Grant Fine Arts Library Supports Research Reimagined in the School of Visual Arts

The 2nd Friday Norman Art Walk is a community art event held every month in the Walker Arts District of downtown Norman. The Grant Fine Arts Library unofficially participates each month of the academic session. This semester, the Fine Arts Library helped Sigma Lambda Beta and the OU Center for Social Justice present a Hispanic Art Showcase during
Hispanic Heritage Month. They also support courses by providing space and support for students in the School of Visual Arts to present their work.

In one of the courses exhibiting in the Fine Arts Library, students taking New Media Art developed new media-based projects related to the students’ research paper topics.
Robert Bailey, associate professor of art history in the School of Visual Arts said, “these (projects) ranged from videos to performances, incorporated other arts such as poetry and dance, made use of technologies new and old, crossed barriers between the arts and sciences, and leveled hierarchies separating the fine arts from media like video games. The Fine Arts Library was an ideal venue in which to present all of this work because it returned to the site where students did their research…which helped them to understand better how knowledge builds on itself, growing in ever-new directions. Moreover, the students gained deeper hands-on practical experience with the new media they were studying in historical, theoretical, and critical ways because the Fine Arts Library could support such a wide variety of media. Having this kind of open-ended, flexible, and dynamic venue drove students to do better because they knew that their work would reflect their thinking in whatever ways they chose and they knew that it would be seen and experienced by others — in other words, they knew that what they did would have significance in the world beyond the confines of a course, raising the stakes of their work and leading to more driven research as a consequence."

"The result is better work all around with a wider impact."

Weizenhoffer College of Fine Arts senior and student in the course, Kelley Queen, contributed an in-progress installation where she partially covered a table and chair in crochet.
“Honestly, my plan was to have it all covered before the show, but due to running out of time, I turned it into a performance installation,” Queen said. “During the show, I continued adding to it and even got to work while a lady I met asked to sit and knit with me. That part was super cool to me and I had a lot of fun working on this. It's still being added to as well!”
“I learned a lot about just how much work goes into doing a project like this,” said Queen. “Having my work on public display is super exciting to me, because I look forward to the social interactions with the viewers, hearing what they think of the work and also seeing how they interact with it. Something so bright and consuming of a space like the crochet made it really fun to watch how people felt about it.”
Daniel Helm, graduate assistant for the art, culture and technology course which exhibited “Experiments in Art, Film and Video” in October said that the opportunity for students to exhibit their projects mid-semester had an additional benefit for students.
“Our class has students working with technologies completely new to them,” Helm said. “The opportunity to showcase their earliest experiments with video game design really helped motivate the students to not only push through the steep learning curve rather quickly but also to do so in a way that thought about how their voice could be expressed through the technology. It can be a delicate balance to work both of those out at the same time, and I think the mid-semester exhibition provided a comfortable space for the students to be excited about the potential of a new medium and get quick feedback on how viewers responded to their work.”
Jasmine Jones, also a senior in the Weizenhoffer College of Fine Arts, focused her contribution on the interactive qualities of art and what those qualities can provide to an audience.
“Historically, I’ve found this type of engagement to be underestimated and a sort of ‘underdog’ approach to art and I explored it in my project Bouquet,” Jones said. “Bouquet consisted of me having a moment with a participant and wrapping a part of their body with saran wrap and embedding rose petals and lavender, integrating a therapeutic factor into it. With this security, intimacy, and awareness of the human body in relation to one another in mind, nearly all my participants mentioned that they felt comforted, yet anxious.”
In addition to the benefits of having their work displayed in the Fine Arts Library, the 2nd Friday events are a new experience for the students.
Helm said, “The event itself was fun! My students really enjoyed relaxing in the space, and it was great seeing a crowd of friends and family supporting the work and enjoying the library.”
Bailey said the opportunity to partner with the Fine Arts Library as a forum for displaying student work fundamentally reshaped the way he approaches certain aspects of curriculum design.
“Because a library is a venue for making knowledge accessible, I have rethought the sorts of assignments I require of students in my art history courses so that they can interface with the various publics who use the library,” Bailey said. “Rather than submit a final paper or exam to the audience of one that is their professor, students are able to share the results of their research in ways that make art history more broadly available than it generally is. To facilitate this, I have begun incorporating assignments that ask students to visualize their knowledge in addition to the usual written work expected in art history courses so that it can be displayed around the library in various ways. Because so many of my students are art or design majors, this means that they are able to integrate their existing creative skillsets more fully into their research process, resulting in better projects. While art history majors and others get to stretch out into some unfamiliar ways of thinking about how they can share the knowledge they produce when researching. The result is better work all around with a wider impact.”
The current exhibit, New Media/Art History Showcase is on display through Dec. 6.

"The credit for the successful programs and the imaginative use of the space belongs to our graduate assistant, Melissa Gray," Matt Stock, fine and applied arts librarian, said. "As an artist and student in the School of Visual Arts herself, she saw possibilities I never would have and knew exactly who would share her enthusiasm for creating unique events for the space. With the excitement we’ve already seen from the students and faculty I’m confident these events will continue long after she graduates." 

Follow the OU Fine Arts Library on Facebook to be the first to know about 2nd Friday events coming up in spring 2019. The first of which for the spring semester begins with sculptures created specifically for the Fine Arts Library by assistant professor of sculpture in the department of art and art history, Daren Kendall's students. March will feature OU alumni Annavittoria Connor’s sculptures and prints and the spring semester's events will conclude with a zine-fest featuring students works of professors Curtis Jones and Robert Bailey.

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