Campus outcry saves Visual Arts and Communication program at Black Hawk College

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MOLINE - - A campus outcry is saving a Black Hawk College program threatened by the Illinois budget crisis.

The Moline campus is relaunching the Visual Arts and Communication program that looked like it would be a victim of deep budget cuts amid less state funding. Registration is now open for the Fall semester, which begins on Monday, August 21.

It's quite a development for student web designer Jenna Vrombaut, 25.

The Davenport woman faced an uncertain future after devastating cuts nearly wiped out the program.

"We have to fight for this," she recalled. "We have to stand up for what we believe in."

Two months ago, emotional speeches couldn't save eight teaching jobs.  Jobs that were lost to the Illinois budget crisis.

Their passion, however, proved a point that art matters.

"I believe that was a part of it, as to why we have our program," she continued. "We won't take it laying down."

While the lobbying effort influenced decision-makers, the program must do more with less.

Longtime professor Zaiga Thorson is losing two teaching colleagues. The remaining faculty, which includes a number of talented adjunct instructors, crafted a compromise.

"We're really committed," she said. "We believe in the program. We want to be here for our students."

That means some larger classes with fewer sections. The program will still cap larger labs to 18 students.

Nearly three dozen students major in the program, but nearly 400 Black Hawk students are taking some kind of art class.

"If we didn't have this program, the opportunities for them would be gone," Thorson said.

This includes and opportunity for Iraq War veteran Ben Newton, 33. He's now crafting a career as a vinyl designer.

"For me, personally, it's my life now," he said.

Art is more than drawing a pretty picture. It's creating jobs in the Quad Cities.

"We are getting hired in the field," he continued.

That's helping to keep the next generation working locally.

"It's a job like no other job," he concluded.

Thanks, in part, to a program that's sticking around at Black Hawk College.