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    • Klugman organized the visit of Mohamad Hafez, whose artwork was displayed in the Keator Gallery.

Klugman Retires from The Hill

Chloe Glass '17, News Editor Emeritus
After sixteen years on The Hill, Karen Klugman, Chair of the Art Department, will be retiring this spring. 
Many may know Klugman as a long time instructor of Photography and Web Design at Hopkins, but Klugman first earned her Bachelor’s degree in theoretical mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, only diving into the art world after buying her first camera in 1980. After working as a systems programmer in New York City, Philadelphia, and New Haven at Yale, Klugman subsequently exhibited her works across New England and at famed institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

While showing her photographs and coauthoring two books, Klugman continued to work at academic institutions, first as the Head of the Photography Department at the local Creative Arts Workshop for twenty years, then at Choate Rosemary Hall, as well as at Wesleyan Graduate Studies Program and Albertus Magnus before arriving at Hopkins in 2001.

Klugman’s three children attended Hopkins, and in 2001 she was asked to cover a photography class for one term, later teaching as a full time math teacher, as well as continuing to teach photography and working as a Community Service Director. Klugman recalls that she hesitated relinquishing her math position in order to teach photography, but observed that, “It was awesome to get to know the school from these different vantage points… and what a great time I had all of these years being able to play some role in theater, music, and visual arts at Hopkins. No regrets!”

During her sixteen years in the Visual Arts Department at Hopkins, Klugman advanced to the position of Chair of the Art Department in 2003 and Curator of the Keator Gallery in 2009, while remaining an instructor of Photography and Web Design since 2001.

Dean of Academics David Harpin reflected, “It’s hard for me to think about Hopkins without thinking about Ms. Klugman at the same time. Her intelligence, knowledge of the arts, understanding and embrace of the academic program, and perseverance have been her gifts to Hopkins for all of the years that she has been here.”

Students say that they will miss Klugman. Ally Batter ’17 said, “Ms. Klugman has really opened up my eyes to the world of photography. She not only offers supportive advice, but is also always trying to make the class fun for us.” Noah Schmeisser ’19 agreed: “Ms. Klugman’s excitement about photography has brought a lot of passion and vigor to the classroom, and that helps me to enjoy the class more.”

Julia Cusick ’18, who is in Advanced Photography with Klugman, remarked, “Ms. Klugman has always encouraged me to explore photography and push my boundaries. Her contributions to the digital photography classes at Hopkins are really special because of the amount she cares and her passion for photography. This year I am experimenting with street photography, [a style] Ms. Klugman encouraged me to try, and which I would never have chosen had I not seen Ms. Klugman’s street photographs and wanted to create my own.”

Head of School Kai Bynum noted, “As a champion for the visual and performing arts at Hopkins, Ms. Klugman embodies the creative disposition we hope to cultivate in our artists. She has a natural collaborative nature that enables her to work with anyone, and through her genuine sense of care for others she has become a supportive and trusted member of this community.” Visual Arts teacher Derek Byron continued, “Ms. Klugman’s balance of quiet leadership and enthusiastic support has encouraged risk taking and creativity in my teaching, and fostered growth and evolution within our department.”

While encouraging her students to develop new styles, Klugman has also introduced the wider community of Hopkins to diverse artists through her role as Curator of the Keator Art Gallery. In February, Klugman invited Syrian artist Mohamad Hafez to The Hill, and has presented other artwork through the five annual gallery exhibits.

Once retired, Klugman plans to stay busy. “I do plan to work on my art more seriously, and am excited about that, and to get back in touch with people who are working in the arts.” Between 1985 and 1997, Klugman had eight solo shows, the majority of which were exhibited in Connecticut, and has participated in at least four major invitational group shows, including exhibits in 1993 at the MOMA and in 1994 at Wesleyan.

Klugman’s fascination and knowledge of photography has transmitted itself to her students. Fellow Visual Arts teacher Beth Lovell noticed after substituting for one of Klugman’s Intermediate Photography classes that, “There was a camaraderie among this group of photographers, a casual ease, and they embraced criticism as a necessary part of the growth process of art. Watching her students interact this way sums up a large part of how I see Karen. Tough, fair, friendly, with a gentle sense of humor which is present in her own photographic inquiry, and in her interactions with faculty at Hopkins.”

Klugman has not only delved into the Visual Arts world, but also combined her photography with text, presenting national lectures and coauthoring two books. Her published work, both visual and textual, scrutinizes society; the 2015 book Strip Cultures: Finding America in Las Vegas, for which Klugman shot all of the one hundred black and white images and wrote two essays, aims to “Analyze sites and social practices on the Las Vegas Strip in relation to broader cultural and political forces in the United States.”
Corinne Wilklow ’17, who created her own project last school year, recalled that Klugman was instrumental in bringing the project together: “The work was all over the place, in subject and quality, and Ms. Klugman just sat down with me and helped me figure out what I wanted to do with [my photos].”

While Klugman plans to hone her writing skills further, she also admitted that she “wants to go back into taking pure visual arts… as that type of work which interests me is the type that is making a statement about our culture.”
For now, however, Klugman plans to relax after a busy sixteen years at Hopkins, noting that while “I get very charged up by all the colleagues and maybe even more so by all the kids, and I can’t believe how many things I do in this job are things that I really love,” she could “get into a nice little routine, making some coffee, practicing some piano in the morning, taking my dog out for a walk, coming back and writing a little bit, and then photography will be condensed into going off certain days.”

Bynum said of Klugman’s long career on The Hill, “Ms. Klugman has been an inspiring leader and mentor for scores of students and teachers who have worked with her [and] the lessons of her leadership will live with Hopkins long after she leaves us, and we are thankful for the exceptional example she has been for the School.”
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