A Productive Year for Interdisciplinary Arts

April 1, 2011 at 12:19 pm Leave a comment

Submitted by Katherine Factor, Interdisciplinary Arts Faculty

In a year President Lowman dubbed, “Collaboration, Connection and Creativity,” the Interdisciplinary Arts department naturally embraces the theme, resulting in an array of learning experiences.

Fall semester began with welcoming fifteen new students to the department, a diverse group of freshman and upperclassmen, internationals, and day students with interests ranging from fashion and design, to visual art, contemporary music, creative writing, dance, and theatre.

The beginning Interdisciplinary Mind class discussed different art forms as an introduction to the arts and how they overlap.  Visiting several departments, we engaged in journal work, by responding textually and visually as a critical and creative way to find out what we are thinking. We went to a private viewing of the Visual Arts faculty gallery show and listened to teachers talk about their work. The idea of aesthetics and intention behind art-making was introduced in an experiential way. Students learned to view, to really look and chose a piece to respond to in their journals.

Using Thoreau we continued to discuss the art of paying attention, connecting outside to our beautiful environs. This connection led to considering native identity – who we are and where we come from – and writing Where I am From poems for parents weekend, so that students could explore lineage and the materials that imprint their artistry.

Soon after, students went to hear Navajo poet Orlando White. Then, closer to Halloween, Howard Shangraw from theater came and talked about masks, which we followed up with a study on archetypes. When Visual Arts hosted a theme show on the idea of One Mile, our students contributed work – visual and verbal – in the collaboration. We also visited the dance department with our journals, writing essays to compare and contrast the tech rehearsal and the actual show, so that we could view difference in pre-production and performance.  Abigail Factor, a yoga instructor from Chicago led students through post-Christmas relaxation technique, yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, in which students learned to be gentle on themselves while tapping their creative potential.

Semester’s end also brought on our interdisciplinary artist research projects that included a presentation complete with a creative response inspired by their chosen artist. Using audio-visuals, collage, hand-outs,and art of their own, each student yielded greater in depth knowledge of artists like: Joseph Beuys, Cirque Du Soleil, Blue Man Group, John Lennon, Thom Yorke, William Blake, Bad Religion, and Kazim Ali.

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In fact, Katharina Dieter’s interest in Kazim Ali turned into a grant to work with her poems that will become handmade chapbooks, also featuring her photographs. She read some of her work inspired by him (as well as modeling a fashion student’s hat) at our mixed Media show in February.

Indeed, our IA show celebrated our multi-talented teenagers, displaying photography, comics, textile work, and a performance. The show was a huge success, featuring other readers and songwriters – Emiliy Jimenez, Michaela Gradstein, and Marijose Sapina Perez – and displaying work from various genres. Fashion filled out the room with live models wearing wild and fascinating hats made by fashion students.


Students have worked hard this year, both in adjusting to the rigors of competitive boarding school, and on their own work; and also as pre-professionals, welcoming guest artists and their wisdom.  Several grant opportunities from Arts Enterprise Laboratory, continue to enrich our programming.  We brought alumni Cihan Sesen for a masterclass, Understanding the Comic. And singer-songwriter Courtney Kaiser took a break from touring and her job teaching at the Blue Man school to come to us from Brooklyn. She presented on songwriting techniques, marveling at the work student produced in a short paraphrasing exercise. Courtney continues to mentor multiple students in their songwriting; we can look forward to hearing work from them, as they have the opportunity to record at a local studio. The rest of her visit was filled with rehearsals with jazz drummer Ashi Manoff, who performed with her that night in Rush Hall. His drumbeats kept time as her voice charmed all in the black-box theatre. Fashion student Paul Burgo also received an AEL grant to produce new work.

Spring continues with an all encompassing in class project. Using Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities as text, students have been building off of ideas of memory, emotions, and dreamscapes.   Playwright faculty Abbie Bosworth has used improv to loosen students and help them gain experience in expressing emotions. Stephanie Gilliland from the dance faculty has focused on movement, yoga, and using the body to crate images and expressions. This project continues to focus on an organic process, working together, making mistakes, filming aspects of it, laughing, and discussing ideas. We are currently working on combining elements to produce an in-class show and an installation that will exhibit concurrently with the department’s Spring Fashion Show Friday night April 29th, in IAM Hall.  Sharing our space with Fion Chen, who will be exhibiting her senior show, we invite you to join us this exciting night.

Stay tuned for more from the IA department, where we gladly take cues from other departments also exploring this year’s school theme.  It is a delight to work with colleagues and other students across the disciplines!

Entry filed under: Interdisciplinary Art. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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