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Art/Env: Intro to Studio Art


Class Blog – fall 2012


Course Description

This course provides a foundation for art majors, art minors and students enrolled in the interdisciplinary Arts & Environment minor. It is designed to introduce some of the methods, concepts and practices that are essential to all artists, while focusing on contemporary practices for public, community-based and environmental art. The course emphasizes the interconnections among art and the environment (natural/cultural; urban/bucolic; artistic/scientific) as well as art that responds to and addresses environmental issues/concerns. Many of the ideas explored through this class have their roots in larger cultural and social movements such as the civil rights, feminist, and environmental movements of the 1960’s. Much of this work utilizes conceptual strategies, simple materials (often ‘non-art’) and everyday issues.

The larger enduring questions for this class focus on the roles and responsibilities of artists in shaping our environment. We will consider the ways in which humans intersect with/affect/absorb/become/create/impose upon and shape the ‘natural’ and ‘built’ environments. We will explore core beliefs that may be at the root of the environmental issues that affect our planetary and economic systems. Can we as artists find solutions to contemporary problems? Can we help shape a better world? At the root of these rather BIG questions is the question — “what is art anyway and what is it for?”

A note: while we tend to conceptualize “environment” as meaning ‘nature’, it is important to remember that the word also can evoke social, political and other culturally constructed environments that may be shaped by humans through art. Is it possible that solutions to the challenges we face will be found at the intersection of “culture” and “nature”?


Course Objectives

  • Knowledge of visual design necessary to develop visually compelling products
  • Knowledge of the role art plays in critically engaging social, environmental and other pressing world issues
  • Knowledge of the work of relevant contemporary environmental, activist and/or public artists whose work shapes public space or perceptions
  • Understanding of and skills with developing works of art for a variety of spaces and situations
  • Understanding of the relationship of venue (site) and audience as part of our creative practice
  • Understanding of the intersections among sustainability, environmental and social justice issues
  • An ability to work collaboratively
  • An ability to apply creative thinking and entrepreneurial skills to art making
  • Increased confidence in yourself as an artist and creative thinker


Scenes from the Classroom


What kinds of creative exercises and studio projects will we engage in?

These may include, but not be limited to: site-specific installations (both outdoors and indoors, ephemeral and/or permanent), recycling, reclamations, rituals/performances, and social sculpture.  Embodied within our work will be a consideration for the relationship between social/environmental activism, as well as environmental education and community outreach.  We will also consider material impacts for both process and product in art. Some of our work may focus on development of public and/or environmental art for Meadville’s Urban Art Trail. It is important to remember that work of this sort often develops over the course of several years, so during our fifteen weeks together, we might only engage in one phase of a project.