Get to know your faculty: Jonathan Puls, interim dean of fine arts, communications and the school of arts and sciences
Jonathan Puls discusses art, his teaching career and the journey he took to get there. | Alondra Urizar/THE CHIMES
Art, with its many mediums and intricate forms, brings artists and viewers through its uncertain journey of meaning. Jonathan Puls, interim dean of fine arts, communications and the school of arts and sciences, articulates God also brings humans on a winding path to find purpose. God uses labyrinthine phenomena, such as art, to help humans find their vocation. God did this with Puls’ life to help him find his vocation of teaching.
Q: To start of with, what is your educational history?
A: “So I actually was an undergraduate here at Biola many moons ago. I studied art here, painting mostly, as I took some upper division courses. Then I fell in love with it. I’ve always enjoyed drawing since I was a child. So I entered as an art major. [I] have a degree from here and then I decided to pursue it in graduate school. I went to Cal State Long Beach for my MFA in painting. [I] graduated there and then I actually started teaching here a bit part-time back in those days… It turned out that teaching suited me, so I started out at [Cal State Long Beach] and here while I was getting my degree. Then I left L.A. for a while, a couple of years. I went and took my first full-time tenure track job and Northwestern University in Nampa, Idaho, of all places. It was great. And Nampa is near Boise, and I don’t know how big NNU is now, but it was about 1,200 students. I stayed there for a couple of years, and then Biola called and asked if I’d come back. Part of my coming back was to split time between teaching studio courses and art history courses, so I needed to bolster my art history background. I went back to Cal State Fullerton and got my masters in art history.”
Why do you think you like teaching, if you like teaching?
“Well, I’m not doing it this year at all, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how I like it. For me, it’s an opportunity to communicate to other people at some fundamental level — why devoting your life to something like art-making is worthwhile, and communicating some kind of passion for that. You are passing on some essential piece of human civilization on to people, so that’s a big deal. But the other [thing] for me — and probably even better — is just the development that students go to and you get to sort of walk with them through that. You get to see kindred spirits very often in this very hard endeavor that is making art. For me, that’s a lot of joy there, and, you know, teaching in this environment, I get to talk about all sorts of theological and spiritual formative kind of concepts that I wouldn’t get to teach other places, which I think are often intertwined with the self-discovery and self-expression that is art making. So for me, that’s the joy in the process.”