Interdisciplinary art is a crucial factor in the education of an Oberlin student. Meeting and making art with other artists, however, is harder than it might seem.
Filling the void is art-haus, the student-run art enrichment group founded this year to make previously inaccessible collaborative art projects possible. art-haus aims to be a "space for the meeting of the disciplines of the arts," said Katie Shorb, a conservatory sophomore composition major and the student emcee for art-haus.
The actual production of art will be up to the individual students. "It will be a place where artists can meet other artists from different disciplines, educate each other and discuss topics in the integration of the arts," said Shorb.
The year's first meeting was held in Asia House's Shipherd Lounge one month ago. Meetings will be held the first Monday of every month. The meeting focused primarily on what interdiscipline and multi-media art means to students. An open discussion followed Shorb's brief introduction on what art-haus is.
As will be the tradition for future art-haus meetings, three professors from different areas of the arts spoke at the last meeting: Richard Povall, professor of TIMARA, Lynn Lukkas, professor of art and Professor of Theater Roger Copeland. Art-haus was made possible by a teaching grant awarded to Povall.
Povall says that he sees art-haus as a way to bring artists of different forums together and to initiate "talk among the disciplines." He thinks that it can be whatever the students want it to be as long as creative expression is not limited. Possibilities that he sees for art-haus to become are a forum for critique, a place for visiting artists, and a showcase for student work.
"It's easy to talk about combining the arts but difficult to actually combine them," he said. When, for example, artists of different disciplines start working together, they realize that they "don't really speak the same language at all." Still, all the students in the room and also the other professors emphasized the desire to be able to work with other artists in order to make their final art more expressive.
College sophomore Orion Keyser said that he sees an intrinsic connection between all different types of art. "All art assaults all our senses," he said. The major concern for most of the students was that they felt isolated from artists of different disciplines and didn't know where to look when they wanted to work with another artist on a specific project. One of the issues discussed was how to unite the College and the Conservatory.
Copeland called this collaborative spirit the "zeitgeist" of our time. While recognizing its importance, he was quick to caution against getting too caught up in collaboration. He said that artists must "maintain a balance and the integrity" of their own particular art.
Although the ideas behind art-haus were embraced by attendees, trying to structure it in order to fit into the institution's system of credits and grades seems a dubious task. Conservatory junior Bill Stevens pointed out, "We have structures in Oberlin that we can do this in." Referring to ExCo credit and winter term projects, he said, "We have venues to take advantage of here."
Many students thought that without guarantees of specific and substantial credit hours, undertaking a interdisciplinary project would be too hard. Although it will not be a function of art-haus to initiate curricular or structural change, when asked how to address these issues, Povall told students to apply pressure to "everybody and anybody."
Another concern of the students was of the responsibility of themselves as artist to the other artists in the community. They pointed out the importance of going to see other types of art that are not necessarily in their particular field in order to support the entire artist community. art-haus will be a way for artists to find out about art and art forms that they would not otherwise be exposed to.
art-haus will have its monthly meeting this Monday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in Asia House's Shipherd Lounge. All are welcome.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 7, October 31, 1997
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