Practice as teaching: expanding the classroom

While students drawn to the arts may possess varying proficiencies, diverse backgrounds and cultural awarenesses, a commonality I have noted as an arts educator is the conviction that each individual has “something to say.” My task as an educator remains to draw out this expression, enable self-reflection and critique, and ultimately challenge students through refinement of craft, the integration of critical thinking, and the imperative of responsible making to become global active citizens. This often entails extending learning outside of traditional modes, bringing students across fields of study to engage with curators, researchers, and other practitioners of creative disciplines. I’m interested in the ways students grasp links between art, history, technology, science, politics, and diverse traditions of expression, in order to both contextualize and eventually shape our contemporary world.

Installation views, The Commons Artist Project: Joan Giroux, MCA Chicago
May 1 – October 7, 2018
Photos: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
The above images feature two classes from Columbia College Chicago on site visits with artist Joan Giroux and curator January Parkos Arnall.

In a different type of class excursion, I took my students in summer of 2018 on a trip alongside Travis Gallo, a postdoctoral researcher at the Urban Wildlife Institute within the Lincoln Park Zoo. Gallo walked the class through the Institute’s wildlife cameras hidden in certain parks around Chicago. The class learned the process and theory behind the vital data recorded by the cameras that is used to investigate different wildlife populations across the city. Photos by Phil Dembinski.

In June of 2013, thousands of volunteers laid out more than one million handcrafted bones on the National Mall in an effort to raise awareness about ongoing genocide and mass atrocities. Dr. Ames Hawkins and I participated in the project as leaders of Team Great Lakes; we had students participate in making bones as well as generating this interview where we discuss the significance of the project and ways Columbia College Chicago became involved.

In 2012, I worked with Joyce Rice to develop a teaching project through the Center for Innovation of Teaching Experience titled “from files to form.” The project sought to create curriculum and instructional resources for the creation of simple to complex 3D modeling forms for physical output, using Google SketchUp and PepaKura paper-folding software, as well as research into plug-ins for compatibility with CNC mill.