Artist-in-residence inspires students, faculty


From left, Dr. Lisa Donovan, Dr. Michael Dilthey, Dr. Ben Jacques, Melanie Mowinski and Dr. Alke Groppel-Wegener show off the results of a faculty workshop taught by Wegener.

MCLA's art and arts management students and faculty from various departments are benefiting this month from an artist-in-residence: While the students are learning some creative ways to express themselves through writing, the professors are exploring innovative strategies to integrate into their teaching.

As she serves her 10-day residency this month - made possible through the generosity of the Hardman Family Endowment - the artist-in-residence, Dr. Alke Groppel-Wegener, a professor of arts and creative technologies at Staffordshire University in England, has students and faculty considering the connections between images, writing and thinking.

On campus at the invitation of arts management professor Dr. Lisa Donovan and visual arts professor Melanie Mowinski, Wegener said she is delighted to join the MCLA community.

"Not only does this allow me to test out my approach to teaching essay writing skills in the 'Writing Across the Curriculum' approach favored in North America, the opportunity to meet and collaborate with faculty is a welcome chance to discuss teaching and learning strategies in a much deeper way," Wegener said.

"It's inspiring," Donovan said, "to have an artist in residence, and we're making the most of it, keeping her fully booked working with a variety of classes and faculty."

Wegener is conducting a number of creative projects. Last week, she and a group of professors made academic mantra cards (left) and explored ways to design postcards as vehicles for giving feedback to students.

"The work developed will become the starting points for my artist residency to cumulate in an exhibition at the PRESS Gallery in May," she added.

Mowinski called the workshops - which include professional development activities that have inspired her with ideas for creative arts core classes -  "really amazing." Time with faculty also has included design-based classes, ways to restructure their teaching, as well as some experimental pedagogy.

According to Donovan, students in her "Grants and Fundraising" class are thinking about "framing," and how creating a coherent image for a project can lead to stronger writing as they create a compelling case for a creative campus grant proposal.

"In my 'Designing an Arts-Based Educational Program' course, we've explored the power of note-taking with collage and evaluating secondary sources through a visual process," Donovan said. "Alke's work is allowing us to use the arts as a way of knowing and making meaning in new ways."

Mowinski asked Wegener to visit her "Senior Art Project" students because of the significant amount of writing they do in that class.

"Alke is an expert in helping the students frame their work, as well as looking at how their writing needs to change, depending on the context, audience, need, et cetera," Mowinski said.

Wegener led her students through a "poetic inquiry" activity, where they cut up their essays and created a poetic form from their words, while trying to keep the essence of the essay intact.

"Afterwards, the students reflected on the process and saw how this activity helped them eliminate fluff and see what the real focus of their essay should be. Now they are set to the task of re-writing the essays," said Mowinski. "I know they will be looking at their writing differently from here forward. I look forward to seeing what they do next."