Curriculum Development / International Program (CDIP) Grant ... Kristina Arnold / Department of Art

Curriculum Development / International Program (CDIP) Grant Report
Kristina Arnold / Department of Art
WKU and an Expanding International Reach: Art and the UK
This report covers activities during the period of June 28 – July 24, 2014.
Nothing can replace a “boots on the ground” experience when researching and developing study abroad
opportunities and connections. My CDIP grant enabled me to attend a multi-day Place as Text NCHC
institute at Harlaxton Manor, travel to three campuses in the UK to investigate the potential for semesterlong exchange programs, and conduct a week of research in London museums and galleries.
The Place as Text institute helped me to contextualize and
frame the pedagogical methodologies and ethics inherent
in using a physical place, including its architecture, people
and material culture as rich educational experiences. The
multiple days spent learning and modeling these methods
with colleagues from peer institutions were invaluable in
cementing these practices into my teaching vocabulary.
The face-to-face meetings I had with fellow English and
Scottish faculty at the Universities of York, Edinburgh
and Lincoln, and the tours they gave me of their
campuses, were crucial in beginning the dialog and
exploration necessary for building something as complex
as a sustainable international exchange. These meetings
introduced me to the place where and the people with
whom WKU students might study abroad. Spending a
Place as Text classroom at Harlaxton Manor
week immersed in London’s museums and galleries gave
me the insight necessary to begin conceptualizing a London-based “museum studies” course. It made me
excited to accompany our WKU undergraduates, learn more myself and teach from this dynamic and
exciting city, layered with millennia of material culture and built history.
June 29 – July 3 – Participant in Place as Text, NCHC Institute; Harlaxton Manor, Harlaxton, UK
July 4 – 5 – University of York
July 6 – 7 – University of Edinburgh
July 9 – 10 – University of Lincoln
July 11 – 18 – London museums and galleries
Detailed Report:
Place as Text: Over the course of five days, we explored the Harlaxton Manor House and Harlaxton
Village and took field trips to the towns of Grantham, Melton Mowbray and Stamford. The course explored
the various ways each site helped to develop ideas about the plurality of Britishness, ending each day with
a facilitated group discussion.
As an object maker (artist) and interpreter of material culture (gallery curator) myself, spending time
focusing on the physical place and objects contained within that space as primary research materials and
integral sites of learning – rather than reading about them via academic translation – was powerful. As a
teacher of these practices, becoming a student of them again was an invaluable way for me to take a new,
KArnold; CDIP Report; Summer 2014
Page 1
fresh and important look at the possibilities, strengths, and even frustrations of this method of learning.
Seeing simultaneously through my own “teacher” eyes and through those of my students has given me a
new appreciation for what I ask my students to do on a daily basis, along with the tools to tweak my
teaching strategies for maximum effectiveness. Specifically, I will be a faculty member at Harlaxton
College in the Spring of 2016, and the time spent on and around the campus will allow me to more richly
integrate this place into my Harlaxton campus courses.
During the Place as Text institute, I kept a journal
of ideas and observations from our coursework,
field trips and general explorations. Notes I made
ask, for example, about Harlaxton Manor: “Is it ok
for a place to be loved differently by different
groups of people? And if we pick this place apart,
can we still love it?” – an integral question relating
to audience, object interpretation and close
examination that I ask my Gallery / Museum
Studies students at WKU to address.
In Stamford, we spoke to a member of a church
contemplating the removal of their Victorian-era
Exploring Harlaxton Village
pews – not original to this much older structure –
to open up their space and make it into a concert hall. Their congregation is essentially defunct, their
traffic is primarily tourist, not local visitors, and they want to bring people in, make the church space alive
again, and make it an integral part of its community once more. As a “conservationist” and object lover, I
ask myself: is this proposed renovation destructive or regenerative? Is it ok to remove those beautiful
pews if they weren’t “original” pieces? And: what, even, is a building – is it defined by its architecture or
its function? Does removing these pews to have concerts (and bring joy and life back into a sacred, now
empty space) actually restore the building’s original function (albeit in a slightly different way) and
reenergize a beautiful but essentially dead building? This series of questions is a good example of the way
in which the institute allowed me insight into the way in which moving through and critically analyzing a
place can actively engage the questions my courses work with “on paper.”
