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Art professor imparts "Aha!" moments to her students

Meredith ShimizuAssistant Professor of Art Meredith TeGrotenhuis Shimizu, '93, remembers the day she first noticed art. She had enrolled in a design class at Whitworth, and the professor assigned students to copy a famous painting. To get the class started, he escorted the students to shelves stocked with art books in the library. Shimizu, a history major, pulled one of the mammoth books from the shelf. "It blew my mind," she says. "Somehow, I had made it through 18 years of my life without ever noticing a painting. I think I stayed there for an hour, looking at painting after painting, completely enthralled."

She had another "Aha!" moment at the National Gallery, in London, while on a Whitworth study program across Europe. This time, she found herself analyzing and comparing the paintings. "I felt my eyes and brain engage in a new way," she said. "It was invigorating."

After graduating, Shimizu worked in children's and youth ministry in the Presbyterian Church. She later enrolled at Northwestern University, in Chicago, where she earned a Ph.D. in art history. Her areas of expertise are the history of photography, modern art and American art. In 2008 Shimizu returned to Whitworth, where she teaches on the Core 250 team and offers a variety of art history classes, including modern art, photography, Latin American and Renaissance/Baroque art.

"[The class] History of Modern Art is great because I get lots of students who have no idea what to do with most modern art – it's strange and cryptic," she says. "They start to 'get it' and then they start to love it."

When Shimizu graduated from Whitworth, in 1993, she received Whitworth's Alumni Ideals Award. In May 2014, she was named Most Influential Female Professor by the graduating class.

In this Whitworth125-second video, Shimizu uses a Mark Rothko painting to explain how art can be more than an aesthetic experience.