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Arts captivate U.Va. students in and outside the classroom

University students incorporate arts into other disciplines

<p>Fourth-year studio art major Cameron Mankin's linocut, acrylic, india ink, and papier collé on panels&nbsp;"Quest Romance Triptych" piece is featured in the N.O.W! gallery.&nbsp;</p>

Fourth-year studio art major Cameron Mankin's linocut, acrylic, india ink, and papier collé on panels "Quest Romance Triptych" piece is featured in the N.O.W! gallery. 

Whether it’s the collaboration of art and music via ecoacoustics or art and biology at the Mountain Lake Biological Station, the integration of the arts and other disciplines develops critical thinking skills and creativity that not only propel artistic careers, but also enhance everyday life.

The growing importance of art

The McIntire Department of Art has seen major advances over the past few years, including a new studio art building, Ruffin Hall, and the heightened use of technology and new media.

“Certain areas of the art program are growing,” said fourth-year College student Jack Costello, a studio arts major concentrating in new media. “Others I wouldn’t say are shrinking, but I guess [are] changing.”

One fixture of art at the University has been the Fralin Museum of Art, which offers rotating exhibitions and collections. Currently, the Fralin is showing “Collection: Sol LeWitt and Photography,” the exhibition “Cavalier’s Collect,” and Jacob Lawrence’s “Struggle” series.

Students interested in art also have the opportunity to become part of the docent program, which has existed at the Fralin since 1989. Originally, docents were primarily art students, but Docent Coordinator Lauren Patton has worked to diversify the program by bringing in students from other majors and schools within the University.

“Our student docents are passionate and excited about what the Fralin has to offer, and they serve as advocates to connect us to the rest of the student body,” Patton said in an email statement.

Arts off Grounds

Opportunities for students extend beyond those offered by the department for credit, according to Francesca Fiorani, associate dean for the arts and humanities.

Students can spearhead their own art installations such as the N.O.W. Artist Collective Gallery in the McGuffey Center, co-chaired by fourth-year College students Jenny Campbell and Cameron Mankin, who are both studio art majors concentrating in printmaking

The event is an “artist collective of fourth-year studio art majors, representing new media, painting, printmaking, photo and sculpture,” Campbell said.

About 40 works from 35 artists will be displayed at the event.

In order to incorporate more diverse opinions, the gallery will be bringing in people from the University and the greater community who aren’t artists to critique student works, Campbell said.

“The goal is to bring in people who have a fresh perspective and specialization in different departments,” Campbell said.

Additional opportunities to engage in the arts community are also prevalent off Grounds.

“Charlottesville is a pretty interesting place, where there’s kind of an eclectic art scene,” said studio art major Sandy Williams, a fourth-year College student.

Williams, who is concentrating in sculpture and film, has displayed his work in the Second Street Gallery as part of the Virginia Film Festival. Each year, film students from the University create a projection film that is displayed at the festival.

Local galleries and festivals including the film festival and the TomTom Festival frequently put out requests for local artists, Williams said.

Arts integration

Students also extend their artistic talents and passions to entirely different academic disciplines and interests.

“Among the student body there’s a huge crossover,” University Drawing Prof. Amy Chan said. “A lot of the students here bring their interests from other departments and their major to the classroom, and it has a really interesting effect on the work that they make.”

Matthew Burtner, professor of composition and computer technologies, teaches a course called Ecoacoustics in which students examine the interactions of ecology and music. Students are able to discover more about the natural world and the music it produces while simultaneously being inspired to create their own music, Burtner said.

“There was a really good lecture series a few years ago about water,” Mankin said. “It was lectures by hydrodynamics professors, and art history professors discussing descriptions of water, and they found a lot of common ground.”

Similarly, students of the arts often leverage the skills they develop as artists in their career trajectories.

“The opportunity to try and make something or be creative… is something that will benefit [students] in whatever career they do,” said William Wylie, University professor and director of studio art. “It’s a matter of learning how to express yourself in another type of language, in another way, and that’s beneficial to everybody.”

Fiorani said she believes the hands-on style of learning found in art could be easily applied to other majors, and would be beneficial to the way the University is perceived by the public.

“We are really invested in… art as the public face of the University because many of the activities of our arts departments and the museums are meant not only for the current students and the faculty, but also the public,” she said.

While some parents may be concerned about their students graduating with a degree in the arts, Wylie said studying art provides plenty of useful skills for the professional world.

“It might not be a job directly related to art, but the skills that they honed in a creative discipline and thinking imaginatively are the kind of skills that employers are looking for, and people find amazing jobs out there because of that,” Wylie said.

The University is working to increase the opportunities for arts students after graduation. Kate Melton, a career counselor for the University Career Center, has spearheaded the creation of a community that connects current art students with alumni in order increase available job opportunities.

The University is also trying to enhance internship opportunities, Fiorani said.


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