When Mika Liechti-Hawkins started taking classes at Ivy Tech in 2011, she thought she wanted to be a nurse. She soon realized that with her husband’s work schedule and her children’s needs, it might not be the best choice, so she changed her major to fine arts.

Liechti-Hawkins said she always liked art, but the program expanded her interests. She studied drawing, painting, 3-D art and ceramics.

“At the time that I started, fine arts was new,” she said.

The program has seen great growth since a degree in fine arts first was offered in 2012. Since the end of the 2012-13 academic year, the program has seen a 43 percent increase in students declaring for a fine arts degree, according to Paul Daily, dean of the school.

“We do have more space with the expansion, and this spring, we were able to offer two new classes,” Daily said.

In January, Ivy Tech Community College opened Cook Pavilion, an expansion of the school’s Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building. The pavilion included a new fine arts area with room for visual arts, dance classes and a music room.

“Even though we have new space, we actually overpacked our spaces this semester,” Daily said.

Initial plans called for the school’s sculpture classes to be kept at Liberty Crossing, but they were moved to the new space. Now, the challenge is finding room for an open studio — an area that gives students a place to work on their art.

“For this one semester, we did not give our students as much open studio hours as I would like,” Daily said.

But relief is coming. Daily said a garage space is being converted this summer to be used as a sculpture studio and for the 3-D design classes.

Ivy Tech offers some theater and dance classes, but Daily said the most growth has been in the visual arts.

The continued growth of the fine arts at Ivy Tech has proved beneficial to students, including Liechti-Hawkins. She had previously only painted with acrylics.

“Oils were really different, and I really liked it,” she said.

She also had a chance to work with 3-D design. A group project for the class soon got a little out of hand.

“It started off really small,” Liechti-Hawkins said of the giant fish the group created that now hangs in a stairwell at Ivy Tech. “Oh my gosh, it took three people to carry.”

She also found she loved ceramics.

“I was really excited because I really like playing with Play-Doh with my kids,” she said.

Liechti-Hawkins did a lot of pieces, including a three-piece tile featuring a large flower. That work led to her receiving commissions from people who saw her creation.

Liechti-Hawkins will receive her Ivy Tech degree Friday, with plans to get a photography degree at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She will also be working with a local ceramics artist to finish her commission pieces.

Her experience with Ivy Tech and the fine arts program has been extremely positive. She’s enjoyed learning from her professors, getting to know her classmates and having the opportunity to meet working artists.

As the fine arts program continues to grow, Daily said finding space is always tough.

The school still uses the downtown Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, but he admits it’s small. Performance spaces there are also used throughout the year by community groups, which can make access difficult.

The downtown location does have its benefits. The Waldron has professional art galleries where students can see and talk to working artists, display their own work and install and curate an exhibit.

“Those are fantastic opportunities for them to have,” he said.

The downtown location also offers a more urban backdrop for the students, which makes it easier for students to get experience sketching and painting in that environment. On the main campus, students have access to a pond and woods.

“It does open up opportunities as well as creating challenges,” Daily said.

WaldronIvy Tech Community College offers some of its fine arts classes in the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in downtown Bloomington.FishThis angler fish was created by students in an Ivy Tech fine arts class.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.