Ethics in the arts classroom
Fri. September 19, 2014
The visual arts are no stranger to controversy. An artist may explore issues that lead to friction or a curator may be tasked with presenting an exhibition fraught with historic tension. In training students to work in the visual arts, the Department of Art and Art History has made ethics and leadership a priority, championed by Julia Guernsey, associate chair of the department.
UT Austin provides undergraduates with "flag" requirements built into their curriculum. Flags are usually ways to highlight classes which prepare graduates to be resourceful leaders in their field of study.
The Ethics and Leadership flag, a recent addition, has been making its way into courses in the College of Fine Arts (COFA). This initiative has been an university-wide effort between the College of Fine Arts, College of Liberal Arts, McCombs School of Business, and School of Undergraduate Studies.
"The arts provides an ideal platform for conversations about topics that are tangible and very real," Guernsey stated. "One excellent example, which will be used to guide classroom discussion is: If one thinks about graffiti, what are the ethical parameters of defining the difference between art, collaborative artistic endeavors, and vandalism? The powerful thing about posing questions like this to students is that they quickly realize that, as practicing artists or scholars, they are already engaged in ethical debate, and that their voices are important to on-going discussions about the arts in today’s world."
Courses that have incorporated the Ethics and Leadership flag include Issues in Visual Culture, taught by Art History Professor Ann Reynolds and Professional Practices Studio Seminar, instructed by Studio Art Professor Dan Sutherland.
“Ethics and specifically ethical reasoning in this class is appropriate as we are discussing commerce, intellectual property, contracts, our public personae, and actions,” Sutherland said.
In Issues in Visual Culture, Reynolds described, “students will choose an object with a complex history or from a culture that prohibits the viewing of the object for religious reasons and consider how to exhibit it and represent these issues to a diverse audience in a museum setting.”
“Our focus on ethics gets them thinking early on about how they make ethical choices all of the time when viewing, making, writing about, and even purchasing and displaying works of art," Reynolds said.
The Department of Art and Art History will continue to integrate the Ethics and Leadership flags in undergraduate curriculum. This past summer, several Visual Art Studies students helped in the making of videos that explore issues in visual art which will be released this coming year as part of Ethics Unwrapped.
In the spring of 2014, Guernsey received a Curriculum Innovation Grant for the College of Fine Arts from the Provost’s Office that focused on the implementation of ethics flag courses in COFA. This grant money was then paired with a larger grant from the Teagle Foundation designed to support curricular innovation in ethics across the arts and humanities. This initiative was implemented in collaboration with the hugely successful Ethics Unwrapped video series developed within the McCombs School of Business, which creates online videos designed to educate about ethics using real world examples; these videos are available for free to educators around the world and have already been adopted for classroom use in over 77 colleges and universities around the globe.
Students find la bella vita in Tuscany
Wed. August 27, 2014
Every summer, students in the Department of Art and Art History leave the confines of the UT Forty Acres for the Italian countryside. Through the department’s Learning Tuscany study abroad program, students spend six weeks in the region to experience Italian culture, see famous works of art, and surmount the hurdles of doing laundry in a foreign country.
“I want the students to ... push themselves to use both the challenges and charms of Italy to develop an increased self-awareness and confidence,” said Art History professor Ann Johns, who has managed the Learning Tuscany program since 2006.
Johns travels abroad each summer with a colleague from Studio Art—this year, professor Leslie Mutchler—and leads between 20–25 students through Italy. The program’s home base is in the small town of Castiglion Fiorentino, but they also travel to area cities such as Florence and Rome.
“I was striving to engage students in an active investigation of Italy and the phenomenon of travel through the process of making handmade books and zines,” Mutchler said, “I wanted our students to broaden their understanding of art (and themselves) in the context of travel.”
Mutchler asked the students to collect printed ephemera. They then constructed mobile wunderkammer to house and curate those collections. Cara Stamp, MA candidate in Art History, said of Mutchler’s assignments, “Her planned projects really forced us to get to know Italy and especially our hometown, and it was a much-needed push that really brought the trip to the next level.”
The students are not the only ones who face challenges in Italy. “It can be very difficult for me to talk to students on-site,” said Johns, “For example, we can't talk in the Sistine Chapel. We also visit museums, such as the Vatican museums or the Uffizi museum, that are so huge that it's virtually impossible to keep everyone together.”
To solve this problem, Johns created a series of venue-specific podcasts that serve as individual audio guides. She explained, “The podcasts allow students to move through large collections at their own pace and listen to ‘me’ when they've arrived, for example, in the Raphael Stanze in the Vatican Museums.”
