Much of this last semester was spent on developing a curriculum for my First Year Experience Learning Community class at College of Charleston that brought together Drawing 119 and Biology 112, and I thought I would share my experience with you today.
Interdisciplinary work has always been at the root of my personal work as well as our work together. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to extend this to my teaching at the college level. Each week the students read and researched about an artist/scientist such as Hara Woltz, Caryn Babian, Chuck Pell, John James Audubon, and Maria Sibylla Merian just to name a few along with learning the techniques of drawing. Check out a great documentary titled “Between the Folds: the Science of Art, the Art of Science” that speaks directly on this topic, which I showed to students to kick off our semester in January. The culminating project in April for this class was to have an exhibition of the student’s work (framed drawing) alongside two professional artists: Jocelyn Chateauvert (paper sculptor) and Chuck Pell (inventor/artist). These artists came and gave a public lecture during the semester followed by a small group discussion about their work with just my students.
Developing this curriculum with fellow colleague Melissa Hughes (Biology professor at CofC) was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences I have had. It was worth the numerous extra hours of collaborating and organizing of how she incorporated art into her biology curriculum and how I incorporated science into my drawing curriculum. A big focus was how to learn to ‘see’ the world around us. What do you think the difference is between ‘looking’ and ‘seeing’? This was the core question through the whole class.
We were fortunate enough to claim an excellent exhibition space for this show in the new science center on campus that had previously had an exhibition about the moon. Here are a few pictures of us hanging the show.
We made the decision to exhibit their process work for the final drawing alongside the framed completed drawing.
The exhibition before the opening with Jocelyn’s paper sculptures intermingled with the students work on the wall….
The opening celebration on April 20th….
I could not have pulled this off if it were not for the numerous people that helped even when it seemed that the wheels were coming off the wagon at some times. We hit many bumps along the way but we rode it out with a firm grip on the wheel, you might say. My husband, Chris Korey, who is the director of the First Year Experience program as well as our peer facilitator Tanya (pictured second on the right) stepped it up when my colleague Melissa Hughes had to take a leave of absence and guest speaker Chuck Pell could not come to town at the last minute. Thanks everyone!
The artwork has now been moved to the library on campus where it will stay until the Fall semester. Here is a brief (sort of) description of the final drawing assignment.
Thanks for hanging in there and reading this long post. It was a great experience of collaboration for me. For those of you who are in Charleston please go see the work at Addlestone Library on Calhoun Street. It is exciting to see the freshmen students rise to the occasion with these excellent drawings.
“Learning to See in the Arts and Sciences”
The artwork on exhibit is a culmination of a semester’s conversation about the common creative practices between the Arts and Sciences.
Biology 112 at the College of Charleston is an introduction to biology that includes evolution, basic plant and animal anatomy, basic concepts of physiology (from cells to organisms), and an exploration of the relationship between structure and function in plants and animals. Students begin to experience the method for thinking through questions scientifically and test out methods during lab class.
Drawing 119 at the College of Charleston is an introductory class to the basic Elements and Principles of two-dimensional composition through observation drawing. The Elements of Art (line, shape, texture, value, color, space/perspective) are applied by using the Principles of Art (unity, balance, pattern, rhythm, contrast, emphasis/focal point, proportion) to give each student milestones for developing their visual language.
Making the leap from introductory information and fundamental skills to applying these with novel thinking, questioning, and understanding the world we live in, is where the heart of a creative practice lives.
This semester in the “Learning to See in the Arts and Sciences” students were challenged to explore creative processes that the sciences and arts have in common. Each week the students researched and wrote about professionals who are crossing the boundaries of a science/art practice. Such examples are John James Audubon, Mark Dion, Hara Woltz, Jocelyn Chateavert, and Chuck Pell.
After a tour of the John James Audubon portfolio in the Rare Book Department of the Addlestone Library, the students created 50+ preliminary drawings of the taxidermic bird collection housed in the Biology Department. Research about wingspan, geographical location, beak shape, foot shape, color, behavior, etc., the students began exploring their own visual voice in a final drawing composition. While some chose the straightforward approach that John James Audubon took, others took a more expressionistic approach. It is their first attempt at the ‘leap’.