Posts Tagged 'University of Texas at Dallas'

Artist Interview: xtine and Sabrina

This fall the Center for Creative Connections invited C3 Visiting Artists xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman to design in-gallery activities inspired by unattributed works of art in the DMA’s collection. Meet xtine and Sabrina here and learn more about their thoughtful installation and activities designed to engage a larger conversation about labor.

Tell us about yourselves.
We met in fall 2016 at the University of Texas at Dallas, where we discovered a shared passion for embodiment, literature, and workers’ rights. We became fast friends and quickly set forth to merge xtine’s interventions on crowdsourcing platforms with Sabrina’s expertise in literature, history, and labor.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?
xtine delivered a talk about her project, Mechanical Olympics, in the C3 Theater during Fall 2015. While at the DMA, she saw that the Center provided a space for connecting the Dallas community with local artists who could leverage the educational team at the Museum to bring engaging art to diverse audiences through interactive media formats. This was a good fit for the type of exhibition that she and Starnaman wanted to create for The Laboring Self.

Tell us how the idea of your project originated.
The Laboring Self grew out of a pilot project, Digital Korl Woman, that we developed in Sabrina’s class “Studies in Women’s Literature: Rebels and Reformers” at the University of Texas at Dallas in spring 2017. Sabrina was teaching Rebecca Harding Davis’s 1861 novella Life in the Iron Mills in class, a book about unregulated labor in a steel mill, and we saw the potential for parallels between critical issues in labor across the centuries.

We initiated an exploratory collaboration in which we asked Sabrina’s students to create a participatory project much like the one we present in the C3 space. First, students hired virtual workers to interpret a section of Life in the Iron Mills by submitting selfies to reflect the feelings that the steel worker character expressed in a sculpture he made out of waste products from the industrial processes. These pictures were then used as inspiration for  a 3-D cardboard sculpture. Finally, the students chose parts of Davis’s book that they found important and layered them on the sculpture.

We were invited to share this project and the process at a number of academic conferences, and now an article about it is forthcoming in Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy.

The Laboring Self, which centers on reproductions of human hands—workers are “hired hands” after all—grew naturally from our classroom experience and continues to evolve in ways we find exciting and will be working on for some time. We document our ongoing projects on our website, Visible Women.

What do you hope visitors will take away from your project?
We hope that visitors will see a connection between the detrimental impacts of unregulated labor in the 19th and the 21st centuries. While contemporary digital and crowdsourced work seems different from the industrial labor that became common in the 19th century, there are many parallels. For instance, workers who enter evolving industries have few protections. Laborers in the 19th century were ultimately able to address some of the exploitative and dangerous conditions in their workplace, but today’s crowdsourced laborers have few mechanisms to voice their concerns.

It is important to us that visitors to C3 have a chance to reflect on their own work experiences and how it affects their bodies. Those who are, have, or will work are as much a part of the project as the digital laborers who provided their hands and thoughts for the installation. Through the interactive aspects of our project—all of which involve using hands and words—we ask visitors to create their own “hired hands.”

hands

What have you enjoyed most about this experience?
We love the process! It is an honor to be able to realize our vision in a space that includes participants from so many different communities. While we are excited to bring our families to the tables, trace our hands, our kids’ and spouse’s hands, and make rock-rubbings of the literary quotes on a Sunday afternoon, the journey is the most enjoyable part of the experience. From the day we sat together struggling with how much we would pay the workers on the Mechanical Turk website to the day we created and hung strands of hands on the wall of the C3 space, we learned a lot about ourselves and the world we live in, while making something that engages the community where we live and work.

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Visit the Center for Creative Connections through December to participate in activities and contribute your own responses to xtine and Sabrina’s The Laboring Self installation.

Join us for a reception in the Center for Creative Connections on October 26 and mingle with C3 Visiting Artists xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman in C3 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Kerry Butcher is the Center for Creative Connections Coordinator at the DMA.

