Department of Art

Off-Campus Learning Experiences Inspire Art Students

By Hailey Stevens

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The trip almost did not happen. Art education Associate Professor Mark Graham and his field study students were traveling to Nepal to study Buddhism when their plans were upended by the 2015 earthquake.

“We planned for about a year to do this project and then everything kind of crumbled apart as soon as we set foot on the airplane,” said Clark Goldsberry, a graduate student studying art education.

Graham’s composure helped everyone feel grounded.

“We landed in a foreign country and had to come up with a plan B,” Goldsberry said. “(Without Graham) we would have felt very disjointed, and I’m sure there would have been a lot of tension.”

A Requirement That Opens Eyes

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oldsberry had more riding on the trip than just a year of preparation.

As part of their degree, students in the Department of Art must participate in off-campus learning experiences, including field trips, study abroad and internships.

Gary Barton, who chairs the department, has taken students on programs to England, Italy, the Caribbean, Tonga and New Zealand.

“When I have directed study abroad programs, it is an eye-opener to see just how differently people approach things,” Barton said. “I would try to help students understand the importance of context when making art.”

Barton participated in his first study abroad when he was a student in 1989.

“It gave me an opportunity to have a very concentrated focus on art making in the field without other academic distractions,” Barton said. “Everything was really focused on the experience and (on) some way of conveying the experience in artwork, and that was really incredible.”

The experience helped him see how the environment in which people created art influenced their artwork, leading to an appreciation of cultures and different ways of seeing the world.

Tibetan Resilience in India

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raham found an opportunity for his field study group to study Buddhism at the Tibetan communities in India. Although a deviation from their original plans, it still allowed them to accomplish their overall goal.

“Our idea in the beginning was just to get a better understanding of this unique and different culture.” Graham said.

Unlike the study abroad programs, field studies require students to formulate their own research questions and to explore them by interacting with the people and culture.

“To actually understand Buddhism and Tibetan culture, we really had to meet with Tibetans, talk with Tibetans and see Tibetan artwork,” Graham said. “There is no way we could have had the experience of what Tibetan culture, Buddhism and artwork is like without actually being there with the people who are practicing it.”

Mark Graham

Mark Graham

Students talked with monks and met with the Dalai Lama. They also taught English. These experiences and others allowed them to pursue their research questions.

Meeting with Monks

“The way that we were researching was very different because we were making art with monks as a form of research where we were collaborating with them by painting and drawing or watching them paint,” Goldsberry said.

For his research, Goldsberry sought to understand how the Tibetan people embody resilience.

Among those the students met were individuals with missing fingers or toes from frostbite that occurred while traveling from Tibet to India through the Himalayan Mountains.

“What was really interesting to me was that these people could have felt slighted or cheated and demeaned or bitter, but they didn’t,” Goldsberry said. “I was intrigued by how strong and kind they were. And I think that shows in their artwork.”

Goldsberry saw that Tibetan art reinforced the people’s resilience by helping them remember their heritage, traditions, families and ceremonies

 An art teacher at American Fork High, Goldsberry looks forward to sharing the new perspectives and techniques he learned from the Tibetans with his students.

“I hope that my students will be affected in some of the same ways that I was or at least get a taste of the experience I had.” Goldsberry said.

Susannah Crump on the streets of New Delhi

On the streets of New Delhi

“You have to be right with that person in that moment, and if you wait just a second too long, that moment is gone,” Crump said.

Like Goldsberry, Crump also appreciated Mark Graham’s mentoring and leadership.

“Mark impacted me in many ways. I think that one of the most amazing things about Mark is that he is always challenging his own, as well as mine and others’ assumptions,” Crump said. “For me, that is the true mark of intelligence.

Himachal Pradesh – A school in Northern India

Crump enjoyed being surrounded by artists for five weeks.

“I was able to experience their creative processes, their passion for people and understanding, and their ability to teach in a way that was completely unique,” she said.

The participants of the India field study are preparing an exhibition of photographs, film, video and artwork of their experience for display this fall.

Finding Her Place in New York

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ot all off-campus learning experiences whisk students to foreign countries. Sarah Waldron twice attended the studio art department’s field trip to New York City.

The first time she went she had just returned from her mission. She was feeling lost as she tried to find her place with contemporary art. Lucky for Waldron, a last-minute spot opened up and she jumped at the opportunity.

Sarah Waldron

Sarah Waldron

“I didn’t really know what to anticipate or how to prepare, and so I went into the trip as a sponge, ready to soak in anything that happened,” Waldron said.

She spent most of her time in New York following her professors around to various galleries and museums. Looking at art all day caused what she calls a sensory overload.

Still, the endless exhibitions filled her with questions and ideas that helped her orient herself as an artist. Waldron decided to go back a second year.

Sarah Waldron in New York

“I had a significantly more informed experience,” she said. “These experiences have drastically impacted my personal artistic practice.”

For Waldron, Crump, Goldsberry and many like them, that impact is what makes these experiences — whether study abroad programs, field studies or field trips — an invaluable part of their art education.

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