Oberlin Symposium Strives for Actual Change in a Virtual Setting

Beginning May 25, Crafting Change presents four weeks of innovative thinking for teachers, students, artists, and others—all of it free.

May 18, 2021

Erich Burnett

Crafting Change.
Photo credit: courtesy TIMARA

Events of the past year have taught us that meaningful change is possible even in dark times.

The same notion applies to the Crafting Change Symposium, a fully virtual series of presentations, concerts, panel discussions, and workshops, through which teachers—from kindergarten through college level—and artist-makers from a wide array of disciplines share their creative approaches to exploring science, humanities, art, and more, with an emphasis on inclusion.

The four-week symposium opens Tuesday, May 25, and continues through Saturday, June 19, with multiple programs scheduled each week—all of them free. It's designed for artists and educators—and continuing education credit is available—but it’s also intended for students, scholars, and others with a passion for fostering change.

A complete schedule of events can be found at the Crafting Change website.

Abby Aresty.
Abby Aresty (photo by Tanya-Rosen Jones '97)

The symposium is hosted by Oberlin College and Conservatory’s Center for Convergence, or StudiOC, where theme-based learning communities address some of the world’s greatest challenges through interdisciplinary approaches. It was devised by Abby Aresty, technical director of the conservatory’s TIMARA Department and a StudiOC teacher.

Envisioned prior to the rise of COVID-19, Crafting Change initially was slated to take two forms: a weekend event on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM); and another focusing on the intersections of traditional craft and technology experienced by artists and designers.

"Since I first conceived of this project, it has transformed several times over before reaching its final form, which we will all experience together over the course of the next month,” says Aresty. “And from that initial spark, the symposium has developed in new, exciting ways.” In particular, she praises the collaborative effort of numerous current students and recent graduates of Oberlin’s TIMARA Department—short for Technology in Music and Related Arts—who have been pivotal in creating Crafting Change.

"TIMARA is known for its incredible capacity for interdisciplinary work, and this symposium really tests the limits of what could be called a related art,” Aresty says.

Panels and presentations will focus on topics including crisis-informed teaching, creative approaches to learning, and more. Most programs last between 75 and 90 minutes and take place at midday, late afternoon, or evening.

It all starts May 25 with the first in a series of Micro Maker events, a 3 p.m. presentation by Ari Melenciano, a creative technologist at Google's Creative Lab and professor at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Graduate Program.

Future Micro Maker Series installments include sessions with Cornell University Professor Cindy Kao, who founded and directs the Hybrid Body Lab for the development of wearable technology (May 27 at 3 p.m.); University of Tokyo engineering professor Jie Qi, a multidisciplinary designer, inventor, and entrepreneur (June 1 at 3 p.m.); and textile designer, technologist, and researcher Audrey Briot, a specialist on the impact of new technologies on textile preservation (June 8 at 3 p.m.).

Other facets of the symposium include:

• Lightning Lunchtime Panels, in which guests discuss compelling topics that merge technology, artistry, education, and inclusion (various dates)

• A Crafting Sound Concert and panel discussion, through which artists examine value systems inherent in various sound technologies and ways in which new audiences can be engaged through creative sound-making practices (May 28 at 7:30 p.m.)

•  A Micro Maker Mixer, where creatives of all stripes can take part in an informal show-and-tell session (June 3 at 4:30 p.m.)

• A panel discussion featuring participants in the SmART Futures exhibition, co-hosted by Lorain County Community College (June 11 at 7:30 p.m.)

• “Making, Knowing, Learning,” a weekend workshop and panel in which artist-teachers discuss making as a form of critical inquiry that can be employed to explore the life cycle of the objects we make and those that have been crafted throughout the ages (June 12 at 1 p.m.). The panel includes Columbia University historian Pamela Smith, a specialist in craft and craftspeople of early modern Europe

• A “Sonic Arcade” that showcases audio and visual creations by current students, alumni, and others—including the Oberlin Synthesizer Ensemble and Chilean artist Constanza Piña (June 18 at 7:30 p.m.)

The Crafting Change Symposium is supported by Oberlin College and Conservatory; the StudiOC grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; TIMARA; the Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, and Research; Oberlin Center for the Arts; Lorain County Community College (LCCC); the Ohio Arts Council; and a Multi-Institutional Innovation grant to Oberlin and LCCC from Bringing Theory to Practice.

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