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Flat Tail Press: Stander's two passions fused into one

Two very different passions, melded into one ... that is the case for Art Assistant Professor Ryan Stander. He discovered that his broad interest in theology and art were in fact, intimately related to one another, and that discovery has taken him down a path he did not foresee.

Stander earned his bachelor's degree in art from Northwestern College in Iowa, 2.5 miles from home. But another interest was tugging at his heart strings, and that interest was theology. Stander earned a master's degree in theology from Sioux Falls Seminary. His love of theology consumed him, leaving no room for art. But that too changed when treasured friends shared with him how they missed his art. Returning to the arts, he found deeper ways of fusing the two passions.

"My interdisciplinary interests bring the arts and theology together," Stander said. "I am interested in how place, memory and identity come together ... how place shapes who we are and how it tells our stories ... how we define what is a sacred place and how we relate and live in those places."

Stander went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in mixed media from the University of North Dakota. In March, 2012, he had a solo photo exhibit at Minot State University, "Concrete Abstractions." Just months later, he was hired at MSU as a visiting instructor and one year later was offered the tenure track position. Stander draws on his background in philosophy and ethics to encourage students to consider the possibilities of art and photography to wrestle with ethical issues and work for good.

"In graduate school, some of my favorite experiences were working with visiting artists," Stander said. "I have stayed in contact with several of those artists who, in a short time, made a profound impact on how I understood art and how to be an artist."

From that experience, the Flat Tail Press emerged. In the fall of 2013, MSU's art faculty members created an educational printmaking experience to bring students and artists together to make an edition of prints. The program enables students to work directly with visiting artists and learn their techniques.

"A renaissance is going on with artists blending new and old technology in book arts, printmaking, photography, and graphic design. Many artists use digital tools to design work, but make it through 19th century letter presses and photographic processes," Stander explained. "The hope is to utilize this old equipment to make art, but also to illuminate the collaborative potential with other departments such as English to create printed poetry and artist books."

Flat Tail Press hopes to add a paper beater which would allow students to learn the ancient art of paper making. This would enable students to bring old and new technology together by starting with raw materials and incorporating them into contemporary work.

"It's a beautiful wedding of old and new and so exciting to see what artists are coming up with using cutting edge, digital technology and out-of-date, obsolete printing technologies ... it's really beautiful," Stander exclaimed.

To learn more about the Flat Tail Press, visit flattailpress.weebly.com.