Connecting Fibers

Alexandria Clifton and Kyli Brook are two students of UNT professor Lesli Robertson and both recent grads from the college’s Fibers program. Earlier this year, they set off to research the process of making traditional batik on the island of Java. They were tasked with the challenge (and we are so glad they accepted!) with producing eight batik samples that illustrate the complex creative process of traditional batik makers. These samples will be installed in Waxed: Batik from Java, opening this weekend on Level 3. (Read a little more about the process and the installation in this post.)

Clifton and Brook’s journey began with a trip to the DMA’s textile storage with curator Roslyn Walker and preparator Mary Nicolett to examine some of the textiles up close and personal. These works are incredibly detailed, and photos alone do not do them justice!
batik_pic-1

Back in the studio on UNT’s campus, they mixed wax based on traditional Javanese recipes. The wax must be sufficiently durable to resist dye, but also removable. Their research determined that both hand-drawn and stamped batiks involve an initial application of a brittle but easily removable wax mix (klowong) followed by various applications of a stickier, more durable wax mix (templok). The ingredients for hand-drawn wax—their method of wax application—include paraffin, pine resin, beeswax, and fat. Wax for stamp application also includes eucalyptus gum. They used strips of fabric to test out the waxes.
batik_pic-2

Today in Central Java, indigo dye is generally made from indigo paste, lime, and ferrous sulfate mixed with water. A soga brown dye mixture includes bark from various trees and shrubs. In an effort to be as authentic to the process as possible, Clifton and Brook also used natural dyes for their project. (Learn about UNT’s cool Natural Dye Garden here.)
batik_pic-3

The design of their final eight samples is based on the motif of the red wraparound skirt (kain panjang) with blue clouds (megamenlang). Ultimately, the concentric outlines of this motif more clearly illustrate how to produce gradated hues with subsequent wax applications and dyeing; however, throughout their process the two tested a multitude of designs, all inspired by the DMA’s collection.
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During their research Clifton and Brook compiled a robust binder of samples and experiments and shared it with us. I was particularly impressed because even their notes are lovely!
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Not only are Clifton and Brook’s “finished” products on view in the exhibition, but visitors can actually touch and feel the samples. During the fall semester, we look forward to receiving a second set of batiks from Amie Adelman’s class. A HUGE thank you to our friends and colleagues from the UNT Fibers program for another wonderful collaboration!
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Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

The Forecast Calls for Stars

Before there were Xboxes and smartphones, TVs and radios, and even theater and literature, people sought entertainment in other ways. Among those activities was the experience of star gazing. The endeavor was a social one, often involving conversation and the creation of folklore around oddly shaped objects that observers conjured up in the stars above.

Though the same stars hang above us today, those interpretive experiences are few and far between. But a group of graduate students from the University of Texas at Dallas are working to change that. Their interactive activity, the Constellation Game, brings back the experience of campfire conversation and celestial storytelling. Visitors, or “players” of the game, are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild as they use a motion controller to “draw” their own constellations in a projected night sky. They can even invent their own myths around their creations.

Constellation1

This Friday, we’re excited to have the Constellation Game set up on our Ross Avenue Plaza for our monthly Late Night. In preparation for Friday night’s activities, we took the opportunity to ask Spencer Evans, the lead programmer behind the experience, a few questions about the Constellation Game.   

How did you come up with the idea for the Constellation Game?

SE: In many ways, the idea we initially came up with is actually far off from what we have now. It was a very vague idea that evolved organically, and was refined based on players’ impressions and our realized goals. We are big fans of games that fit in the play space between arcade, art gallery, and museum exhibition pieces, and we wanted to create something in that same space. We are also very passionate about storytelling and mythology, and we wanted to revive that act of storytelling around shapes perceived in the stars, which seems a bit lost and forgotten today. To that end, it was also important to us to create an accessible interface and interaction that people today can understand.

How does the experience work?

