An artist’s sojourn to Trinity Western University

Langley, B.C.—Someone once said to Betty Spackman, “You’re good at drawing. Are you going to be an artist when you grow up?” Her answer was honest. “Oh no, I can’t be an artist when I grow up. I want to help people.” Since her childhood Spackman has been journeying through this dilemma between artistic practice and social responsibility.

This fall Spackman will begin her role as Sessional Assistant Professor of Art at Trinity Western University in Langley. She will teach classes in computer graphics, intermedia and 3D design as part of the university’s new arts degree program.

“I’m a visual artist working with multi-media, installations, video, web projects, computer graphics, and painting,” says Spackman. “My work includes exhibitions in Canada and Europe dealing with issues of language, territory and the body, and websites centering on cultural stories.”

By the time she was 19 she was seriously asking God for direction about her inner passion for art. “In 1970 I met Hans Rookmaaker, an art historian from the Free University of Amsterdam. At that time, I was still trying to understand the relationship between my desire as a young Christian to follow God and my inner drive to make art. Rookmaaker was the first Christian I heard talk about art and God in the same sentence with intelligence, sincerity and passion.”

“I eventually determined that it was not what I did but what God did in me that counts,” she continues. “I found the freedom to explore and develop the gifts He had entrusted to me, but it has been a long journey.”

Spackman began developing her gifts first by taking a course in classical animation. Then, when she won a national film award and was offered a teaching position, she decided to pursue an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and a subsequent Master’s of Fine Arts degree from York University. In 1990, while in the process of completing her Master’s degree, she had her first solo exhibition—“Portage”—in Holland. “It was an installation using film projection loops over tent and boat objects I made.”

Europe has been home to Spackman’s artistic work for many years. “Meeting Hans Rookmaaker has resulted in an ongoing relationship with artists in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe,” she says. “In fact, since 1987 I have spent the majority of my time there.”

Over the years, Spackman has also been teaching art. Spackman taught part time at Redeemer University College in Ontario for seven years in between her exhibitions and professional work in Europe and then took over as head of the Art Department at Redeemer until 2001. In the fall of 2002 Spackman taught as guest artist at BIOLA University in Los Angeles.

As the focus of Spackman’s journey in the arts and teaching now turns to TWU, she looks forward to the time she will spend with students. “I delight to watch my students both thrive and flourish in developing their gifts inside and outside the Christian arena,” she says.

“I’m by no means at the end of my road,” she says. In 2004, Spackman’s book A Profound Weakness: Christians and Kitsch will be published by Piquant Publications in the United Kingdom.

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,500 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 other graduate degrees including counseling psychology, theology and administrative leadership


Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping