Saturday, May 20, 2023

Having Fun and Creating Community - The Mental Health Benefits of a Collaborative Art Project

Ready to make the first mark.

One of Professor Nordell's teaching goals for the year was to add more active learning experiences to his History of Art class.  Over winter break he attended an online professional development workshop presented by Faye Kendall: Considering Mental Health Challenges in the Art Classroom 

Kendall noted how collaborative projects can foster classroom community and allow students to develop social and emotional skills.  She described such a project where by using lengths of tape attached to a single paint brush, four students can work on a painting together.

"Teamwork makes the dreamwork," said Hunter, shown at front right.

Kendall also pointed out how perfectionism can be a roadblock to enjoying art.  Professor Nordell assigned the project to build classroom community and to take pressure off of public individual performance which can produce anxiety.

Some students said it was fun. Some some students said it was cool.  Many said it was hard.  When Professor Nordell asked, "Is hard bad?" he was met with a hearty round of "No!"  

Professor Nordell first instructed groups of students to paint a peace sign together.

Before introducing the project to students, Professor Nordell discussed the connections between making art and play.  To further get into the spirit of art, fun and playfulness, he showed the silly yet informative video created by Mr. Bradley on his Leaning Made Fun YouTube channel titled Cave Art | Stone Age Paintings (How they did it?), in which Mr. Bradley, among other things, spits a mouthful of paint over his hand placed on a cave wall to make a stenciled imprint. Talk about hands-on teaching!

A Cube - After the peace sign, Professor Nordell asked each group of students to paint something more complicated.

To further up the collaborative ante, Professor Nordell had each group of four to pair up with another group to create together.

The purple paint team finishes the smiley face as the orange team looks on.

There was lots of laughter and joking around. Members of the football team engaged in gentle trash talking.

Eight people but only two brushes!

Debriefing the experience, Karashan suggested to have the experience at the beginning of the semester as a way to get to know classmates, "as you would talk to people you would never talk to." 

Letters can be easier than circles.
The orange paint group found that painting the word "art" was easier than making the peace sign, as four people painting a circle with one brush proved difficult to coordinate, as the students needed to figure out which way to go. 

Hmm... Students challenged to coordinate their physical and aesthetic actions for a common artistic goal. Sounds pretty good to us! 

Monday, May 15, 2023

AIC's Shea Library Then and Now: Contemporary Visions of Historical Photographs

Director of Library Services Heidi Spencer approached Professor John Nordell with an idea of recreating historical images taken in the library for an exhibition of the then and now photographs.  Professor Nordell's Digital Photography 2 students rose to the challenge. Along with mastering photographic and Photoshop skills, project management (developing timelines, writing proposals, meeting deadlines, and so on) is a key aspect of the Photo 2 curriculum.  In this vein, a week before the library shoot, with print outs of the historical images in hand, the students scouted the locations to be as prepared as possible.  Upon completing the project, students wrote reflections to assess the experience and to solidify their learning. Click on an image to enlarge it.

"I did feel prepared to take the photos because we location scouted the class beforehand, and I was confident in what I was going to do come shoot day." Photo by Hunter Urbanski

Professor Nordell put out a call for diverse models and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, along with the College Steps program, reached out as well.  

"I learned that you have to patient with the people you are photographing, because not everyone is going to pose exactly how you want or be in the perfect spot that fits your vision. So taking multiple photos and being patient was something I learned."  Photo by Javon Flynn

"I felt prepared to take my images for today's assignment in the library. The only thing I was worried about was having enough people to sit in the flag room for my image in there, but it worked out." Photo by Kayla Decaro

It worked out because Saima Kahn, who not only showed up to model, also recruited other students to be models and helped organize the shots. One of the student photographers said of Saima: "She was so helpful finding people. She is really outgoing!"

"Overall, I'm not going to lie. I was not prepared and I didn't feel prepared, but luckily Professor Nordell was there to save the day. I forgot my camera which was such a bone headed move: how on earth did I think I was going to take photos without camera?" Photo by Javon Flynn

Nayelimar Poventud, one the of the photographers, also modeled in the above image.  She later wrote, "I really loved it when my friend from class took an amazing picture of me and the other guys, while we were sitting on the grass."

Hunter Urbanski photographed his classmate Javon Flynn at work. Hunter reflected, "I thought it was a good experience to be in a “professional” environment and also shoot random subjects. Overall I thought it was a great learning experience." 

"I felt excited because I saw one of my classmates and we were working together." Photo by Nayelimar Poventud

"I felt a little stressed because the professor was asking me to do new things." Photo by Nayelimar Poventud

"Something I learned about photographing people is that you need to be a little bit more outgoing and talk to different people to get them to pose a certain way, or just to engage in conversation with them."  Photo by Kayla Decaro

"I learned that photographing people for this project took time and effort. I didn't rush through it to get it done and over with, I took multiple pictures with different angles. I also noticed how I had to direct my models to pose a certain way like how the original looked like."  Photo by Eric Blase

Javon Flynn photographed classmate Eric Blase going over camera settings with Professor Nordell

"With the help from my professor and students I was focused and ready to take pictures without any excuses. The only thing that I wasn't prepared on was knowing if my camera was fully charged or not. Next time I'll check the night before to see if it is fully charged."  Photo by Eric Blase

Kayla Decaro photographed her classmate Eric Blase in action.  She wrote, "I thought that photographing Eric as he took pictures of the president was cool.  I think the behind the scenes pictures I took really show a lot and documented the experience for him."

"You have to be transparent with your subjects about what shot you need to get and also make them feel comfortable. It is also good to get to know them so the photographing isn’t awkward."  Photo by Hunter Urbanski

A big thanks to the models:  Saima Kahn, Althea Michel, Jennifer Fuller, Brooke Szafran, Emilee David, Javon Flynn, Nayelimar Poventud, Isaiah Darden, Aleksandra Ivanovic, along with President Benetiz and his Cabinet.

After the shoot, we heard from the Director of Library Services:

Dear Professor Nordell,

Please share this message with your class.

It was a pleasure to have you photograph people and places in and around James J. Shea Sr. Memorial Library. You took your assignment seriously and with respect. Your enthusiasm for the project was a joy to watch. I hope you are pleased with your photographs as they will be a part of AIC’s rich history! Who knows? Maybe fifty years from now another class will recreate your photographs! I look forward to seeing your creativity shine.


Thursday, May 11, 2023

From Struggle to Success - The Minority Experience and the Art Market - Report by Karashan Mansaray

Throughout the semester participating in Professor Nordell’s “History of Art” course, my number one take away was the amount of opportunities art has to offer. In society, we are taught from an early age the traditional and simplistic workforce and job opportunities, but as time evolves, so does the workforce. Now we are lucky to live in a prominent time where careers and the workforce itself are as dynamic as ever. My virtual art museum primarily focused on the minority experience and its two sides of struggle and success. The cultures focused on specifically in my museum were the African American, Hispanic and Jewish cultures. Each of these respective groups has faced a tremendous number of trials and tribulations, but through these experiences created a newfound strength and versatility, allowing them to succeed despite the roadblocks in front of them. And for many of these individuals from these groups, it required them to think creatively of more creative ways to make a living and become successful in society.
Detail of Virtual Museum Wing - Struggle Art
At left: "Women with Boulders", 1945, George Mayer-Marton
At right: "The Hunted Slaves", Richard Andsell, 1861  Click on image to enlarge.

This creativity fostered many of the greatest artists known to society not only in America, but the world. This was their way of defying the odds of making it in the traditional world, by being able to not only tell a story of their specific journey, but also the journey of many people like them and from their culture. Aside from art just being a way to express yourself and your beliefs, there is also a business side to it. Being a “General Business” student, I have learned the different markets and companies that our world is filled with. Aside from the generic and simplistic markets, one of the biggest markets on the uprising is the arts market. This ranges from paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other forms of physical and electronic displays of art. According to The Business Research Company, “Arts Global Market Report”, January 2023,  “The global arts market grew from $441.02 billion in 2022 to $579.52 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.4%.”  This number surprised me because it showed the powerful impact of the global art market.