I find notes to myself mindful of our “preferred access” in to certain potentially sensitive sites, realizing
that an American accent, some grey hairs and the title of “professor” allowed us in to areas some of our
students may otherwise find restricted. I wonder about the ways in which this question of access extends
to my students’ perceived and real barriers to resources back home in Kentucky. I see comments to
myself as a teacher, such as one titled “meta observation,” from a group discussion, reminding me that “as
facilitators we shouldn’t interject or overlay too much,” because our ‘teacher’ views quickly become the
dominant or “right” narrative and shut down discussion. Other notes are practical, reminding myself as a
potential field trip leader to “consider mobility” and “ensure everyone has a contact phone number.”
Place as Text introduced and reinforced ideas, skills and methods of active learning, and allowed me to
practice and model them with my new colleagues. As my fields (visual art, galleries) regularly work with
objects and active learning, I have been able to robustly integrate these methodologies into my
coursework at WKU, which has greatly enriched student learning. I now plan to adopt many of the ideas
and methods directly to my courses at Harlaxton College, where I will have graduated from a student of
“Harlaxton as text” to a teacher and facilitator of the topic.
Visiting potential partner universities: At the University of York, I met with Dr. Jane Hawkes,
Department of the History of Art, who toured me through the University and the Centre for Medieval
Studies. She showed me the classroom areas and potential housing for visiting students, and introduced
KArnold; CDIP Report; Summer 2014
Page 2
me to several of her graduate students. York is a small, Roman- and medieval-walled city, rich in cultural
and material history from the Romans, to the Vikings, to the Middle Ages, to the modern age, and includes
a castle, cathedral and archeological dig and “Viking Center.” It would be an excellent site for
art history, art appreciation, studio art or museum studies. Dr. Hawkes, a medievalist, is energetic,
interesting, and has an excellent reputation as an engaging lecturer. She has worked with groups of
international students in the past, and is open and interested to a range of possibilities, from serving as a
guest lecturer for a class visit to York, to assisting with a more involved, longer-term summer or
semester-long student exchange program.
Painting studio with view of castle
Edinburgh is a beautiful, exciting, very navigable city with an
excellent collection of museums, galleries (including the National
Gallery of Scotland), and of course, a castle. It would be an exciting
city for students for a weekend, week, summer or semester exchange.
In Edinburgh, I met with Dean Hughes, Head of the School of Art,
Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh, and later
with Dr. Carol Richardson, Head of the School of the History of Art,
University of Edinburgh. Both were welcoming, polite and seemed
open to the idea of potential collaboration or exchange, but this
conversation is still at the very beginning. At the School of Art I was
given a generous tour of the school, including their figurative marble
statuary court and enormous high-ceilinged studios. The castle-view
painting studio and the fabrication lab with multiple types of laser
cutters and 3D printers would be excellent recruiting mechanisms for
our students to an exchange or summer program.
As Edinburgh is a very prestigious and selective “top-tier” university, I was surprised that Dr. Richardson
seemed intrigued by the concept of students from WKU attending the University of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh appears as interested as WKU in internationalizing, and I got the impression that some
Kentucky students may add a dash of exotic diversity to their campus both culturally and socieconomically. Dr. Richardson also expressed an interest in art history faculty teaching exchanges.
Logistically, a faculty exchange may be the easiest one to implement, if art history faculty were
interested, and could be a potential first step towards developing a broader-based program. Our former
WKU Art colleague, Dr. Heather Pulliam, is also in the School of the History of Art at the University of
Edinburgh; she has offered to assist us with development of a partnership where possible.
At the University of Lincoln, I first met with Jan
Fitzsimmons, Director of the International Office, who
gave me a quick introduction of their international
programs (one of which is with the WKU business school)
and organized for me to meet with faculty from the art and
design programs. Based on the University of Lincoln’s
size, current student body (which looks in many ways like
WKU’s), current relationship with WKU, and interest
from the design faculty, Lincoln seemed the most likely of
the three Universities I visited to be a potential site for
future international program development.
