Indiana State University Newsroom

Warhol scholar heads up art and design program at Indiana State

October 18, 2013

Andy Warhol once famously predicted that everyone in the world would be famous for 15 minutes.

A short-lived MTV show about that premise played a role in Indiana State University Professor William Ganis' career choice.

"It's true," said Ganis, who became the new chair of the department of art and design. "I became interested in art in high school because of a short-lived but fascinating program on MTV - Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes."

Warhol died just as Ganis' interest was peaking, but that didn't deter the aspiring artist."There was so much press surrounding his passing that my interest only grew," said Ganis, who grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with what he terms as "a very Warholian" triple major - business, art history and studio art - he began an internship with the Warhol Museum, which was not yet open, and located at Warhol's last studio on 33rd Street.

One of Ganis' projects took him back to his youth and the spark that set him down a career path in art.

"I worked with film and video where I collaborated closely with some of the people who made Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes, and even helped reassemble a "lost" Warhol film titled San Diego Surf," he said.

The bulk of his work was with photographs and images, which were numerous.

"Warhol was a hoarder and it took years to sift through the tens of thousands of objects he left," Ganis, who spent 13 years in New York City, said.

That fact proved to be beneficial to Ganis, who had just finished his Ph.D. coursework.

"I realized that at the time this little-known photographic material was ripe for scholarly study," he said. "This work became my dissertation, and eventually my book, Andy Warhol's Serial Photography, published by Cambridge University Press in 2004."

In recent years, the foundation gifted many of these photographs to educational institutions across the United States.

While MTV might have tripped his interest in Warhol, it was the work of the iconic artist that first brought Ganis to Terre Haute.

"Indiana State received a gift of photographs from the Warhol Foundation and I was brought to campus last year to give a talk about the photographic work when these pieces were on exhibit," Ganis said, adding it was the people he met at the university that made the difference.

"I had time to interact with the students and I was impressed by their interest," he said. "I had a lasting feeling that what I brought to the students and community was genuinely appreciated, and certainly these interactions led me to apply for the chairperson position."

While a majority of Ganis' work has been directly connected to art - either through curating exhibitions or teaching-he eventually was able to meld his business and art background together while working in the marketing departments at two New York City architectural firms.

"These positions made me aware of the marketability of my art history and studio skills," he said. "It's difficult to translate images into words, but that was exactly what was needed to sell architectural services to the likes of Goldman Sachs and the Port Authority(of New York and New Jersey). Being able to organize information was also very important. I'd like to impart to ISU students that if they can communicate well, whether through works or images, there will always be a need for such skills."

It also reinforced the importance of marketing one's self, something he's looking to pass along to his students.

"The successful artists I know are consummate marketers - getting their work and message out in many ways, whether through networking, exhibiting, publishing or social media," Ganis said. "The internet has become a powerful tool -- without a web presence, artists become invisible to most galleries, critics, curators and collectors."

He's planning on using his experience in both the art and business worlds to bring a new sense of direction to students in the department of art and design.

"We'd like to have all of our students think of themselves as entrepreneurs and give them the skills they will need to run successful arts organizations, teaching and writing practices and studios. There are many thriving arts economies - counter to the myth of the "starving artist" - we can show our students the paths to viable careers in the arts."

Ganis, who came to Indiana State via Wells College, has a second career -- that of an arts writer - he keeps busy writing, providing art criticism for several national magazines.

"Keeping up with new exhibitions ensures that I'm engaged with many art worlds," Ganis said. I'm looking forward to writing about shows in our area and perhaps using the national platforms to bring attention to artists and institutions that might be overlooked."

Ganis also writes about contemporary glass, which he got interested in while writing for Glass Quarterly.

"I realized quickly that like photography, glass is a technology that has been historically marginalized, so I saw parallels with my earlier work," he said adding after moving to upstate New York the nearby Corning Museum of Glass provided him a comprehensive understanding of contemporary glass.

Now he's excited to be in the Midwest, which played an important role in the American Studio Glass movement.

"I'm excited to learn more and meet people in some of the studio and university programs started in the 60s and 70s that are thriving still," he said.


Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3783 or