Professor of Art and Design, Department Chair
on faculty since 1982
John Bakker is most at home where there is a lively discussion about art.
The subject may center on some point of aesthetic theory, the relative significance of one artist over another, or one’s deepest commitments.
He especially enjoys the discussion when his fellow debaters don’t necessarily agree with him or don’t share his Christian faith. Bakker welcomes the exchange. His confidence is borne from the conviction that God expects us to be “in the thick of things” and that “faith builds a platform for engagement rather than a wall to hide behind.”
This speaks to one of those deep commitments Bakker likes to discuss. His goal is to impart to students the importance of the Christian’s task to see the world as God’s “good world,” however twisted by sin, and to change it. “Where we find distortions, we work to reconcile those as best we can,” said Bakker, “and art plays a powerful role in that.”
Carrying out this task involves continued engagement in the world. As an artist with 50 exhibitions since his teaching career began at Trinity and inclusion in significant private collections including the City of Chicago’s Public Art Collection, Bakker said, “If you are not active in your discipline, you won’t have much to offer your students by way of knowledge, networks, or example.”
A native of Pella, Iowa, and the son of a businessman turned pastor, Bakker moved about every five years as a youth and called many cities home, including Salt Lake City, LA, New York, and Grand Rapids. He graduated from the Stony Brook School in New York and attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids before completing his Master of Fine Arts degree at Michigan State University. He was teaching high school art in DeMotte, Indiana, when he heard about an opening at Trinity.
“Coming to Trinity was the strongest sense of calling that I’ve ever had,” said Bakker.
During his first year at the College, only three students had declared art as their major. Today, the art department welcomes more than 40 majors and is home to thriving programs in fine art, graphic design, and art education.
The Art and Communication Center, which Bakker envisioned and planned for long before its opening in 2008, was part of the department’s growth. Bakker said the “curriculum and the building fit each other,” noting that the program was characterized by an external reviewer as the best small college curriculum he had reviewed; he was particularly impressed by the connection of the building design and the curriculum. The facility also has been characterized by artists and educators from San Diego to New York City as one of the best small college art facilities they have encountered, said Bakker.
One of the greatest benefits to students is Trinity’s strategic location.
“Because of its proximity to Chicago, Trinity has the potential to be the college of choice for students interested in art,” said Bakker. “It is the only Reformed college in a city with an internationally recognized art scene. Students can actually experience for themselves how the art world operates.”
Bakker, too, sees himself as “strategically located.”
“I see myself as a bridge between art students, the art world, and the Reformed community,” said Bakker. “My role is to help the community and the students understand how images construct our sense of the world.” A world that Bakker teaches is not as fixed as students believe but instead malleable; a world that can—and must—be changed.
Through their experience in Trinity’s art program, students are changed as well.
“I watch my students go through a wonderful transformation over four years,” said Bakker. “By the time they reach their senior year, they become fellow artists.”
Bakker and his wife, Jeanine, have two sons. They live in Chicago and attend LaSalle Street Church.
M.F.A., Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
B.A., Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Courses and Publications/Research
- Advanced Studio
- Beginning Painting
- Figure Drawing
- Intermediate Painting
- Senior Seminar
- AT&T, Chicago, IL
- City of Chicago, Office of Public Art
- LaSalle Street Church
- Sloan Collection, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN
- Stanley Tigerman, Chicago, IL
- Steelcase Corporation, Grand Rapids, MI
- Vivian Day and John Stroh, Detroit, MI
Selected Solo Exhibitions
|2010||Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL|
|2009||Elon University, Elon, NC|
|2007||Knox College, Galesburg, IL|
|2005||Next in the gallery, Herron School, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN|
|1993||Freeport Museum, Freeport, IL|
|1991||Deson-Saunders Gallery, Chicago, IL|
|1989||Deson-Saunders Gallery, Chicago, IL|
|1998||The Romantic Landscape, David Klamen, curator, Indiana University, Northwest, Gary, IN|
|1993||Art Chicago 1993. The New Pier Show, Chicago, IL|
|1991||Chicago Art Today. University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO|
Reviews and Citations
|1998||Marianne Deson, What’s so Italian about Italian Art, a comparison of Chicago and Milan, a lecture at the Cultural Center, October 10, Chicago, IL|
|1989||David McCracken, Chicago Tribune, March 3, 1989, Chicago, IL|
|2009||Comment, “How Should We Teach Art,” by Bruce Herman, John Bakker, and Theodore Prescott, September, pp. 56–64, Gideon Strauss, Ed.|