RASC/a program, “Scratchpad” forums, trips to on-site seminars, digs and more
RASC/a (derived from the Spanish vernacular for “scratch”) stands for “Rhetorics of Art, Space, and Culture” and marks a new curricular initiative in graduate studies launched in 2011. The department chose the unusual name to underline the commitment to shaping a small and innovative graduate program with close mentorship, rather than just another art history Ph.D. The program builds upon the strengths of the faculty and area resources, with particular emphasis on historical and new media, visual technologies, architecture and the city, race and gender, and a transnational, transatlantic approach of the arts of Latin America, Iberia and the Americas. Among the RASC/a laboratories created outside the traditional classroom are “Scratchpad,” an engaging monthly forum where faculty and graduate students share works in progress, and site-seminars, eight- to ten-day trips attached to semester-long art history seminars for on-site work with local curators and scholars, to sites such as Venice and Madrid.
The RASC/a principle of thinking beyond familiar patterns (intellectual “scratching”) extends into the undergraduate curriculum as well, in ways that are tied to art history’s internships, community engagement projects and curriculum. ARHS 1336 Rhetorics of Art, Space and Culture: Ways of Knowing is a new class that exposes students to the interdisciplinary field of art history, analyzing its intersections with anthropology, English, film studies, geography, history and religious studies. It also introduces the major debates within the field and the roles played by curators, archivists and librarians in the production of art knowledge.
Publication Studio “Pop-Up”
Art History has established a relationship with Publication Studio (PS), an organization dedicated to the publication and circulation of important new work by writers and artists outside the commercial marketplace. Its flexibility, efficiencies and low-threshold costs are adaptable in intriguing ways by the modern university, particularly for those, like SMU, with exceptional strengths in art history and other disciplines in the book arts, early manuscripts and print culture. PS was founded by novelist Matthew Stadler, former literary editor of Nest magazine and co-founder of Clear Cut Press with Patricia No. Based in Portland, Ore., the studio also visits other cities to collaborate and establish “sibling studios” using the same printing equipment and approach. In addition to Portland, PS maintains studios in San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Malmö, Sweden.
In 2013, the art history department at SMU will host a Publication Studio “pop-up” in collaboration with Art, English, Creative Computing, and a selection of campus and area collections and libraries that will include a one-week residency attached to an SMU class, open-to-the-public demonstrations, a rebinding party and public lectures by Matthew Stadler and Endowed Professor of Art History Roberto Tejada.
Each summer, undergraduate students are offered the opportunity to participate in the excavation of an Etruscan settlement in Tuscany directed by Professor Gregory Warden, who taught art history at SMU for three decades. Recent summer work has unearthed amazing new discoveries and artifacts. Learn more about the Poggio Colla excavation.
Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas
In early October, the Art and Art History departments team up to send 10-12 student volunteers to help staff the international “Open House” at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa. When Donald Judd started plans for the Chinati Foundation in the late ’70s, he was not only rethinking the concept of the museum, he was also embarking on two of his most ambitious works of art. It was Judd’s goal to create outdoor works that would blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape while maintaining the precision of man-made objects. This work forms the core of the Chinati Foundation, which also houses works by Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Once their volunteer shifts are up, students spend the weekend attending talks by international artists, critics and curators, attending free concerts and meeting other students and art professionals from around the world.