Detail of Virtual Museum Wing - Success Art  
At left: Jacob Lawrence, "Migration Series", 1940-1941 
At right: Diego Rivera, "Man At Crossroads" / "Hombre en la Encrucijada", 1933

These ideas connect to my museum, because as I stated earlier, there was a time when people of color, immigrants and other specific groups, faced discrimination due to their ethnicity or background. This caused them to be at a disadvantage in society and in the business world financially. This caused many to become artists of all kinds, from music to stencil. My museum not only focuses on them, but how they created this art market with these famous and tremendous pieces of art. Many of the paintings in my museum were created by these people who revolutionized the business world, creating work so precise and beautiful it changed the world's market because everyone wanted to buy it. Now famous pieces of works are seen as stock, as they are bid on, collected, and continue to accrue value as time goes on. For example, one of the most expensive pieces of art in the world is listed at a price of 450 million dollars. Being a Business major, but also taking this course, allowed me to open and connect my degree with my creative side, seeing that there are a lot of markets of art that should be researched as a career to upcoming creative students. Click to view my museum and take your own perspective.

My Creative Experience at AIC - A Refection by Occupational Therapy Student Grace Beaupre

As a graduating senior at AIC, I never expected my involvement on campus to be so dependent on my creativity. Primarily, because I never thought of myself as creatively gifted. I was scared of creativity. I saw it as such an incredibly broad and unforgiving realm of expression, that I did not know where a Type A, neurotic, high-strung person, that is myself, would fit in. However, I’ve learned the world of creativity is also so incredibly nuanced, that simply bringing my perspective to a situation, was a form of creativity in itself.

Climate Change - Before and After by Grace Beaupre (Click on image to enlarge.)

I developed my take on perspective in creativity during my History of Photojournalism course. This was when I learned how impactful it is to convey a message through perspective. I created a project on climate change and its effect on increasingly destructive natural disasters. My goal was to embody the duality of before and after, two different perspectives combined to create a significant truth. This is when I saw the value of creating through perspective.

I began to learn creativity wasn’t necessarily artistically involved. It also meant I could use my perspective to create change. This mindset greatly impacted my athletic career at AIC. Complications began my freshman year when I sustained an injury. By my senior year, I endured two (soon to be three) knee surgeries and experienced athletics in a post-Covid world. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to play in a regulation game but remained a member of the team. My senior year I used my unique perspective about being a contributing member to team dynamic as my campaign to run for captain. Sharing this insight was my opportunity to create change in the operations of our team and encourage a positive environment.
The Captains - Photo by Megan Santiago '22 
L- R: Rachel Newman, Olivia Sousa, and Caroline Porter, Grace Beaupre

I am continuing my education at AIC to receive my Master of Occupational Therapy degree. This profession symbolizes the concept that every person is a combination of their own experiences and abilities. This requires an ever changing and fluent perspective with every client. This requires understanding the detrimental effects of pre-conceived notions. Perspective, and creativity, are relative.

I recently had the opportunity to use stamps created from AIC’s 3D printing machine to construct a communication board.  The above video shows how the stamps were 3D printed.  

OT students ink Yes - No stamps to print them.

Grace is 4th from the front.

Creative Process - Grace's printed stamp experimentations became progressively more clear.

This exemplified the impact of creating individualized, client-centered technology; something that is only possible when understanding each person through a unique perspective. By learning my style of creativity, I am seeing not only my expressive ability improve, by my clinical practice flourish.

Communication Professor John Nordell collaborated with Occupational Therapy Professor Jennifer Nordstrom to connect her OT students with creativity and 3D printing.  Professor Nordell, who taught Grace's History of Photojournalism course, asked Grace to write about her experiences with creativity at American International College.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Psychology Major Annekkia Ritter-Truxal Connects the Rugby Pitch and the Art Room

As a college athlete, I have experienced both the ups and downs of being on an athletic team. I am currently part of the women’s rugby team at American International College. The rugby team has become my second family that I will forever cherish. I have had the opportunity to create lifelong friends that I would have never made anywhere else. 

