Get to Know Your Professors: This Issue: Q & A with Jim Baken

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By: Kasha Caprata –

im Baken poses for the camera with his renditions on shoulderblades  of DaVinci's Mona Lisa photo by Brandon Keim

im Baken poses for the camera with his renditions on shoulderblades of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa
photo by Brandon Keim

Name: James Alfred Baken

Originated From: A ranch near Roscoe, Montana.

Undergraduate Program: I was a hospital corpsman (they called me “Doc” for four years) in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and with the G.I Bill, I was able to attend college. School was almost free, so I was free to take what I wanted, not what my folks thought I should take. I studied music, dance, theater, literature and painting at NWCC Jim Baken poses for the camera with his renditions on shoulderblades of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. in Powell, Wyoming, at MSU in Bozeman, Montana, at EMC in Billings, Montana, and at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. When I graduated at the age of 32, I had received a commercial art degree and an art education degree. Yes, it took me a while, as I kind of ran wild with the wolves for a few years.

Masters/Ph.D. Program: After teaching grades 1-12 and coaching varsity women’s volleyball in Absarokee, Montana, for a few years, I decided to go back to school at the University of New Orleans for a 3 year MFA degree in painting.

Inspiration For Becoming a Professor: I chose to teach because it allows me a steady paycheck, keeps me steeped in the arts, makes me make painterly decisions every day, and is rewarding.

Draw to Rocky Mountain College: I’ve lived all over the U.S. and was thrilled to be able to come back to Montana. I feel like Marco Polo. I went to the East, acquired the good news of “modernity” and have returned to spread the riches.

The Best and Worst Things About Being a Professor: The best thing about being at Rocky and being a faculty member is that it allows me to influence and be influenced by young people every day. It is what gets me out of bed each day (plus my one cup of instant coffee … I’m not a coffee snob). What I dread each year is “starting all over again” at the beginning of the school year. It’s like coming out of a sort of retirement. It’s like waking from a coma! My summers are spent in isolation, making art from rocks and sticks and spotting forest fires while living in a 16 foot by 16 foot lookout tower in the Bitterroot Mountains. I don’t get phone calls and see very few people. To start a new school year, it feels like I have to completely rebuild everything from scratch.

Advice For New Students: I have a lot of advice for new students, but one thing I say frequently is get a double major! If you start early, it’s EASY! Get your money’s worth. Wouldn’t it be cool if Rocky were a school where every student got a double major? That would make us unique!

This Year’s Agenda: This year is like all years. I look forward to the magic that occurs in the studio classroom. It seems like all I do is open the door with a key, give an assignment and amazing things happen! Students are like racehorses that have always had the reins held tight. I simply let out the reins and they run like the wind!

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