Palmer Gallery hosts collaborative sensory exhibition

It’s easy to miss the Palmer Gallery, whether you’re rushing to the Retreat for a snack or just not paying much attention. While the gallery is always worth a stop inside, its newest exhibition should not be missed. Running from Feb. 26 to March 13, Palmer will feature an interactive exhibit called “Boundary-Crossing: Case Studies in Collaborative Creativity.”

The exhibit is supported by the Creative Arts Across Disciplines (CAAD) initiative. The initiative is a three-year project that is new to Vassar and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It aims to bridge the gap between art and other disciplines at Vassar as well as engage more students through activities, events and curricular tie-ins.

According to the Interdisciplinary Arts Coordinator and curator of this exhibit, Ariel Nereson, “CAAD is a three-year project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enhance integration of the creative arts across the curriculum through supporting curriculum development, guest artist residencies and summer multi-arts collectives.” Their events are loosely themed around the senses. In 2014-2015, their events revolved around “Vision;” in 2015-2016, they will revolve around “Sound” and in 2016-2017, “Touch.”

CAAD also curates a blog to better reach the student body. “Our blog is a source for creative inspiration and insight into what is happening on campus and the world, with sections such as ‘Podcast of the Week and Weekend,’ ‘Creativity Breadcrumbs’ and ‘Field Work,’ says a student assistant with the initiative, Sofia Benitez ’18. The “Field Work” section generates responses to events on campus. It includes reviews of various plays, recitals and performances that all take place on campus. “This exposure to the work of students and faculty across campus has been incredibly nurturing and revealing,” says Benitez.

“When I first discovered CAAD, I was really attracted to its mission to foster more interdisciplinary work between the various departments here at Vassar. I have always had various academic and extracurricular interests, so the idea of promoting the combination of various subjects in student and faculty work through this program really interested me,” says another CAAD student assistant, Kayla Schwab ’17.

Benitez echoes this sentiment: “I began to work for Creative Arts Across Disciplines this year out of a deep interest in being a part of, and exploring artistic collaboration within and among the arts.”

Both students mention the access CAAD has given them to the Vassar community. “My experience at CAAD has been amazing so far… [it] has also allowed me to become more involved at Vassar, especially in terms of going to different performances, lectures and exhibitions,” says Schwab.

Student Assistant Taylor Nunley ’16 wrote, “The CAAD team will be pretty busy this semester because of the work we’ll be doing with artists from and outside of Vassar. And it’s the best kind of busy, because it won’t feel like work. It will feel like a group of creative people coming together to appreciate, promote and respond to various types of art.”

The initiative recently brought the Collaboratory to campus, a movable truck-like structure that houses students’ works.  “I’m eager to witness how the space transforms with each project it hosts and the way that the audience interacts with the work,” says Benitez. She describes the project as a “blank canvas” for students’ artwork.

According to Nereson, “‘Boundary Crossing: Case Studies in Collaborative Creativity’ is an exhibition focused on Vassar students, faculty and guest artists’ creative work that crosses disciplinary boundaries. For example, we are including video from recent projects involving physics and graphic design students, and cognitive science and dance students.” Damian Duffy and John Jennings, graphic novelists who will be in residency at Vassar in March, will also have their work showcased.

CAAD student assistants have also interviewed many other students about the role of creativity in their lives. “The students working for Academic Computing Services have turned the editing of this footage into their own creative, collaborative project that will be on view in the exhibition,” says Nereson.

CAAD student assistants are also contributing murals inspired by the Collaboratory. Benitez will be collaborating with another CAAD student assistant for her mural. “Alex Raz ’16 and I chose to create a collaborative piece that we are excited to share. We’ve worked together in the past, but it’s the first time we explore the medium that will be up in the Palmer,” she says. “We’re convinced the collaborative experience is something truly invaluable, where energy is focused both on process and product.”

As for the interactive aspect of the exhibit, visitors will have plenty to experience.

Nereson described the experience that the viewers will likely have, “Visitors will have the opportunity to solve ‘creativity equations,’ essentially mash-ups of works from Vassar’s Special Collections Library and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, that are in very different genres but connected thematically.” Benitez wrote, “There will be a lot to see and feel.”

CAAD plays an important role in bringing together the incredibly diverse talents and interests on a campus like Vassar’s. “Boundary Crossing” highlights the potential of these interdisciplinary efforts. The exhibit showcases student and faculty artwork from various genres and disciplines.

On this interaction, Benitez notes, “I think it’s crucial that we engage with the thoughts and representations of the interests of the Vassar community in order to grow and delve into spaces that question, inform and transform our realities.”

“Boundary Crossing” presents an exciting opportunity for gallery aficionados and passers-by alike to experience something new at Vassar. Whether that something new is feeling art, learning physics or just listening to other students’ stories, “Boundary Crossing” has it.

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