SE: The core player experience is to create and draw constellations in an almost connect-the-dots like way in a shared space. Players do this with a motion controller while lying down, looking up at the stars of our night sky projected onto the ceiling, and discussing with others the meaning of the shapes created. Our design was focused on storytelling, social interaction, and creative expression. And, we strove to create an experience that closely resembles the relatable, perhaps nostalgic, real-world act of lying down outside and pointing up at the stars. We feel this is something that comes through in the way players interact with it, and the immersive atmosphere we try to create.

Constellation2

What have you learned by watching visitors interact with the installation?

SE: We have learned that it is very much a group experience, not just the one or two players currently interacting with it. It is the audience participating as well. Everyone tends to explain or argue about the shapes they are seeing, and share their personal interpretations that they, and others, have made. We have learned that players tend to enjoy exploring the star-field—the space in which they can draw constellations—before they create their own. They want to see what others have created first, and see which star clusters or historical constellations they recognize.

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If you want to make your own constellations, you can play the Constellation Game between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. this Friday. We’ll also have numerous other activities, performances, tours, lectures, and more! Find the full schedule here.

Betsy Glickman is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA.

 

Tiny Thumbs at the Dallas Museum of Art

According to the Tiny Thumbs Facebook page, “Tiny Thumbs is a new organization looking to build up awareness for the indie game scene and showcase some of the best talent out there through pop-up arcades/art shows.”  In anticipation of their upcoming pop-up arcade at the DMA’s Late Night tomorrow night, I virtually sat down with Robert Frye, UT Dallas Ph.D. candidate and co-founder/co-curator of Tiny Thumbs.  As is probably most fitting, our interview took place over a series of emails:

image from "Tiny Thumbs: Breaking Out"photo credit: EbonSoul Photos

image from “Tiny Thumbs: Breaking Out”
photo credit: EbonSoul Photos

I found this great description of Tiny Thumbs on your Facebook account and I think that sums up “what” Tiny Thumbs is really nicely, but my next thought is, how did Tiny Thumbs come to fruition?

The idea of Tiny Thumbs came about as[co-founder] Kyle [Kondas] was teaching a class I was involved in called “Games and Gallery Art” where we really sought to tackle the idea of how to show games in an artistic space and what is gained from doing so. We were both inspired by the work of similar shows like Baby Castles – and the idea that we really had a desire to get people off of their computers for a bit and really connect with people, and not just gamers, but we really felt like independent designers could learn so much from talking with people outside of their current circles.

In your Tiny Thumbs description, it specifically mentions the “indie game scene.” Why are indie games important?

I’ve always seen indie games as the ‘art house’ of videogames, it’s the place where people can push the boundaries of interesting design and art and help to get to the core of what makes a game a game. Of course, not all indie games have such a lofty goal, but they still give the reigns of creation to a greater variety of people and that can only lend a larger amount of voices to the field. I think it’s the ability for ANYONE to make a game, for interesting ideas and experience to show up and change how I feel and view games on a weekly basis that makes me love indie games so much. It’s people, making games because there is a spirit inside them that drives them to do it. People who HAVE to create games, made for a community that is passionate to play them.

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image from “Tiny Thumbs: Breaking Out”
photo credit: EbonSoul Photos

Other than being under the “indie game” umbrella, is there anything else that connects the content that you choose for your shows?

Not really! For our first few shows we wanted to take games of exceptional quality and bring them out of the “one person, one computer” context that they were sitting in. Our goal was to help spread the word in Dallas that there was a place for games of quality to be shown. Now in the future we would love to do themed shows, but for now we are picking games of interest and quality to start a dialogue and really find out what Dallas needs from our show.

Recently there have been a surge of articles asking whether video games are art. MoMA has added video games to their permanent collection, and the Smithsonian has created an exhibition about the evolution of video games as an art form, which is scheduled for a two and a half year tour around the United States. Assuming that you are on the “yes” side of the debate, can you tell me more about why you feel this way?

