At this time of year it’s literally impossible to keep up with all the wonderful academic events on the calendar. This week we’ve had multiple senior thesis presentations, the spring dance concert, the Pannell Scholars fair, an exhibit of African Art related to a religion class, and countless other displays of the scholarly achievements of Sweet Briar students. If only I had the time to blog them all! Take my word for it: every single day in April brings new evidence of what students accomplish under the guidance of their faculty mentors.
Today I’ll share just one of the many impressive projects I’ve been learning about this week. It’s from Professor Tracy Hamilton’s Land as Art class. The students are creating a work of “land art” inspired by Native American earthworks and land sculptures. Which is cool enough in itself — giving students an opportunity to better understand the achievement of another culture’s artists by creating something similar with their own imaginations and hands is the best kind of experiential learning. A few other points make this project even more remarkable.
First, in order to accomplish it, students have had to reach across the curriculum.
Creating earthen land art requires understanding how soil works, what forces need to be balanced to create stability, and how to assess geology so as to identify an appropriate and feasible site. So Art History and Engineering joined forces to address these questions. Professor Bethany Brinkman and her students provided essential expertise.
And Professor Hamilton, while exploring an ancient artistic technology with her students, has encouraged them to capture what they’re learning in up to the minute digital technologies — such as tumblr blogs. Here, and here, and here, and here you can see some of the images and thoughts that students working on this project have been collecting.
What could better tie together the central academic strengths that our strategic plan emphasizes? This is a “learning on the land” project if there ever was one, combining experiential learning with digitally sophisticated documentation, and engaging students in contemplating the artistic achievements of another culture. I can’t wait to visit the work, and to come back to it again and again as the passage of time deepens its associations.