Annekia On the Pitch - Photos by Professor Nordell, who teaches Cultivating Creativity

Along with my college rugby experience, I have also had the chance to take part in many intriguing courses on campus. One of them being “Cultivating Creativity.” Similar to when I first started rugby, I was terrified to start this course. I instantly started to self-doubted myself and think I was not good enough at the artwork required for this course. My mindset was 100% negative. This was similar to when I first started rugby; I started the first practice with a negative mindset. From the moment I started the class and rugby, my mindset has significantly changed for the better.

Break Down the Bars of Silence by Annekkia

Before taking “Cultivating Creativity,” I had never fully understood the connection that creativity had on the rugby pitch and the art room. While in class, I created a project called “Break Down the Bars of Silence.” This project represented how America can overcome controversial social topics with love. 

Seeing Connections

On the rugby pitch and within the team, I often see how connections with each other overcome the diversity among the team.

The Team Celebrates a Victory

When we first walked on, we all came from different backgrounds with different stories, but the one thing bringing us together was the love for rugby. Our connection is so loud and vibrates that it breaks down the so-called bars of differences among us all. Rugby is a game of camaraderie, team building, and culture. As a team, we grow off of each other and learn to overcome different battles as one. I will forever cherish the connections within my team, and we will always break the barriers among our differences.

 Annekkia Created This Inclusive Sign For Her Cultivating Creativity Class

The Art of Rugby

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Climate Storytelling Art Show Opening Reception 4/26/23

Art show opening reception Wednesday 4/26/23 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Location: West Wing Gallery of the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center, 1000 State Street, Springfield, MA Refreshments will be served. You are invited to join us.

We noticed an Instagram a post from Intersectional Environmentalist titled:  The Power of Radical and Intersectional Environmental Storytelling

This led to Midterm Projects focused on Climate Storytelling.created by students in Digital Photography 1 and 2, as well as Cultivating Creativity 

Information Literacy Librarian Maxine Girard visited Professor Nordell's classes to explain using the Gale in Context: Environmental Studies Database.  Maxine also made a tutorial video that shows effective use of the database.  Students chose themes of personal interest from the over 400 topics related to environmental issues.

History of Art student Charlotte Tvelia distills the essence of the exhibition:

The following pieces were created by students with a wide variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and approaches. Despite these differences, all of these students used their artwork to bring awareness to the climate crisis. Although we are all suffering the effects of climate change, some groups of people are more affected than others, as highlighted in Intersectional Environmentalist's Instagram post. It is crucial that we understand how intersectionalism and climate change are intertwined, and bring awareness through methods such as artwork, music, speech, and writing

We start with some in-depth reports in blog post form.  Click captions to view blog posts.

COM Major Kayla Decaro Explains How to Use the Yuka App to Determine
Whether Your Cosmetic and Personal Care Products Contain Toxic Chemicals

VDA Major Hunter Urbanski's Documents
Ocean Contamination and Algae Blooms in Florida 
Liberal Studies Major Madeline Jacyszn Presents Positive Visual
Climate Storytelling at AIC's Undergraduate Research Symposium

A sampling of Climate Storytelling artworks that will be on display.

Carbon's Ripple: Painting By Leslie Brazeau

Extreme Weather: Digital Photograph By Amelia Rodriguez

Sealife Trash: Sculpture Made of Recyclables By Abigail Gaudreau

Stop Deforestation: Digital Photograph By Aleksandra Ivanovic

We Need to Recycle: Digital Photomontage By Nayelimar Poventud

Draining of Color - The Ocean Lost: Painting By Frances Arnold

Monday, April 17, 2023

Liberal Studies Major Madeline Jacyszn Presents Positive Visual Climate Storytelling at AIC's Undergraduate Research Symposium

The 2023 Undergraduate Research Symposium will take place on April 19th from 11:30 am - 12:30 pm in the Campus Center Auditorium.

Madeline Jacyszn's abstract for her submission to the Undergraduate Research Symposium.  She created the art in these courses: Digital Photography 1 and Cultivating Creativity.