Are games art? Haha, this is a deceptively difficult question, as you really have to nail down why the question is being asked, what kind of information is trying to be achieved – do I think that games have the potential to have strong artistic statement? Yes. Do I think that games can have aesthetic properties that can inspire and enthrall? Very much so. Often when the question is asked, it seems to me that the real question that is trying to be asked is “can we take games seriously” and for that question I would say emphatically yes. We’ve only just begun to understand how interaction can change the stories and experience that we craft, and what games really mean to people. Video games have only been around for about 50 years (give or take) but in that time we have gone for dots moving along a screen to games like Journey which have breath taking vistas. So are games art? Perhaps, but more importantly – games NEED artists and art viewers to help them become the fullest experiences they can be.

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image from “Tiny Thumbs: Breaking Out”
photo credit: EbonSoul Photos

Looking forward, what’s next for Tiny Thumbs?

So many things! We are currently in talks for at least two more future shows this year and are excited to have many more events in the future. If everything goes right, we would love to have a monthly show – traveling around venues in Dallas, sampling the flavors of this city and hopefully making the show something that the city can be proud of!

Stop by tomorrow night for Late Night at the DMA.  Kyle Kondas and Robert Frye’s Tiny Thumbs video arcade will be available for you to play and observe from 8pm – 11pm in the Center for Creative Connections’ Tech Lab.

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Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

2012 Summer Seminar for Teachers

2011 Summer Seminar Participants

Imagine yourself among a group of educators — spirited, inspiring, trusting, supportive, and innovative — all focused on creativity and the nurturing of students. Now imagine this group immersed in the creative environment and resources of the Dallas Museum of Art for one full week.  This is the Summer Seminar experience for teachers at the DMA, and we’ll be hosting the 2012 Seminar June 11-15.  We invite you to join us!

Teaching for Creativity reached beyond my expectations by exploring how to consider attitudes, ideas, and associations I may have discarded or not considered before this class.  – 2011 participant

Designed for teachers of all grade levels and subjects, Summer Seminar: Teaching for Creativity explores education and creativity through experiences in the DMA’s galleries and Center for Creative Connections. The course references creativity from a variety of perspectives, and participants engage in readings about creativity from various authors, including Robert Sternberg, Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Through conversations and workshops centered on creative attitudes and thinking, the Seminar supports teaching skills and approaches that foster imagination, curiosity, an open mind, and a natural drive for creating in students. UT Dallas professor Magdalena Grohman and DMA staff lead workshops and gallery experiences.  Participants reflect on and further develop their own creativity, as well as focus on how to teach for creativity.

I will use the tools in order to push myself further with my projects, rather than staying in [a] comfort zone.  – 2011 participant

This definitely helped me tap into more creative thinking. The exercises and activities were very helpful.  – 2011 participant

2011 Summer Seminar gallery experience

Throughout the Seminar, the DMA galleries serve as a kind of laboratory space, in which we consider the creative process and relate creative thinking techniques to specific works of art. In-depth experiences with art cultivate our abilities to observe, envision, express, explore, engage, and understand  in the arts and other disciplines. Through these experiences, we may become more persistent, flexible thinkers, better problem explorers and problem solvers—overall, more creative beings.

Unlike most professional development, the focus is not on ‘making a better teacher’ but on providing good teachers with better tools to bring out the best in their students.      – 2011 participant

The one-week Summer Seminar experience serves as a catalyst for an extended relationship between participating educators and the DMA as we continue the dialogue about education and creativity throughout the academic year.  This blog is one venue for the continued dialogue — view posts from a series titled Teaching for Creativity to learn more and hear about the creative journeys of several educators in the classroom.  The blog post this Thursday will feature 2011 Summer Seminar participant, Lorraine Gachelin.

