself the most. Without Clar’s support and confidence in me, I wouldn’t have furthered my own passion for art education and pursued my master’s degree,” Linahon says. “I am forever indebted to her for being the most caring, supportive, and inspirational mentor I ever had.”
Another alumna, Nicole Beckley (BA, ’06, MA, ’14), who is currently the Middle School Art Instructor at Clear Creek Amana Community School District, shares a similar sentiment.
“She has always been there, both as my mentor and as a friend, going above and beyond to guide me through academia,” Beckley says. “She exudes compassion, grace, and professionalism with her students, and I continuously aspire to follow her example.”
Baldus’s impact was felt beyond the UI campus. In 2005, Baldus re-established the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. Together, Baldus and colleague Jan Warren re-built the regional scholastic program at the Belin-Blank Center in both art and writing.
Identifying and nurturing creative talent was one of Baldus’ many gifts. She directed the popular and highly successful Saturday Elementary Art Workshops, offered to young artists by the College of Education’s Art Education faculty and students.
The recipient of many artistic accolades, Baldus was honored with the Outstanding Higher Level Art Education Award in 2011 by the Art Educators of Iowa. She and colleague Jan Warren were also both selected as recipients of the Distinguished Service Outside the Profession Award in 2020 by the Art Educators of Iowa.
Now that she is retired, Baldus can devote more time to her art, saying she’s always considered herself a “teaching artist.” Baldus has also picked up a part-time seasonal job at a local garden center to “support her gardening habit,” and she carves out time to play and enjoys being outdoors with her husband, CJ Ong, Jr., and their dogs.
But she says Iowa will always hold a special place in her heart.
“Art Education at the University of Iowa has a rich and robust history,” Baldus says. “I am excited and humbled to be a part of this legacy and to have contributed to the college’s tradition of excellence in teaching, outreach, and research.”
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