By: Courtney Dabney
| photography by Alex Lepe |
Dr. Anne Helmreich, the dean of Texas Christian University’s College of Fine Arts, loves teaching and interacting with people from all cultures and walks of life because she learns something from every person, she says. “Even though I am not teaching now, the same passions that drove me to teaching are the same that guide me as a dean, with a real commitment to the students, really wanting to see them flourish and help them reach their goals,” Helmreich said. “You get such a kick when a former student gets the brass ring. One of the things I enjoy about this job is getting to see the students perform. Today, we had all of our honor students present, and I learned something from every single one of those presentations.”
Helmreich originally came to TCU as an Art History professor. She returned to the campus last August. In her new position, Helmreich oversees the Schools of Art, Dance, and Music and Departments of Graphic Design, Interior Design & Fashion Merchandising, and Theatre.
Helmreich is an art historian. Her passions are 19th-century art and the digital humanities. Her co-authored article “Local/Global: Mapping 19th Century London’s Art Market,” written with Pamela Fletcher, won the 2015 prize for Online Publication from the Association of Research Institutes in Art History.
“The 19th century is an age when we think about Modernism happening,” Helmreich said. “This was when cities became cosmopolitan places, and trains connected people together. People felt that they were living through this period of tremendous change. What I really like about the 19th century are these echoes or traces of ourselves we can see in the past, and the art is gorgeous.”
Helmreich grew up near Pittsburgh. In high school, she took an AP History class. The prize for getting ahead in lessons was a field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Our teacher let us go wandering around the museum and then asked us what painting we liked,” Helmreich recalled. “She remembered what everybody had said, and she went to the bookstore and bought post cards for each child. Each of us sat in the bus on the way home with the work of art we picked out. She made me think of going to a museum as a treat, but also, by giving us a postcard, she was saying that it was our art, too, and we could enjoy it. It was terrific.”
Helmreich earned her Ph.D. in Art History from Northwestern University, her M.A. in Art History from the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in History from Dickinson College. Helmreich was formerly associate professor of Art History, Case Western Reserve University, where she also served as director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and taught at TCU from 1996-2003, and senior program officer at The Getty Foundation in Los Angeles.
“TCU and Fort Worth are tremendously fortunate to have a scholar of Anne Helmreich’s caliber as Dean of the College of Fine Arts,” said Dr. Eric M. Lee, Director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. “She is one of the most beloved art historians in Fort Worth, and everyone I’ve spoken with is rejoicing that she came back. I look forward to many collaborations between the Kimbell and TCU’s College of Fine Arts under Dr. Helmreich’s leadership.”
Helmreich replaced outgoing Dean Scott Sullivan, who retired last year. “A lot of what Dean Sullivan did was to create an identity for the college,” Helmreich said. “What does it mean to be a College of Fine Arts? That’s a communication we’re going to continue to build on.
“One of the things I want to accomplish here is to bring out the TCU story more. When you think of TCU, you automatically think of excellence and quality in the arts. So part of it will just be telling our story. We’ve accomplished a lot, but I think we could shine the light a little brighter if you will.”
Helmreich said they were working on bringing the different disciplines together, so they enhance each other. “We are going to bring out the critical thinking skills, so it is not just blindly whatever comes up in the search box,” she said.
Helmreich sees her role as being a bit of a myth-buster, she says - the myth being that people in the Arts don’t get jobs. “Well, many of our degreed programs have a 99 percent or 100 percent job placement rate,” she said. “Our graphic design program has 100 percent. Our students are incredibly well prepared. They do internships to prepare. They take courses where the faculty prepares them, and they volunteer. They are ready to go.”
Helmreich and her husband, Christian Wulffen, live in Fort Worth. Wulffen is an internationally known artist.
By: Courtney Dabney