ROCK ISLAND -- Most college classes never leave campus, but students in a new Augustana College art class have been venturing throughout the Quad-Cities, and beyond, to find inspiration and subjects for their projects.|
"Design Sources: Joined by a River" -- taught by art professor Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, who also chairs the college art department -- is one of a few courses funded through new Connections grants, which are used to fund programs that connect Augie students with the community.
"I've always thought it would be fun to have a class where we use the community as a resource. I've taken students abroad a lot. This is the idea of looking at what you have in your own backyard," said the art professor, who's been to Brazil and west Africa with students. "Instead of going overseas, what do we have right here?
"The basic premise of this course is that design sources are ubiquitous. We will find inspiration all around the Q-C area, and will use these inspirations as springboards to create new and vital art expressions," Ms. Schussheim-Anderson said.
"Taking advantage of resources of the Quad-City area to develop creative thinking skills in visual art, we will learn that design is not static," she wrote in the class description. "Design surrounds us, and we need to be innovative and open to learn to invent new ways of expressing ourselves, by borrowing, adapting, interpreting and innovating from the resources at hand."
In addition to checking out Augustana's Geology Museum and Olson Brandelle Native American Art Collection, the class has visited the Hauberg Indian Museum and Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, the Figge Art Museum and the Putnam Museum in Davenport, and the Des Moines Art Center. Each visit had a theme, such as designs in nature, Native American traditions and using John Deere green.
Students created a piece each week in a variety of materials, including paint, fabric, beadwork, sculpture and collage -- resulting in mostly abstract art. The goal was to use design elements such as line, shape, color, texture, balance and repetition, Ms. Schussheim-Anderson said. Some of the work may be exhibited at the new College Center.
"To work from traditional sources, like a book or photo, is rich in its own way, but to have direct sources you're observing, interacting with, it's entirely different," she said, noting students said they got to go places they weren't familiar with. "That's kind of cool."
"We're kind of restricted here, in the Augie bubble, so I thought this would be a good class not only to get me back into art, but discover what's out there in the Quad-Cities," said Sam Dunklau, a freshman from Paw Paw, Ill.
He said he really liked visiting the Figge and the Putnam, literally drawing inspiration for designs. "It provides a lot of really cool insight, because normally when you're at a museum or an exhibition, you're just looking at it," Mr. Dunklau said. "You're not looking to see details.
"At the end of the day, it got down to how you represent line, a grid or geometric shapes," he said. "What's so nice about this class is it's so open-ended."
Coleen Egan, a Jamaican mother of two studying to become an art teacher, said, "I absolutely loved going to the different places in the Quad-Cities because it's all new to me. I'm inspired by the new sights and sounds."
She's lived here for five years, and her husband, Michael, is an Augie assistant professor in education.
She said she especially liked that many different civilizations are represented at the Putnam. She really admired the coral reef piece, which reminded her of her tropical home country.
At the Hauberg Indian Museum at Black Hawk State Historic Site, Ms. Egan said she was inspired by beadwork, and she worked hours to cover an unglazed teacup she had made with beads.
"What I've taken from this is the openness of it," she said of the class. "Let the students discover for themselves, get inspired and then guide. It's all in the discovery. It's amazing: We can go to the same place, have the same question to answer and have completely different outcomes. It's amazing and so good. I'm inspired by it."
Of the new Connections initiative, Augie provost Pareena Lawrence said, "As a college, we want our students to learn with and serve the community they live in. We want our students to be ethical citizens who can participate effectively in civic life, solve problems and act for the good of the community.
"What better way for our students to achieve these learning outcomes than by connecting with our local community and learning together with the community? We know students learn best and their learning is deeper and more meaningful if they can connect and engage with the subject matter in a real way," she said.
"These classes are one of the best ways our students can engage in their own transformation and help in transforming the community they live in."
Other Connections courses include "History of Sports in Africa," which provided students with the opportunity to interview African immigrants in the area, and sections of the Senior Inquiry requirement in English, which had students using the archives of the Davenport Public Library to research Quad-Cities writers of the 1920s. Those students' projects will be published by East Hall Press.
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