Nell Ruby
September, 2014



General Statement on Service

Service connects me to the communities I value through acknowledging and making use of my technical expertise, professional affiliations and interpersonal skills. I like participating in the functioning mechanics of the system and being recognized as an important part of the group.

Because my approach to all problem solving is rooted in a consistent creative process, it is difficult to separate service, teaching and scholarship into distinct categories. I enjoy the challenge of making the most out of any circumstance, envisioning possible end goals, and being inventive with tools and materials, including the assets and potential contributions of others. My ability to draw out strengths in other people makes the projects with which I am involved—classes, committees or teaching—energized, efficient and pleasant. I understand myself to be a strong and positive presence in the groups I embrace. Last month at a conference a colleague said, “Nell, the room is better when you’re in it”.

Service to the Department
Through ongoing dialogue and willingness to listen and participate with each other, the Department of Art and Art History has reached a productive rapport that makes the Dana Fine Arts building an exciting atmosphere in which to work. Together my colleagues and I have developed a stimulating intellectual climate with a dynamic curriculum that can nimbly respond to changes in our community. Our department annually reviews and adapts courses, extracurricular events and programming to ensure a rich experience of making and interpreting art in the 21st century. The mutual respect and habits of our department demonstrate for our students a way to build a cohesive and connected art community. I am grateful to be a part of such an insightful and courageous group.

Service to the College
At the campus level I strive to contribute my perspective and my skills in a manner that makes sense for the good of the college as a whole. Through participation on committees I bring my skills to the ongoing development of institutional initiatives. The broad range of committees on which I have served deepens my understanding of the workings of the college and enhances my capacity to provide input. My listening and communication skills are especially helpful in these groups.

Service to the Profession
Being an active part of the wider art world is important in order to maintain perspective in my day-to-day contributions and to more broadly connect me to issues, places and people. Participation in the discipline beyond the campus is energizing and grounding. I participate in national conferences on current art practices, on technology and on pedagogy. I actively read for Advanced Placement studio exams, which informs me about the state of high school education and connects me to other teachers in my field. Contact with concentrated groups that do what I do infuse me with new tools and ideas and gives me the sense that my work is useful and significant.

Service to the Community
Connecting to the local community is important to establishing myself as a productive part of the local daily world. Functional town/gown relationships contribute to a sense of purpose and vitality in my day-to day-life.

Specific Examples of Service

I have been a strong voice in conceiving and achieving the following list of selected examples of my service. While I recognize my importance in these projects, I understand myself to be one part of a greater collaborative effort. (How the service affects various groups is listed in red above the description)


Department Mission Statement
During my tenure as chair of the department we developed a Departmental Mission Statement that explicitly states the value of process as a primary teaching goal:

The program in art and art history recognizes the inherent expressive value of art, its enrichment of the human experience, and the dependence of global culture on visual literacy.

Our curriculum challenges students to create, read, and analyze images through written and oral communication, critical thinking, and experiential learning.

Our mission speaks strongly to the process of creativity, rather than the product. Through a collaborative approach to teaching and learning, we offer an integrated program that compels students to consider the practices required of professional artists and art historians.

We create an environment that empowers students to hone their individual expression, engage in a productive dialogue with their peers, and contribute significantly to the world at large.


Seniors Select
I developed the Seniors Select project as an opportunity to use a real event as a teaching tool and to foster relationships between the students, department and the local art community. In this project, students are allotted funds to buy a work of art for the permanent collection. The project culminates at a local art auction run by Art Papers, an Atlanta based international arts publication. Their annual fund-raiser is an extravagant event where professional artists donate works to be auctioned off. A catalog of the artwork is published online prior to the event, which we use as part of a “senior conversation”, a tool developed for our departmental assessment plan. Each senior selects a work from the auction list that she beleives supports the mission of the collection. She defends her choice to an audience of her peers and the art faculty. For this presentation the students must be familiar with the work in our permanent collection and the reasons we collect work, and the climate of the contemporary art world. Each student must consider the Questions We Ask, a list devised to ensure the integrity of the collection. We distribute these questions to the curious at the art auction, marking Agnes Scott as a distinctive intellectual community.