While on campus, I met with Dr. Anne Chick, then acting
Head of Art, and Barrie Tullett, professor of design and
co-director of the Caseroom Press. (There has since been a
KArnold; CDIP Report; Summer 2014
Caseroom Press type storage
Page 3
reorganization of the College of Arts, and shifting of faculty into
different schools.) Barrie and I had also already been virtually
introduced through a mutual contact – my friend and local Bowling
Green artist Leslie Nichols – whom Barrie had curated into an
international book project published the previous year. Barrie gave
me the grand tour of the College of Arts, including the School of
Architecture and Design, the School of Fine and Performing Arts,
the School of History and Heritage, and the allied Caseroom Press.
While both Barrie and Anne are in the School of Architecture and
Design, all three of these schools have programs of interest and
potential linkages to the WKU Department of Art. One program of
note through which we toured is the School of History and
Heritage’s Centre for Conservation and Cultural Heritage Research,
the largest center for the study of conservation and restoration in the
UK, and a natural potential link to WKU’s nascent gallery and
museum studies track. Additionally, Caseroom Press, a fine arts
letterpress shop and “an independent publisher whose work explores
Red towel, display case,
the function and format of the book” has an obvious connection to
International Offices at the
University of Lincoln
our area via the internationally-known Hatch Showprint, just down
I65 in Nashville, TN. Both Barrie Tullett and Anne Chick expressed
enthusiasm for creating a connection between WKU and the University of Lincoln’s art/design programs.
We specifically discussed both bringing Barrie and his work to WKU, and establishing a student
semester-long exchange.
Research in London Museums: In this virtual age, one can learn a lot about museums’ collections from
their websites, but through visiting, it is easier to gain a fuller experience of the entire institution,
including its context and any underlying subtexts. An institutional-level perspective is important for a
number of the courses I teach, such as museum studies and art appreciation, that examine not just the
objects inside the space, but the organization, structure, flow, interpretation, and overall tone of the place
itself, and how it may or may not interact with its visitors and a wider community.
I visited the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of
Surgeons, which I noted was “a good example of the birth
and evolution of museums” as it began as a collection of
training specimens and a “cabinet of curiosities” – one
ancestor of the modern museum with origins in the Middle
Ages. Hiking through St. James Park and Kensington
Gardens, I noted they provided good examples of parks and
gardens as planned spaces, or natural “galleries.”
Charles Hurst admires metalwork at the V&A
KArnold; CDIP Report; Summer 2014
Embedded in my notes on the Museum of Natural
History, I find ideas of how to “teach” the museum and
“teach from” the museum: ranging from engaging
contemporary practices like establishing a student-run blog
or Instagram feed, to notes specifically for museum studies
students (“look at the mounts for the gems!”) and art
appreciation (“materiality = form; see images of famous
buildings here as examples”). My notes indicate that the
“meta text” throughout this museum gives good examples
of museum evolution, and the 21st century newly created
high tech Cocoon exhibition space provides an excellent
Page 4
contrast – in construction, exhibition style and artifacts included – to the original Victorian-era structure
housing the taxidermied animal collection.
The V&A Museum of Art and Design is an enormous treasure trove, and my notes give me clues of how
to best navigate this overwhelming space upon return (“museum is divided by country / region and also
materials / technique areas”). I’ve also given myself ideas of how to teach two different classes
simultaneously from the site, as could happen in a study abroad program (“tour art appreciation group
through ‘materials and methods’ sections, give museum studies class specific independent assignment to
complete onsite”). The Tate Britain and the Tate Modern are connected via a river boat (“really nice /
short ride, cheaper with Oyster card, some open air, some not”) are a “good, do-able size” and provide a
good contrast with each other in building style, collections range and the way galleries are displayed and
interpreted. “Eat lunch at the café at the Modern!”
A trip to Saatchi Gallery was thwarted by a closure for a private party (not listed on the website, but
apparently not an uncommon occurrence, good to know). The British Museum is a must-see for many
reasons: from specific “rock star” objects in the collection themselves (Parthenon Marbles, Rosetta Stone,
Easter Island Statue, Egyptian mummys, Benin heads, the Sutton Hoo treasure trove, Aztec turquoise
serpent and skull), to discussions about the ethics of collecting from the 1800s to today, to the sheer
volume of things and cultures of which this museum has examples. The museum is enormous and
overwhelming and FULL of tourists. Seeing it during the summer (high season) needs a strategy. We
used an ‘exhibition highlights’ map – this type of map, or participating in a guided tour, or developing a
treasure hunt for top objects, or requiring self-developed tours from the comprehensive website would be
necessary for students. The Wellcome Trust Gallery is a small, interesting space illustrating science/art
connections. The British Library is a treat! It has both free public exhibits of historical texts (including a
copy of the Magna Carta) and a gallery which requires an additional fee. The National Portrait Gallery,
a very do-able sized museum, provides a good sampling of changes in both history and art history (as
seen through portraits) over time. The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) provides an interesting
example of contemporary arts practice and a contemporary non-profit gallery space exhibiting emerging
international artists.