Registration for the 2012 Summer Seminar: Teaching for Creativity is currently open. For more information, please contact Andrea Severin at aseverin@DallasMuseumofArt.org.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Teaching for Creativity: Identifying Creative Potential

The focus on creativity this month includes a wealth of information to provoke further thoughts.  University of Texas at Dallas professor and creativity specialist Magdalena Grohman shares notes from a recent conference she attended.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we didn’t have a definition of creativity? One crucial implication is that we wouldn’t know how to recognize creativity or how to identify it in a given domain or across different domains.  What does creativity look like in science?  Math?  Language Arts?  Without knowing who is or is not creative, we would not be able to list factors that may impede or enhance creative development. Here’s what I learned from my colleagues in the Division 10: Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, during the 2011 American Psychological Association Convention.

So, let’s assume we understand creativity as an interaction between aptitude, thinking process, and environment. How does that definition help us identify creative talent?

THINKING PROCESS

Researcher and educator Dr. Roberta Milgram of Ariel University of Samaria, Israel, may have a couple of suggestions for you. In her talk “Identifying Talent in Mathematics and Science in Children, Adolescents, and Adults,” Dr. Milgram showed findings suggesting that each talent has two components: academic and creative. For example, for students to do well in math, they need to show mathematical reasoning and they need to know how to compute. But, according to Dr. Milgram, those students who are mathematically gifted also show that they can notice patterns and relationships and use complex and non-algorithmic thinking. Most importantly, they can apply original thinking with mathematical symbols that results in more than one strategy and/or solution. Let’s consider another domain—take language arts, for instance. A student that has a knack for language arts will not only show great reading comprehension and writing skills, but on top of that, s/he will also be quite observant and notice patterns and relationships, as well as similarities between remote concepts. In other words, s/he will experiment with concepts to come up with new and original ideas. This experimentation and creative thinking belongs to the thinking process portion of the definition of creativity. Skill, ability, motivation, and deep task commitment relate to aptitude. The take home message? Look closely for skills and intellectual ability AND for original and unorthodox thinking patterns that lead to unique ideas and solutions.

APTITUDE

Aptitude also “contains” our attitude towards creativity, which can be shaped by our self-perception.  It turns out that whether we see ourselves as creative people depends on gender. These self-perceptions are different in girls and boys, and it has profound implications on what students invest in, and what domains of interest they choose. Another speaker, Dr. Zorana Ivcevic of Tufts University, showed that girls tend to equate creativity with artistic creativity; hence, they may be more likely to see themselves being creative in this very domain. It also suggests that they may avoid even trying to be creative in other domains. Boys, on the other hand, equate creativity with science.  Furthermore, girls are more likely to associate creativity with challenges, whereas boys—with enjoyment. The take-home message?  “Women who consider themselves to be creative are likely to engage in the arts, while men are more likely to engage in the sciences.” What we, educators, can do is first to show that creativity is in every single domain, and second to encourage our students to build bridges between disciplines. It really is OK to encourage a science-focused student to discover art, and an art student to find beauty in mathematical equations.

ENVIRONMENT

We, parents and educators, are undeniably part of the environment that influences the creativity of our children and students. Again, we can learn from Dr. Ivcevic’s study—”Perceptions of Creativity in Croatian Elementary School Students and Teachers”—that whom teachers perceive as creative, and whom students perceive as creative have great impact on who ultimately will be identified as creative and talented. The environments that value obedience to authority, maturity in behavior of children, and discourage nonconformity may decrease creativity. Dr. Ivcevic’s study of Croatian teachers’ perceptions of creativity went hand in hand with the expectation of appropriate behavior in girls and boys. Moreover, students concurred with these perceptions, and nominated those girls and boys as creative who conformed to teachers’ expectations. In other words, “good boy” and “good girl” were seen as creative.  Young children were also seen as more creative. In another study, Dr. Ivcevic found out that younger kids were more likely to be seen as creative, but not older children! It seems that in a restrictive environment that values conformity, creativity is less appropriate as children grow older. Some of you may question the relevance of this study to our society that (we want to believe) values creativity across all ages. Nevertheless, the take-home message? In an environment where conformity and authority is valued over inquisitiveness, experimentation, and exploration, we may run into the problem of misidentification—mistaking “nice” behavior for a creative behavior.

