Exceptional Art Experiences
MCLA's professors are involved with not only the college, but others in their specialty fields from the community and around the world. For art professor Laura Christensen, in addition to mentoring and teaching our students, this means providing art experiences for local developmentally disabled adults and working with internationally renowned artists. This benefits her students.
At the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), where she served as the education coordinator and a member of the art fabrication and installation crew for seven years, Christensen met many contemporary artists, including Cai Quo Chiang, Ann Hamilton, Huang Yong Ping and Robert Wilson. Next spring, students in Christensen's sculpture course will study at MASS MoCA and use what they learn to inspire new work.
MCLA students stand out in the Berkshires, a great place to be for those who want a career in the arts, according to Christensen.
"Most MCLA art students seem to search for a unique visual voice through hard work, sensitivity and a willingness to improve skills, as well as try new materials and methods for creating art," she said. "People recognize the Berkshires as a cultural and natural destination. Visual arts are especially well represented near MCLA with The Clark, Williams College Museum of Art, MASS MoCA and exciting, continuous series of exhibits in downtown North Adams."
She continued, "Every drawing course I teach visits the Clark to view selections of their extensive collection of prints and drawings. These fragile works are rarely on view in the main galleries. My students are whisked off to the special Prints and Drawing Room where Clark staff set out the delicate works on paper for our privileged viewing and discussion. We stand in the same space, we breath the same air as a 16th century page holding drawings by Albrecht Durer's hand - there is no glass separating you from it!"
In addition to teaching at MCLA, Christensen serves as a faculty artist for Community Access to the Arts (CATA), where she often shares her experience with MCLA students by bringing them to assist her in CATA workshops.
"As a CATA faculty artist, I design and implement workshops for adults with various developmental disabilities," Christensen explained. "We make drawings, paintings, collages, decorations and clay sculptures."
As she works with these individuals, many times an MCLA student will serve as her aid, helping participants with their individual projects.
"Through these interactions, they hone communication skills and learn teaching methods. For instance, one student worked to explain methods and reasons for making a coil of clay. The student was communicating with a person who speaks in single-word sentences and who works with very limited dexterity," she said. "Students also experience how the best laid plans are helpful, but best if flexible. You never know exactly how a workshop will run until you're in the midst of it. Thinking on your feet is a valuable skill."
Currently, she designs and constructs small sculptures with antique photographs and wood.
One of her mixed media assemblages is on display at MASS MoCA in the exhibit A Delectable Decade: a Kidspace Retrospective. Her artwork also was recently included in Small Works at the Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield, Mass., and Relics of Futures Past at Greylock Arts in Adams, Mass.