“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.” This phrase of Plutarch’s describes one teaching innovation presently underway at UNCG. This fall, art lecturer Amanda Crary approached visiting assistant professor of poetry, Ansel Elkins, about a collaboration between their classes. Elkins found room in her syllabus for Crary’s idea and the work began.
In mid-November the poets of Elkins’ beginning and intermediate poetry writing classes provided their most recent drafts of poems to the artists in Amanda Crary’s beginning studio art classes. For the past ten days Crary’s students have been working on projects which are meant to be visual representations of the poems. Both parts of the collaboration will be presented Monday, Dec. 5, in an event Crary and Elkins have titled “Poiesis,” derived from an ancient Greek term meaning “creation.”
Elkins explained that on the poetry side, the collaboration encouraged the students to think more visually, and about concrete images, which she feels is essential in creative writing. Submitting poems to the art students was an optional project for Elkins’ students, but she had 100 percent participation. “They’re excited about seeing how their work is interpreted by someone working in a completely different medium,” she said.
Crary’s students have read the poets’ work and considered, what Crary calls, “the mood and temperature” of the poems. Their creations, which are books of various sizes, are meant to be not only made up of illustrations, but to involve various textures and design principles to represent the poems. The artists were instructed to communicate with the poets as they undertook the visual projects. Crary says she’s also received a very positive response from her students concerning this project.
At the culminating event, Poiesis, the poetry students will read their work aloud, and Elkins says that preparing for that has helped students think about their pieces as objects of performance and has taught them to “linger over the words, and relish the language.”
Crary believes that having the poetry read will “activate the space in a stronger way” and will encourage the audience and participants to spend more time viewing the visual artists’ creations. “There’s something really powerful about hearing the words,” she said. Both instructors are looking forward to what they call “the unveiling” at Poiesis.
Crary and Elkins plan to facilitate a collaboration in their spring classes. “It’s an experiment,” Elkins said. “We hope to bring some of the energy of both classes into a really cool fusion.”
“Words and art go hand in hand,” added Crary.
Poiesis will take place in the Gatewood Studio Arts Center atrium on Monday, Dec. 5, at 5 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.
The Poiesis project is just one example of an innovation in teaching at UNCG. The Office of the Provost is currently soliciting cross/multi/interdisciplinary research and creative activity proposals tied to the thematic areas of focus in the UNCG strategic plan: health and well-being, vibrant communities, and global connections. Faculty are being asked to review those three themes in the University Plan and consider responding to one of the three RFPs available to provide seed funding for teaching innovations or research tied to the Strategic Plan. Proposals are due by December 9. Go here for more information.
By Susan Kirby-Smith
Visual: Art by Amanda Crary’s student Hannah Baker; inspired by Ansel Elkins’ student Hannah Dodson