CAAD summer program synthesizes arts and technology

From Sept 12 to 17 in the James W. Palmer III Gallery, student and guest artists displayed the projects they worked on over the summer through CAAD’s Summer Multi-Arts Collectives program. / Courtesy of Starrett

What is an artist without a space? Someone constantly in practice but never in presentation. In order to grow or receive attention, the artist needs a space—whether it be a stage, a gallery or even a website—to showcase their talent. This is especially difficult when countless other artists are competing for the spectator’s attention. At Vassar, fortunately, we have the Creative Arts Across Disciplines (CAAD) initiative.

Students who participated in CAAD’s Summer Multi-Arts Collectives program had their works previewed in the James W. Palmer III Gallery from Sept. 12 to 17. Also featuring works by artists-in-residence Courtney Starrett and Susan Reiser, “Remix: Interdisciplinary Exploration by the 2017 Summer Multi-Arts Collectives” included projects by Jake Brody ’18, Charlotte Foley ’18, Audrey Keefe ’18, Antoine Robinson ’18 and Noah Trueblood ’18.

For their installation “Windswept,” Brody and Trueblood wanted to incorporate computer science and engineering to further their artistic vision. For the project, the artists created an app that allows users to enter the coordinates of any place in the world on a certain date and animate the real-time wind movement anywhere on the globe, projecting the image onto a screen. During the summer, they met with Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and American Studies Lisa Brawley of the Media Studies Program to determine how to develop their ideas.

Trueblood elaborated on how their project amalgamated technology and art into a unified effect: “The goal of ‘Windswept’ is to explore the relationship between nature and mechanics by using mechanical motion to animate the natural phenomenon of wind. When thinking of ideas for a project, we were drawn to the unique experience of the touch of wind and the contrast between a gentle breeze and a hurricane gust. The project was created through exploring and honing a visual that can convey and, using machine learning, accurately predict wind patterns for any location or point in time in the world.”

Brody appreciated the collaborative aspect that the Summer Multi-Arts Collectives program provided. “Noah actually brought CAAD to my attention. He came to me with a concept which would develop into ‘Windswept,’” Brodey stated. “CAAD was a great opportunity for me to work in a more structured way—I typically work on a less mapped-out schedule. The experience also reminded me of the importance of communication, whether between Noah and I or the entire CAAD group, during critiques. I had to learn how to explain an idea so that it made sense to any person.”

Starrett and Reiser’s piece “Installations” consisted of multicolored lights, which were frequently adjusted throughout the day, shining on polygonal figures and a suspended lattice-patterned structure. An artist in her own right, Starrett is also an assistant professor of fine and digital art at Seton Hall University and the co-owner of Plural Studios, whose mission is to create objects for the home or body that integrate technological elements. Reiser has a background in software development and is the Associate Dean of Natural Sciences and a lecturer for UNC Asheville in North Carolina.

Interdisciplinary Coordinator for CAAD Tom Pacio first discovered Starrett and Reiser’s works at a local exhibit in New Paltz, seeing their potential benefit to CAAD’s Summer Multi-Arts1` Collectives: “The Summer Multi-Arts Collectives are a proposal-based program in which students from different disciplines submit ideas that are approved by the CAAD committee,” Pacio explained. “Courtney Starrett is a local artist who I met at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art last fall. Her piece there, ‘Clever on a Sunday,’ had wonderful interdisciplinary roots—specifically integrating visual art with computer science and data. Luckily, both Starrett and her collaborator, Susan Reiser, were interested and available to be artists-in-residence for the summer of 2017. Not only did they work on what you saw in the Palmer, they also were available to the students as mentors for their work.”

CAAD, since its inception in 2014, has centered its yearly programming around loose themes of the five senses, with 2014-15 focusing on vision and the last academic year centering around touch. One of the most distinct parts of CAAD is their Collabo- ratory, a nifty little trailer that is always spotting up in random places around campus.

As CAAD’s Production Manager Omri Bareket ’19 expressed, “We are a resource that has access to some extraordinary resources, such as the Collaboratory, with a clear goal of expanding the interdisciplinary arts on this campus. What’s exciting about this goal is that the interdisciplinary sect is more often than not on the pulse of the latest technology or new trends in the arts, giving the Vassar community exposure to such great work as well as the opportunities to create this kind of work…”

This year, CAAD’s programming has broadened to revolve around the theme of “The Senses.” At Late Night at the Loeb, CAAD will collaborate with the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center for two

events, “Blueprint for Counter Education” on Sept. 28 and “The Art of Protest: Faith and Power in the Age of Martin Luther’s Reformation” on Nov. 2.

Pacio has been involved with CAAD since the beginning and has witnessed the program’s growing enrichment of Vassar’s artists. As he reflected, “I believe CAAD has gained some real momentum since it began … What is really encouraging to me is seeing ideas coming from departments, faculty and students who may not normally work together collaborating on projects that are complicated, sophisticated and that fit into the mission of the college. I think of Vassar as a place that encourages those who work and study here to ask questions that could change the world, that ask the world to be a better place. My hope is that CAAD, and the creative arts in general, can be part of this conversation—that feels like something special.”

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