The Day Course: Art course provokes perspectives

Mula Lay – Staff Writer

The Day Course is a General Education course offered through the Art and Art History department and is taught by professor Kristen Lowe. The class encourages students to visualize themselves as artists and introduces them to contemporary artists, especially artists beyond the European tradition. This is a way to diversify perspectives in art and give students a chance to expand their knowledge of what art is.
Lowe told me of Doris Salcedo, a Columbian artist who has done work around loss because of rampant murders in Columbia. Her work involves bringing furniture from people who had lost family members in these murders as a way to memorialize them in an artwork.
The Day Course class is structured around the students. Early on in the class, students decide on five topics. These five topics are then divided into specific days. During each specific day, students research contemporary artists whose work relates to the topic of the day or an artist that interests them. Students produce five research powerpoints for the duration of the course and present two of those powerpoints to the class.
Throughout the course, students accumulate their research into physical work. Students are subject to long term research on a piece in which they work on engaging with the public and figuring out where they would install their piece in public, which is then critiqued by the class.

“There’s very little education that people have had on contemporary art and explaining to them the goals of the class and what contemporary art actually offers the viewer, that’s a challenge.”
-Kristen Lowe

Junior Hannah Reckinger, an Environmental Studies and Studio Art major, is one of the students in the class whose work has been featured in Nobel.
Reckinger’s piece is cardboard made to look like a cake. Reckinger utilized acrylic mixed with a wax medium to make the frosting, with torn up cotton balls and liance to make it look like clouds on top of the cake due to the theme of the day, which was sin.
Reckinger’s inspiration for the piece was based around greed, one of the seven deadly sins and how people are defensive of their birthday cake, much like their own religions, because they don’t think someone is worthy.
To install the piece, Reckinger explained the obstacles of installing her piece and how safe its location would be. “To get their approval [building administrative]… I sent sixteen emails back and forth… It was a whole thing of just being like ‘Oh, I think someone else has a thing here, but you can put it here’ or ‘I think someone’s gonna trip on it here so you have to move it over here,’” Reckinger said.
Junior Philosophy and Studio Art major Geneva Vanwyck is also enrolled in the course. They have had quite a controversy over their piece.
Vanwyck’s piece features an installation of a person experiencing homelessness, which was put in front of the Campus Center. The piece was made using a comforter to create the base shape of a person with clothes put on top, mimicking a hunched over person in a homeless state which included a didactic informing that it was an art piece.
The inspiration for the piece, Vanwyck said, was based around a bible verse, Matthew 25: 43-45. It is a verse about homelessness and the failure to help the homeless. Vanwyck saw this and thought about their experience with the bad connotations surrounding people who are homeless. Vanwyck sought to bring awareness to our perceptions of homelessness and provoke discussion in the community.
The intention of the art piece, however, was misinterpreted and the reaction to the art piece had unforeseen consequences.
Students began dropping off food in front of the art piece believing the installation to be a real person who was homeless. “I came back the next day… and somebody had left a little bag of food. And I was like ‘Oh my God, I don’t know what to do with this,’” Vanwyck said.
Vanwyck received an email from an upset parent and their art piece was also addressed on a campus-wide email by Dean of Students JoNes Van Hecke. There are many other pieces created by Day Course students installed around campus, bringing more attention to contemporary art and the topics these students have chosen to highlight in their work.

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