From our group conversation, which includes back and forth comments and critique from the seniors and the faculty, we agree on a ranked list to take with us to the auction. The department subsidizes senior tickets, and offers a group discount and transportation to majors, minors and others interested in attending. We typically have about 25 undergraduates, the department faculty, interested alumnae, adjuncts and visitors. We have adopted a “spectacle” approach to the event, with peacock feathers as our signature costuming, and have created a reputation at the event. During the auction we have group informational huddles to discuss surprises and to plan strategy. The night is always exciting, and educational. It is instructive for the students, and exhilarating for the artists on our list, who are honored to be considered for the prestigious Agnes Scott Permanent Art Collection. The experience is a valuable beginning step to the purchase of a work that becomes part of the seniors' legacy. We host an unveiling ceremony to celebrate the installation of the work to which the artist and other dignitaries (the president of the college, the gallery owner, alumnae, and any other professionals who were a part of the process) are invited. The work itself becomes an artifact marking the senior class, with a label that includes verbiage describing the work as a gift from the class with a list of their names. The students find this a meaningful event capping their four-year experience. The artist whose work is selected is honored to be included in the institution’s collection and the college garners long-term investment benefits financially, as well as the day-to-day riches that accompany living with aesthetic excellence.


Dana Design
Dana Design is an initiative that capitalizes on my professional experience as a graphic designer. The premise of this group is to mentor design students in “real-life” opportunities for publishing their work. In 2004, three students and I set up Dana Design as an in-house design studio for campus print and creative needs.
The group was vibrant for three years, and I plan to revive it as funds become available for its support.

Dana Design End of Year Reports 2005 and 2006

Cover and inside spread from Dana Design Project's The Writers Festival Magazine. Client: Amber Dermont, Design and illustration, Emily Hauck


The Kirk Visiting Artist Project
The Kirk Fund is designated to provide enrichment for history, creative writing, philosophy and music. I spearheaded the Kirk Visting Artist program for its multiple advantages. On the local level, an annual visiting artist brings expertise and currency to our department. Because the artist is also part of the local art world, learning naturally extends beyond the borders of the classroom as students go to exhibitions and art events because they are curious about their teacher. Yearly variation of professional styles and areas of expertise model the range of artistic practice. For example, one artist may work in oil painting on a small scale, another may work as large scale muralist.

The Kirk Visting Artist also serves the teaching profession through creating a sandbox for artists with an interest in teaching. Seasoned studio faculty at Agnes Scott mentor these experienced artists who are inexperienced teachers. Students receive courses enriched by being taught by artists knowledgeable about the contemporary art world; the artist benefits from an excellent working environment with interested and motivated students; the faculty benefits by forming stronger bonds with the local professional artist community; and the college benefits by gaining a reputation as an institution that nourishes the arts. So far our selection mechanism has been stellar: in the three years that the program has existed, 100% of our visitors have won the MOCA GA working artist award shortly after accepting our teaching offer. This prize is one of the most coveted in the city, since it offers a large cash award, a year long studio assistant and a major one person show at the museum.

Left: Kirk Visiting Artist Jiha Moon in class. Right: Kirk Visiting Artist Katherine Taylor is published in Modern Painting


Showing / Thinking Exhibition
Conceived by the gallery director in 2011 as a one-time show to fill an unexpected space in the gallery schedule, this exhibition was designed to illustrate the work involved in the process of original thinking of the artists and art historians in our department. Originally, it was meant to be a teaching tool for our students—a way to show that we all struggle with our work and that our motivations are individualized and often quirky. We were all surprised to find profound connections and energized conversations around the making of the show. Especially rewarding was the intense engagement of the students. Furthermore I watched the art historians go from fear and reticence about showing their work to fulfilled and energized in the end. Witnessing this transformation inspired me to extend the project to include other disciplines. In this way the art department can do what it does best—show—as a contribution to the vitality and engagement of our learning community. Widening this spectacle to include the liberal arts community was to me an exciting prospect. Each exhibition comprises a small group of academics from various fields who show their thinking through artifacts (a dough mixer, a filing cabinet, a travel blog, a piece of coral, a photograph of a stained glass window, a child’s paper sculpture, a needlepoint). They write a statement on their process, which is reproduced in a catalog that I design and produce. Writing a process statement is a unique way for my colleagues to reflect on the ways they work and their published results are exciting to read. Ultimately I envision an ongoing annual exhibition which will result in a compendium of catalogs documenting the process of our rich creative resources—the thinking of the faculty—in an original and compelling narrative. In my view, it is the peculiarities of our motivations – the story of our thinking – that create the connections through which we learn.

