Faculty Spotlight: Karen Gergely

Karen Gergely, Assistant Professor of Art and Art Department Coordinator for the Division of Visual and Performing Arts at Graceland

A positive force of energy joined the Graceland faculty two years ago when Karen Gergely, MFA, was hired to teach art.

Karen Gergely has sprinkled her infectious smile and innovative ideas throughout the Lamoni community and has built a stronger connection between town and gown.

She defines herself as “a social practice artist who encourages a community to learn together and share experiences, skills, traditions and stories in the name of art.”

Karen Gergely makes things happen. With several community projects, she has brought life to art. For the Empty Bowl fundraiser, she collaborated with the Lamoni Food Pantry to create an event where hand thrown pottery bowls were filled with homemade soup, and patrons could buy the bowl along with dozens of donated auction items. Then there was the community mural she coordinated in downtown Lamoni. She researched the community’s history and collaborated a commemorative design that incorporates quilting shapes with a historical gas station image of the Jefferson Highway. Community members, Graceland students, faculty, staff and friends got involved to help paint.

“Collaboration and idea sharing is at the heart of my teaching philosophy and art making process,” shared Gergely, who is trained in painting and drawing and has worked in video, sculpture and installation. She has authored a series of pedagogical games to teach art history courses in a unique way.

“I have been excited to integrate Reacting to the Past (RTTP) into my Art History and Art and Ethics courses. RTTP is a series of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles based on and informed by classic texts.The first RTTP game we played was titled Art in Paris: 1889, which explored Impressionism and the World’s Fair of 1889 last year in my Art History Renaissance to Modern course. Students dove deep into research to inhabit the roles of famous artists like Monet, Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Renoir and Seurat for three weeks to fight for freedom and liberation from the French Academy of Artists!”

Gergely regularly works with an artist collective called CollabAttack, of which she is one of three founding members. Their goal is to find ways to “elevate the everyday and the people thriving within it.” She received her MFA from University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and was recently appointed as Graceland’s art department coordinator.


Encouragement is effervescent in her classrooms, and her students gain confidence along with skills. One of her favorite classes is the professional practices seminar course that guides students through the process of finding and applying for jobs, working through mock interviews and professional portfolio reviews. “I truly believe that Graceland students want to be challenged to think bigger and deeper, and to create real change in the world.”

Ke'Auna for Gergely article


"Gergs understands that different artists have different styles, but she also gives her honest opinion – preparing us for the real world. I have learned to be picky, pay attention to detail, and have developed new techniques that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. She pushed me every day because I know she believed in my potential. Because of Gergs, I now feel that I am ready to venture into my art career after graduation. #ShesAwesome"

Ke’Auna Schiele ’17 graduated with a BA in studio art and plans to pursue her career as an interior designer.