Extreme Creativity: An Experiential, Experimental Endeavor

By Heather Hennigan

Writer

On Oct. 1 the Samek Art Gallery students in the University’s first Extreme Creativity class will perform a creative, collaborative installment. Just another artistic event, right? Not even close. This installation is the culmination of weeks of intense focus and commitment from students, faculty and staff members, and embodies unbelievable amounts of collaboration from the University and external resources.

The course was inspired by Princeton University’s “Princeton Atelier” program. The creators of Extreme Creativity desired to bring a similar dynamic, interdisciplinary arts collaborative course to Lewisburg. The capstone is a sponsored by a partnership between the Samek Art Gallery and the Griot Institute for Africana Studies that brings renowned artists and scholars to campus. This creates an opportunity for students to experience multi- and inter-disciplinary perspectives through the creative processes of writing, film, photography, drama and dance. Instead of a regular semester progression, the course is condensed into a six-week period that consists of three three-hour meetings per week. This time frame facilitates student engagement with experts whose schedules would not allow a semester-long commitment.

Photographers Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Myra Greene have staged a joint exhibition of their photographs that concern questions of race and representation in the Samek Art Gallery. Students have immersed themselves into the backgrounds and contexts of these works, and guest faculty members have been teaching understandings of the photographs through their own specific disciplinary lenses that reflect their field’s particular methodologies and theoretical perspectives. Guest faculty include Tulu Bayar (Art and Art History), Barry Long (Music), Dustyn Martinchic (Theatre and Dance), Joe Meiser (Art and Art History), Shara McCallum (English), Alex Riley (Sociology and Anthropology), Harriet Rosenberg (Penn State) and Elaine Williams (Theatre and Dance). The course is conducted by Carmen Gillespie (English, University Arts Coordinator).  Also working with the project are Cindy Peltier (Samek Gallery), Rick Rinehart (Samek Gallery), Erin Murphy (Library & IT) and Robert Gainer (Theatre and Dance, emeritus).

Students respond to these various viewpoints through an array of creative projects, and their class experience culminates in a final installation that unifies their creations and performances into a cohesive response to both the photographs and the complex ideas the photographs express. Greenfield-Sanders and Greene are presenting lectures in conjunction with their exhibition and spending time with students in the class. Greene’s lecture is scheduled for Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. in the ELC Forum.  Additionally, film students Diego Chiri ’12, Anikke Myers and Jose Valdivia ’11 are producing a documentary of the class project.

The installation is coordinated by interdisciplinary artist and University of Michigan professor Petra Kuppers, whose broad exposure to various cultures, ideologies, communities, countries, languages, and to the realm of disability presents students with a powerful and insightful perspective into the workings of the world. Kuppers will be in residence at the University from Sept. 20 through Oct. 2 and will present a noon workshop for faculty on interdisciplinary pedagogy on Sept. 27 in the Samek Gallery, which is co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning and Women and Gender Studies.

The performative installation of Extreme Creativity is free and open to the public and is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Samek Gallery and will include a luncheon reception.