left: Larry Riddle's image is featured in the exhibition review by Lilly Lampe; right: Showing Thinking 2012 Catalog


Social Media:
Aside from the course progress blogs, I maintain several other electronic sites related to the art department.

The Department on Facebook
I actively post relevant posts about art, art and women, alumnae, department events and other news on the department Facebook page. The department also uses this as a way to keep track of alumnae and advertise our programming.

Left: a sample dialogue. Right: I created and posted this story and image of alumna Wasfia Nazreen as an example of how women's colleges could advertise together with a tagline "another typical day in the life of a women's college graduate"

The Department Blog
For more permanent information and articles, I designed and maintain a departmental blog. This page includes important features of the curriculum, “distinctive” programs within the department, and benchmark events that are important to us. This site is useful for advising and recruiting students and is a record of our accomplishments. It is also a place for us to feature and strengthen relationships with our alumnae:

A third electronic project is an electronic “zine” called Creative Agnes. I encouraged and art directed the formation of this student blog that posts original stories and articles written by students from all of the creative art departments: Music, Theater, Dance, Creative Writing and Art and Art History.


I have participated for several years on the board of the Decatur Arts Alliance. My most recent significant contribution is implementing the SEED GRANTS program that will distribute $500 grants directly to artists whose work affects Decatur.

Illustration for the Decatur Seed Grants Call for Artist

In 2013, I volunteered at the Global Village Project in Decatur to teach drawing to the eighth grade girls. This was both challenging and gratifying. Because imagery is universal I was able to break through the langauge barriers. I appreciated the opportunity to work with these young women, and to strengthen our ties with this meaningful organization.

service to: COLLEGE

In the last few years I have served on multiple college committees. I served on the Curriculum Committee during a particularly contentious period of time, and learned a great deal as we examined and debated the general education requirements. I was chair for two years, and served for three years on the CAIE (Committee for Advancement of Institutional Effectiveness, or “assessment” committee) in the years following the departure of our director of assessment. Through this experience I learned about the difficulties involved in changing a culture, and the delicate business of asking colleagues to perform new tasks. Last December I was one of six elected faculty members to serve on a time-intensive and challenging committee (AKA “G6”) tasked with developing a program to respond to significant changes related to college rebranding. Although taxing, it was rewarding to work with this collaborative group on such a substantial task. This committee required thought, debate, writing, imaging, research, and regular contact with the staff and the president, as well as formal and informal presentations to the faculty and the board of trustees. It was a daunting task that resulted in a proposal to the board approved by the faculty within the one-semester time period.

I was a part of a grant received from the Dobbs Foundation to develop a creative arts master plan. I helped with writing, presenting, identifying and interviewing architects, participating in conversations with the City of Decatur, and presenting findings to various boards.


I regularly participate with admissions as an interviewer during Scholarship weekends, a task I find rewarding because I get to help shape the future of the college.

I often present programs for The Center for Teaching and Learning, and I have made several presentations to the Board of Trustees, Board of Visitors, Parents’ Council and others on various topics from technology to digital portfolios to the years-long planning process for Campbell Hall.

I serve and have served on several advisory boards including, Campbell Hall, Computer and Technology Advisory Board, Academic Support, E-portfolio Advisory Board, the Arts AdvisoryBoard,and the committee formed to consider the efficacy of entrepreneurial ideas. I participate whenever I can.

It’s important for me to take part in shaping a vibrant atmosphere in the community where I live and work.

With students Layla Shi and Siobhan Keeve at Spelman College to see bell hooks