College of Fine Arts, School of Art

School of Art professor Gary Setzer was selected as the recipient of the Provost Award for Innovation in Teaching. This award was established to acknowledge outstanding faculty whose teaching portfolios and instructional effectiveness merit special recognition.

Provost Liesl Folks told Setzer in a letter, “You were selected and recommended by the university committee because of your developing a “complete transformation” of the traditional Studio Foundations curriculum and launching a “nationally recognized model for pedagogical and curricular innovations” for the First Year Experience (FYE) program.

“I am incredibly impressed with your dedication and passion as a teacher and mentor. Your teaching accomplishments and leadership bring distinction to the University of Arizona.”

“The Foundations program is the cornerstone of just about every BFA Studio Art degree,” said Colin Blakely, director of the School of Art.

“In transforming the School of Art’s Foundations into our First Year Experience program, Gary literally broke the mold, and in so doing created a nationally acclaimed curriculum. What’s more, his innovations in the classroom are just as profound as those he has implemented at the curricular level. I’m am delighted to see him receive this well-deserved recognition.”

“I was both honored and surprised to receive this important recognition from the Provost,” said Setzer. “University awards like this inspire the faculty to keep doing what we’re doing.

“I would be remiss to not acknowledge my brilliant students, and the leadership of Director Blakely and Dean Schulz who both maintain an academic environment that encourages and enables faculty success,” he added. ‘Additionally, while he is no longer with us, I think it is important to recognize the former School of Art Director Dennis Jones, who mentored me through the process of developing the First Year Experience program.”


Gary Setzer, The Gallery Infrastructure Supports This Idea, 2019
Wood, India ink, and wax

Setzer began with the School of Art as an assistant professor in 2007, becoming a professor this year. His enthusiasm for his role as instructor continues to grow over the past 13 years.

“All students have an unbridled curiosity fueled by a fresh sense of urgency. It is my job as a professor to provide an environment conducive to that curiosity. I lead by example. If we are fully engaged as professors, our students will sense our involvement and trust our expectations. This sets the stage for their deep personal investment, which manifests both as a diligent work ethic and an empowered capacity for critical thinking.

“I uphold that if I’m teaching a studio course and I don’t leave the classroom exhausted then there’s a lot more that I could be doing for the students.”

An accomplished artist, his works have been included in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Next year, Setzer will be included in the 2021 Venice Biennale of Architecture in Italy, May 22 – Nov. 1.  For the Biennale, he is collaborating with Dan Majka—a conservation scientist and technologist for the Nature Conservancy.

He has performed, exhibited, and screened work in venues such as the Arsenale in Venice, the Today Art Museum in Beijing, the Ars Electronica Center in Austria, Tribeca Film Center, The National Art Center Tokyo, A4 Art Museum in Chengdu, The Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, The Wexner Center for the Arts, Mobile Museum of Art, Boston Center for the Arts, Tucson Museum of Art, and the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Setzer’s transdisciplinary practice incorporates performance art, video art, sound, sculpture, photography, and installation. Enlisting familiar landmarks like the body, the landscape, minimalism, and humor as entry points, Setzer lures his audience into his conceptual framework—a theoretical space centered on our compulsory entanglements with language.