This project would be artistic representations of two examples of positive climate storytelling via an illustration and photographs. The first representation would be of the mass orange peel composting experiment conducted by Princeton ecologists and orange juice manufacturer Del Oro. As requested by the ecologists, Del Oro diverted the food waste from its production to a section of degraded land. When revisited, it was found the land had richer soil and greater vegetation than adjacent land that hadn’t received the orange peels. The second representation would be of the Holyoke Dam and its relationship to the city of Holyoke. It provides Holyoke with its own hydroelectric power and has a fish elevator to alleviate the dam disrupting fish migrating upstream. The goal of both of these representations is to showcase that humanity being more integrated with the environment has positive impacts on the climate.

Trifold Illustration

Three-panel illustration of a section of land in Costa Rica undergoing revitalization in three stages, done using artist pastels. From left to right, the first section showcases the section of land in the first stage as a degraded section of pastureland under a red sunset sky. On the far right, the second section shows the land in the second stage, covered in agricultural waste, specifically orange peels, in an attempt to revitalize it. The third section, the middle, displays that the experiment was successful, with a noticeable increase in the greenery of the area and a hint that other life has also returned to the area with the birds flying in the sky. Pastels were blended with a human hand, due to the cardboard texture of the trifold not lending itself well to the illustration initially.

The process was part of an experiment started in 1997, where two ecologists struck a deal with orange juice manufacturer Del Oro. In exchange for a piece of Del Oro's forested land, it would be allowed to dump its organic waste (orange peels) onto a degraded former pastureland of the conservation area, free of charge. The intention was to see if the mass deposition of agricultural waste would be an effective, low-cost method of tropical forest restoration. Despite legal intervention involving a rival orange juice manufacturer, the site was formally evaluated 15 years later for the effects. What was found was significant differences between the control, or the area that had not been covered in orange peels, and the experimental area. In summary, the experimental area was found to have richer soil, greater tree biomass, higher abundance of tree diversity, and greater canopy cover.

This experiment is significant because it sets a precedent for recycling industrial agricultural waste as a cheaper method for forest restoration, which would in turn not only mitigate habitat loss of animals but also be a cheaper method of carbon sequestration.

Holyoke Dam Photograph

Photograph of the Holyoke Dam, with the city it provides hydroelectric power to seen in the background. The dam is notable because it not only is a source of green energy, but it also has accommodations for the fish of the river such as the Robert E. Barrett Fishway to transport migrating fish whose path is obstructed by the dam. The fishway has since had a modification to transport more fish.

As a resident of Holyoke, I have experienced personal benefits from living in the city powered by the dam. Particularly notable in my recent memory was an incident some years ago around Halloween, when cities in the Western Massachusetts area were hit by a blackout. Holyoke was exempt because the dam provided the city most of its power, and therefore was not affected by what hit the power sources of the other cities. It was a small incident but it stuck in my mind, which in turn made me appreciate what the dam does for the city. That was what inspired this photograph, with the Holyoke dam and Holyoke itself.

Draft Trifold Illustration

Colored draft of the three-panel illustration, done on paper with artist pastels. The scene was sketched out with pencil using images of Costa Rica and pictures of the experiment site as reference, before applying the pastels. Each color of the sky for the three panels was different in order to differentiate them as well as for aesthetic purposes. An early problem that was noted was that the pastels completely covered the pencil guidelines, which made it difficult to color in the illustration according to the sketch. It necessitated tracing over the guidelines with the pastels beforehand so they were still present enough to be used during the coloring stage but did not interfere with the look of the final image.

Another problem was encountered when recreating the draft on the trifold. After a successful sketch and reaching the coloring stage, the differences in texture between the paper used for the draft image and the cardboard of the trifold for the final illustration became evident. The draft image's paper texture, even while blended, lent itself well to a vegetative look for the middle panel, but the texture of the cardboard was too choppy. It had to be blended out with a hand to get full coverage of the pastel on the trifold, but this meant there was no longer any texture. This was attempted to be compensated for with some subtle gradients and a rough outline to simulate treetops.

References for the Orange Peel Experiment: Article and In-Depth Study
Reference for the Holyoke Dam: Info