Mimi Richardson, BFA candidate in Design, found the recordings helpful. “It made visits in the museum pleasant, as you could tune out all of the distractions around you by just using your headphones. I loved that I could move at my own pace and linger on what seemed most interesting to me.”
Learning Tuscany provides a foundation from which the students explore Italy independently, Kristyn Coster, BA candidate in Studio Art, said, “By providing a few language lessons and allowing us to figure out certain aspects of Italian life on our own, we developed a closer bond with the culture and the people.”
"Traveling to an alien place has a way of erasing social barriers and allowing you to forge truly awesome friendships,” said Allie Swaar, BFA candidate in Studio Art, “Sharing an incredible, terrifying, and wonderful experience with people I would have never come into contact with in Austin, but who will now remain my friends for years to come.”
- An exhibition of artworks by the Learning Tuscany students will be on display September 19 through October 3 at the Visual Arts Center as part of Fieldwork Projects.
- Meet the 2015 Learning Tuscany class with the Flying Longhorns on a 14 day trip with tours lead by faculty from the Department of Art and Art History.
- Listen to Learning Tuscany podcasts on iTunesU (link will open in iTunes).
Expansion provides students with opportunities in letterpress and bookbinding
Wed. August 27, 2014
Over this summer, Design Lab Coordinator Kevin Auer and Visiting Assistant Professor Colin Frazer opened the doors of DESL2 and embarked upon a rejuvenation of the workshop. DESL2 (Design Lab 2) houses the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type collection and is equipped with printing, photography, and fabrication resources.
Assistant Chair of Design Carma Gorman is thrilled at the changes. She recalled that Auer and Frazer “had a vision for how to reconfigure and augment the space’s existing resources to better support both its teaching and research missions.”
New presses, additional type, and a rearrangement of the workshop are a few of the changes that will benefit students and faculty in the program. One of the most exciting acquisitions is a mid-nineteenth century Columbian handpress that will be on long-term loan from the Harry Ransom Center.
“The Ransom Center is delighted to have the Columbian iron handpress join the collection of Rob Roy Kelly’s wooden display type at the Design Division’s printing laboratory,” said Richard Oram, associate director and Hobby Foundation Librarian at the Ransom Center. “This magnificent example of nineteenth-century printing technology will once again be in daily use. We look forward to collaborating with the Department on a variety of projects relating to printing and the book arts.”
Following a tip, Auer and Frazer found themselves in the university’s Document Solutions with Director Richard Beto, who saved numerous historic presses and type during his ten-year career at the university. Beto said, “How fortunate that the university has someone that values this lost art. I was fortunate that we could donate what we consider valuable tools in order for others to benefit.”
In addition to the Columbian press and the equipment from Document Solutions, David S. Rose of New York donated a Ludlow machine to the program, which will enable new type to be cast as use wears the collection. Rose heard about the need for the Ludlow through the tightknit letterpress community and offered the machine to the department.
Students from all areas of the department “can use the shop as part of a number of classes this fall that have letterpress and book binding components included in their syllabus,” said Auer. Gorman notes that the program’s letterpress and bookbinding resources “give UT students an edge over those who receive strictly digital training.”
"Letterpress printing slows down the process of graphic design and gives students time to consider typography and the three-dimensional aspect of typography," described Frazer, "For instance, our students can create their own wood type in the department's digital fabrication lab which pulls them away from the idea that graphic design is purely two-dimensional."
“Students who know something about letterpress are likely going to understand the concepts behind digital typography better than people who've never worked with metal type,” said Gorman, observing that “people who can ‘think’ in both analog and digital media, and who do have decent hand skills, have a distinct advantage over people who can work only in digital media.”
512stew runner-up for Core77 2014 Design Awards
Tue. July 8, 2014
2015 B.F.A. Design candidate project 512stew was the Student Visual Communication runner-up for the Core77 Design Awards. The project was a visual zine that present 18 perspectives on an aspect of Austin culture. The students "strived to go deeper than the surface through our intimate one-on-one experiences. In this book, there is text, photography, paintings, graphic design, and video. We have all worked hard to contribute our own style and understanding of these cultures."
Spring 2014 convocation and commencement
Tue. May 6, 2014
We are proud to congratulate our newest graduates from our programs. Please join us for our commencement and convocation ceremonies:
The College of Fine Arts Spring 2014 commencement ceremony for undergraduate students will be held Friday, May 16, at 3 pm at Bass Concert Hall. Guests do not need tickets to attend the ceremony.
The Graduate School convocation ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 17, at Bass Concert Hall. The master's ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. and the doctoral ceremony will begin at noon. All guests must have tickets. Detailed information is available on the Graduate School website.
The university-wide ceremony will be held on May 17.