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Grinnell Artists: Hannah Givler


Grinnell studio art professor Hannah Givler has shuffled through many interests, jobs, states and even countries throughout her ever-developing artistic career.

Givler has always sought to “push against the model.” As one of Grinnell’s newest faculty members, Givler believes that “part of being an artist is creating avenues and ways for people to find themselves” and that it is critical to understand that “there is no one way of doing things.”

This ethos is made visible through her art, which is comprised largely of ambitious, unorthodox architectural installations and sculptures.

She grew up in the small town of London, Ohio, in “a house where making things was a part of how we learned about things.” At a young age, Givler was busy helping her family renovate their mostly unfinished house.

“That house was this vessel for us,” said Givler. “It made sense that the first time I held a tool was a little earlier on and I felt really comfortable with it. … I thought it was just so fun to see how things come together and to problem-solve, find puzzles in things”.

Givler went on to earn an undergraduate degree in sculpture from Ohio State University. “I took a drawing class in my first semester, and it just stuck with me,” Givler said. “I was at first embarrassed to tell my dad about it … but he was very supportive.”

In college, Givler unleashed her creative genius and was able to freely experiment. “We had this amazing studio and huge facility where there are so many tools and giant spaces for production, and nobody really minded what we did. It was a blast,” said Givler.

Givler moved to Chicago where she received her graduate degree in fiber material studies from the Art Institute of Chicago. She then led the inaugural wood and metal shops, and taught at the University of Chicago. “That’s when I started building much larger installations,” Givler said. “Other people were helping fund those projects … that kicked off a kind of formal practice of doing commissioned work.”

Her career even briefly took her to Tanzania, where she worked as a resident artist for 7 months. She said she was grateful for this experience that allowed her to exit her comfort zone and gain broader perspectives.

Givler moved to Iowa to be with her partner and teach studio art at the University of Iowa and Grinnell College. She was interested in prioritizing teaching rather than juggling multiple jobs.

“I did a lunch-hour presentation at Grinnell, and had really nice conversations with students afterward,” said Givler. “My first reaction was that everyone’s really outreaching and communicative, and I loved it.”

However, her journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing and she remembers days when her passion became closer to a chore. Givler said that in some of her jobs, she was “just standing and doing a lot of intense labor while listening to noise-canceling headphones and thinking: What club mix can I play now to deal with this repetitive work?”

Nevertheless, art remains the way she channels her energy. 

“Art felt like an avenue to show love, and it was really about being in love with the people and things around me,” she said.

Teaching serves as a means for her to convey that love and she describes it as “another way to be doing something I love and that came naturally to me.”

Givler’s art is currently on display at a show at CSPS Cedar Rapids and the Prairie Lights Cafe in Iowa City.

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About the Contributor
Nick El Hajj
Nick El Hajj, Editor in Chief
Nick El Hajj, hailing from Beirut, Lebanon, is a fourth-year political science and economics major. In his free time, Nick enjoys delving into a good book, embarking on scenic drives and indulging in random documentaries. You’ll frequently find Nick waking up way too early to enjoy a peaceful morning of fishing at Arbor Lake.
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