Department of Art workshop ARTS 5490
Minneapolis + Beijing students collaborate
contact: cheryl wilgren clyne / firstname.lastname@example.org
Beijing Now: preparation for artistic collaboration, a new course at the University of Minnesota taught by Cheryl Wilgren Clyne
The Beijing Film Academy in China (one of the most prestigious film and art schools in Asia) and Department of Art at the University of Minnesota are in the initial stages of developing a program that embraces the exchange of ideas, art and people across continents. The seeds of the “Beijing Now” program led by Thomas Rose, Professor of Art; started in 2006 when faculty from China and Minnesota each made informal visits to each other’s institutions. Without significant obstacle, both schools became engaged in what would be the beginning of a relationship based in art and education. What makes this program interesting to both partners is the idea of a multipurpose international exchange. In a world that is continually changing, it is more important than ever to think globally. This project is rich with benefits for both faculty and students from Minnesota and China.
Several collaborative international art exhibits have occurred since the initial meetings in 2006. These have primarily been the result of personal visits to each institution by students and faculty in face-to-face encounters. One of the most successful of these exhibits, why you belong, took place in Minneapolis in 2008. Seventy-five artists submitted nearly four hundred images in an open call for work that was juried by Jennifer Phelps, Art Director of Chambers Luxury Art Hotel. Twenty-eight photographic art works by students and faculty from both institutions were selected and presented at the Burnet Art Gallery.
The idea for the why you belong project came from research Cheryl Wilgren Clyne produced while participating in an international photography exhibit with the Beijing Film Academy in Anji, China. During her investigation she found themes of identity resonating with artists from both countries. She brought this study to Jennifer Phelps at Chambers, who endorsed the project. Wilgren Clyne became the exhibit organizer and co-curator. The exhibit also traveled to the University of Minnesota, Quarter Gallery for a second showing in August 2008. This occurred while twenty dignitaries from the Beijing Film Academy were visiting for training and to coordinate aspects of the program.
The success of why you belong has helped to initiate new projects and create a more sustainable program foundation. The value of showing art from both countries, side-by-side, was something that was new to the program. Visual and conceptual associations and relationships that surfaced were not obvious until this work was shown in this context.
Both groups would like to travel more frequently, however, budgetary limitations remain an issue. It has become clear that technology will continue to play a huge role in how the exchanges are created and developed. The state of the economy has also engendered the importance of continually developing new ideas and ways to connect the groups. One solution, created by the team of Colin McFadden, College of Liberal Arts Media Specialist; Cheryl Wilgren Clyne, Adjunct Faculty of Art; Jenny Schmid, Assistant Professor of Art; and Sonja Peterson, MFA Candidate and Art Information Technology Professional; has been to create a “digital bridge” where large digital files, photography, video, animation and sound can be shared more easily online.
In addition, Cheryl Wilgren Clyne has proposed, developed, and is now teaching a course titled ARTS 5490: Beijing Now where art students from the University of Minnesota are exchanging ideas with art students from the Beijing Film Academy. The idea came out of her desire to share the exchanges in a more generous manner with students. She states, “I wanted to find a way to connect people in both places so that students would be able to experience some of the same opportunities that I had as a MFA candidate. Once I communicated this idea to people from Beijing and Minneapolis, I found that students on both ends were extremely interested in getting this process started.”
It was necessary for the Beijing Now program to implement a way to collaborate without travel. Through Wilgren Clyne’s classroom instruction in technology, the use of email, blogs, Skype (video conferencing), Facebook, instant and text messaging, digital video, sound, and other means, the conversations have been engaged between student artists. Dialogue has produced both challenging and rewarding results. By introducing multiple methods of communication, each collaborator is able to find the best way to disparate ideas for their joint project.
Early in the course, students are given the means to better understand how to develop these exchanges. One example would be the informal lectures and discussions with visiting experts such as, international artist and Dawei Xu, Professor New Media, Beijing Film Academy; Tang Meng, Professor Cinematography, Beijing Film Academy; Jason McGrath, Assistant Professor Asian Languages and Literature; and Dr. Jennifer Wu Dunn, formerly the Assistant Director, International Programs, The China Center. These meetings have helped to increase awareness of cultural differences and similarities and to keep the students abreast of current practices and trends in the art world.
Students are asked to work toward a sustainable artistic relationship with a student artist from China. Throughout the course, critique and discussions assist the students to realize the hurdles and realities of a successful project. Some of the students have already completed visually and conceptually compelling collaborations that are ready to be seen in a gallery setting.
Creating a long lasting artistic relationship for each student artist is a goal. After the class has ended students will be able to build on the collaboration they created with an artist who lives across the world.
Now in its second semester, ARTS 5490: Beijing Now has continued to maintain these ideas: To create and learn through communicating, enhanced by technology, ideas surrounding the arts, building a relationship between two individual artists toward collaboration, while keeping the idea of a global world in mind.
Next phases planned for this course:
Several exhibit possibilities to present the collaborations are being considered in both Beijing and Minnesota. To document the artists and projects, students are creating a catalog that has been partially funded by a grant from the Consortium for the Study of the Asias. In order to allow all interested students to participate, a student group Beijing Now: Chinese Art and Collaboration, has been started. This group will insure that students unable to take the course will still have access to some of the open calls for work and other opportunities. Several online resources for presentation and critique of the art and projects have been created doubling as an archive of the process.