Thank you Dr. Grohman for sharing this knowledge with us.  If you have not had a chance to meet Dr. Grohman in person, she’s here at the DMA on the first Thursday of every month leading Think Creatively! workshops in the Center for Creative Connections.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Teaching for Creativity

The beginning of another school year can be very exciting because there are many things that are “new.”  We may experience a new teacher, new students, new friends, new clothes, new school supplies, new bulletin boards, and more.  As we launch ourselves into a new school year at the DMA, we also launch a new blog series called Teaching for Creativity.  The inspiration for this new series comes from various sources, including the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections; our collaborative work with UT Dallas professor and creativity specialist, Dr. Magdalena Grohman; and the 2011 Summer Seminar: Teaching for Creativity, a professional development experience for K-12 educators.

Over the next year, look for monthly posts that inspire us to teach for creativity, encouraging open minds and creative behavior in ourselves, our students, and our colleagues. Teaching for Creativity blog posts will:

  • feature classroom and museum educators to share creative lessons and approaches to teaching that nurture observation skills, curiosity, imagination, and metaphorical thinking,
  • draw attention to great books and websites for creativity resources, and
  • highlight creative beings from the past and present who may offer us new ways to look at the world.

For this inaugural post, I am excited to introduce you to Shadan Price.  Shadan teaches art to students ages 3-5 at El Dorado Montessori in Frisco, Texas and joined us in June for the 2011 Summer Seminar.  Shadan shares with us the lesson plan that she developed during the Seminar and the results of trying it out in her classroom.

During the Teaching for Creativity seminar I attended, our goal was to create a lesson plan that focused on creative thinking. The lesson I came up with did that but was also simple enough for the young children that I teach to understand. In summary, my lesson had them discussing how certain shapes (we focused on circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles) and how they are used in artwork and the real world. We looked at a few art images (ex: Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, Klimt’s “The Kiss”) and the students pointed out those shapes in the images. We then looked at images of everyday objects (ex: buttons, tables, pizzas, etc.) and the students talked about what shapes those were. The next step was brainstorming. For each shape the class thought of objects that those particular shapes could be. This was really fun for them! I didn’t want them to brainstorm for too long though because I wanted them to still have a few more ideas for the next part of the lesson which was to draw each shape on a piece of paper and then create an object (real or imaginary) out of that shape. I didn’t put any restrictions on what they could draw. I just told them no matter what it was, even if it wasn’t a real thing, they had to explain to me what the drawing was. For the most part the students really enjoyed this but I could immediately tell which students were not really comfortable making something completely out of their imaginations as opposed to something a little more guided. This was a good project to see who I need to work with more on their creative-thinking skills.  Overall this was a good project.  The students loved brainstorming and drawing their own creations!

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These are a few examples of what the students came up with for each shape:
TRIANGLE – almost all the students chose a slice of pizza….if I did this project over again I might tell them not to do that so I could see what else they came up with. A few others were roofs, mountains, cat ears, and noses.
SQUARE – iron man, robot, mirror, window, bubble machine, cage, bookshelf, frame, butterflies, purses, books, and dinosaurs.
CIRCLE – vacuum, wheels, monkey, balls, DVDs, cookies, lollipops, a “purse maker”, pancakes, rings, and buttons.
RECTANGLE – monster, table, frame, door, fluorescent lights, microwave, baskets, rocketships, and sharks.

I want to express great thanks to Shadan for sharing her lesson with us.  Follow this link to download the lesson: SHADAN_CREATIVE_LESSON.

What creative experiences are happening in your learning environment?  Share them here and look forward to the next Teaching for Creativity post in September.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships


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