Professor enjoys art, dance

IUS Horizon

Susan Moffett
Susan Moffett

Thirty-one years ago, Susan Moffett, professor of fine arts, was driving through southern Indiana during Labor Day weekend. She had recently earned her Masters of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University and was living in Bloomington.

“It was a hot summer, muggy-dog day. You could cut the air with a knife,” Moffett said. “I said to myself that I would never want to live here.”

By the following, February, Moffett found herself at her first teaching job as an associate professor of fine arts at IU Southeast. Years have passed and Moffett is still teaching at IU Southeast.

“I interviewed for several jobs, but this was the first one I got,” Moffett said. “I don’t know that I thought I would still be here.”

Moffett grew up in Texas, and studied printmaking and painting at Texas Tech University, where she first saw a print by artist, David Driesbach titled, “All Children Must Be Accompanied by an Adult.”

The print helped Moffett decide to further her education, and in 1974 she began studying under Driesbach at Northern Illinois University, just west of Chicago.

“It was total culture shock. The weather, and the whole northern mindset,” Moffett said. “The women’s movement was going on and it was a very intellectually exciting time.”

Moffett would frequently travel to Chicago with friends from graduate school.

“We used to go to this place called the Susan B. Anthony, and get into some hot and heavy discussions, like what it meant to be an artist and a woman,” Moffett said. “This was all very new to me.”

Moffett’s experiences led her to teach as well as continue with her own art.

In 2003, Moffett became one of the founding members of PYRO, a co-operative art gallery in downtown Louisville.
Soon after the opening of PYRO, Moffett and other Louisville artists began collaborating with artists from Ireland.
In 2004, Moffett made a trip to Ireland to attend and present a slide talk at the opening of a show in an art studio near Belfast, where one of her pieces was showcased.

The trip spawned the idea for a sabbatical in 2006 that enabled Moffett to return to Ireland and work on landscapes of things that captivated her.

“A real highlight was an area off the northern coast, called the Giants Causeway [which is a series of hexagonal rock formations caused by volcanic eruptions and cooling lava],” Moffett said. “It’s a volcanic thing – very wild and beautiful.”

Moffett created many pieces that depicted such rock formations and standing stones, which she said had interested her since the mid-’90s.

Moffett also used the sabbatical to take trips to places like Costa Rica, Lake Tahoe and Lake Superior to draw more inspiration for her works.

Within an 18-month-period, Moffett had created almost 30 new works, which were displayed in her solo exhibit at PYRO earlier this year.

While Moffett has traveled to create her fine art, she has also traveled as a call dancer at contra dances.

“It’s [contra dancing] a different type of dancing that’s based off of old-time jigs and reels,” Moffett said. “We always dance to live music, which is pretty much traditional Irish music that has been Americanized.”

Call dancers line-up a group of contra dancers and walk them through each figure. When the music starts, they prompt each move. In addition to dancing every Monday night at the Louisville Episcopal Church of the Advent, Moffett travels to different cities in the area calling dances.

When Moffett’s not calling dances or traveling overseas to gather artistic inspiration, she is teaching fine arts at IU Southeast.

“What has made IUS good all these years is the quality of students I get,” Moffett said. “It brings me real satisfaction working with my students – getting to be their cheerleader and guiding them too.”

Staff Writer