Peter Thompson
Marvin D. Cone Professor of Art

Peter Thompson

B.A., M.A., M.F.A., University of Iowa

What classes are you currently teaching?
Painting, Drawing, and Color

What activities or campus organizations are you actively involved with?
A few summers ago I joined the Coe RAGBRAI team. Together we represented Coe among the ten thousand bicyclists who took a week to ride across the state of Iowa. I've ridden with them several times since then. This summer my son plans to join me.

What makes Coe stand out from other schools?
There's a word that gets thrown around in academic circles: collegiality. By this we mean a sense of common purpose. We are all in this together. We are colleagues. And the wonderful thing about Coe is that this is a feeling that is shared among faculty, staff and students alike.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?
My favorite class to teach is Color. It's a course in which we study some of the science of color perception, but mostly the art of using color as an element of design. The projects are designed to intimately acquaint the students with 'color space', and make them expert navigators of it. Students always find it challenging, but they learn a lot. I’ve been told by former students that it was the most important art class they took at Coe.

Name your most memorable Coe concert and what it meant to you.
Some time ago I saw Chick Corea performing in Sinclair. It was a great jazz performance. Jerry Owen (now retired music faculty member) was sitting right next to me. The bass player was playing a solo and I felt a rush of pleasure as he pulled off some kind of daring riff. Just as I felt that rush, Jerry blurted out "yes!" It was a great feeling to know that we shared that moment of appreciation.

What research or projects are you currently working on?
My research is my painting, and painting is ordinarily a solitary pursuit. But a few years ago I was involved in a project that students helped with, and it was a lot of fun. There was a celebration of the one year anniversary of the Cedar Rapids flood, and I was asked to organize a sidewalk chalk drawing. The drawing was a reproduction of a painting by Marvin Cone, a regionalist artist who was a friend of Grant Wood and the founding faculty member of Coe's Art department. Cone's painting, which is in the Coe library, depicts Little Bohemia, a bar in the downtown Czech Village area. I worked with a group of artists, students, and members of the community to create an eight by twenty foot reproduction of the painting. It took a couple of days to finish. It lasted over the weekend, but when the rains started Monday morning I drove down to watch it slowly get washed away.

What is your favorite website?
I have a few online comics that I keep up with. My favorite of these is XKCD. The subtitle explains it perfectly "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language."

Who is playing on your iPod?
Almost half of my iTunes collection is jazz. But the rest of it includes blues and funk, and some artists from my youth, like XTC and Elvis Costello.

What book are you currently reading?
, by Neal Stephenson. It's a speculative fiction novel about an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion in ancient monasteries.

What is the best getaway location, local or abroad?
I like to spend a quiet Sunday relaxing and chatting with my parents on the farm I grew up on, just outside of Iowa City. Every spring the Art department has a picnic there for the faculty and students.

What advice would you give a prospective student?
Enjoy yourself. Every minute you make choices about what you want to do with your time. And the great thing is, there's another minute right after that one!

Students talk in library

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