Hans and Barbara Welch Breder
“My time at Iowa was very important,” says Hans. “Until many years later, I didn’t realize how much I learned while teaching—much more than my students learned.”
When Hans Breder accepted a fellowship from the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes in Germany, he chose to travel to New York City to take a conscious break with the past. It was a major time of transformation for Hans and his work.
Just as his art was taking off, Hans received an intriguing offer.
“Ulfert Wilke, the first director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, and I had become close friends during my two years in New York City. He recommended me for a faculty position at the university,” says Hans. “Iowa was looking for someone who was still drawing, and very few artists were drawing at that time. Ulfert had told them he knew of only one guy in New York City who was still drawing, and that was me.”
As a native of Germany, Hans knew very little about Iowa.
“I had met Philip Guston, and he was teaching painting at Iowa,” says Hans. “I saw a picture of him and his students in Iowa City, and I thought that Iowa City looked a lot like what I saw when I lived in Hamburg, Germany. After two years in New York City, I was pretty established—one of the major galleries had taken me on. I decided that I could produce my work in Iowa and exhibit in New York City, so I came here to try it out.”
Hans made the trip to Iowa, where he began teaching media of drawing. “After one year at Iowa, I told them, ‘If you want to keep me, I want to start an intermedia program,’” says Hans. “I ended up founding the first intermedia degree program of its kind.”
Hans, who has worked in a variety of media, developed the concept of intermedia as a special way of dealing with performance and media art. These explorations result in combinations of multimedia installations, live performances, electronic technology, and traditional art forms.
While at Iowa, Hans met Barbara Welch when one of his master of fine arts students quoted her in his thesis. Barbara came to the UI from New York City in 1975 to start doctoral work in the Department of Communication Studies. “When I came to Iowa City, I fell in love instantaneously,” says Barbara, who finished her studies and married Hans in 1984.
With the help of Sam Becker, the long-time head of the Department of Communication Studies at Iowa, Barbara received a part-time teaching position and taught courses of cultural history of advertising and media until her retirement in 2012. She also started the Iowa City Yoga Center.
Now, Hans and Barbara are giving back to the UI. With the help of Sean O’Harrow, the former UI Museum of Art director, intermedia will have a place at Iowa for generations to come. The Breders have used an outright gift and a bequest to create the Intermedia Research Initiative (IRI), which will focus on fostering and encouraging innovative, cutting-edge research, teaching, and artistic practice. In addition, the IRI is developing a digital platform to preserve and promote the legacy of intermedia.
“The initiative will serve as an incubator for innovative teaching and learning by fostering cross-disciplinary research and artistic practices in Iowa City and beyond,” says Joyce Tsai, director of the IRI, who is also curator at the UIMA and faculty at the UI College of Education.
Both Hans and Barbara felt it was important to give back to the UI because it was such a large part of their lives. “My time at Iowa was very important,” says Hans. “Until many years later, I didn’t realize how much I learned while teaching—much more than my students learned.”
Says Barbara, “The Intermedia Research Initiative, for me, is all about love—love of the University of Iowa.”