The Tower of London, only one of two venues for
which we paid a ticket price (it was expensive) was a
surprisingly important visit. I expected a somewhat lurid
tourist attraction, and I was excited to see that it was
instead several interrelated thought-provoking exhibits.
First, the building itself is a centuries-old architectural
monument, that has housed in its walls important
collections over hundreds of years, including the crown
jewels and royal armaments, both still on view.
Interpretive signs pay testament to the tower as former
home to famous – some imprisoned – living inhabitants,
including a former history as a royal zoo (subset type of
museum). The galleries do a good job of being selfFeeling a little wacky on our final day. Remember
reflexive, discussing the historical use of and
to take breaks and pack snacks.
recontextualizing the objects through each change in
political era over the centuries that its exhibits have been on site. Westminster Abbey (also a ticket fee)
was another “tourist” site that turned out to be well worth seeing. The audio tour through the abbey
provided a quick trip through both architectural and political history, as the succession of royals and
related family buried in the abbey and their burial chambers were discussed. The tombstones on the floor
and walls provide a veritable “who’s who” of famous Britons in the arts and sciences, and as a parallel,
many entry points into discussions of British history and achievements.
KArnold; CDIP Report; Summer 2014
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Finally: reminders of the ways in which an in-person research experience can be vital in developing
programs incorporating active, engaged learning include notes to the future me, who may someday lead a
study-abroad program to London and get over-excited with the planning. I remind myself (in real time,
after a week of tromping through museums) to schedule in space and time for rest and reflection. “WHEW
I AM EXHAUSTED!!! Break this all up into do-able chunks.” And “learning can’t happen when you are
too tired.”
• I have integrated Place as Text methodologies into my coursework at WKU. These methods
greatly enhance student learning, and I will continue to use these concepts and tools of active
learning in all my classes.
• I will use Place as Text ideas, methods and information learned on and around the Harlaxton
campus directly in my courses at Harlaxton College in Spring 2016.
• I will tie specific information learned about and from London museums and galleries directly into
my course content and requirements for my Harlaxton classes.
• While at Harlaxton, I will investigate the possibilities of creating a pathway from WKU to the
programs of the University of Lincoln’s Centre for Conservation and Cultural Heritage Research.
• I will continue to investigate possibilities for faculty exchanges with University of Edinburgh and
WKU art history faculty.
• I will work with faculty at the University of Lincoln to establish a connection between their
College of Arts and the WKU Department of Art. A first step is to bring a faculty member and
his/her work from Lincoln to WKU as a visiting artist. Next steps would work towards a faculty
and / or student semester-long exchange.
• I would love to use my CDIP research in London, Lincoln, York and Edinburgh to create a
summer study abroad program for WKU students. I believe these cities offer rich historic and
contemporary cultural experiences and sites perfect for developing studio, art appreciation and
museum studies courses, all of which I have taught at WKU and will adapt at Harlaxton in Spring
2016 as a hybrid “classroom based + study abroad” experience.
The CDIP-supported weeks I spent in the UK as a Place as Text student, researching galleries and
museums in London, and visiting campuses to investigate potential collaborative exchange programs have
already benefited me as a teacher, a benefit immediately passed on to my students through enhanced
student learning. All three of these sets of experiences will provide further immediate benefit to students
during the Spring of 2016, as research conducted in Harlaxton, on area campuses, and in London will be
directly integrated into all of the courses I will teach as a visiting faculty member at Harlaxton College. Via
contacts made and partnerships begun, particularly at the University of Lincoln, I believe the reach of this
CDIP project will extend to further benefit faculty and students both from the UK and at WKU. The
possibilities of future growth are exciting. I look forward to continued work with my artist-faculty peers
from the United Kingdom, and to seeing what we can imagine for both of our sets of students on different
sides of “the pond.”
KArnold; CDIP Report; Summer 2014
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