Humanities and Arts Labs

Creating hands-on learning experiences in the arts and humanities is the centerpiece of a new program at Albion College, funded by a substantial grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Through this generous grant, faculty, students, and outside partners will develop a series of collaborative symposia and workshops focused upon the applied nature of laboratory experimentation within the arts and humanities disciplines. According to Professor of English Ian MacInnes, “Students will be challenged to move from being observers and consumers of the arts and humanities to being active participants in the disciplines’ intellectual work.”

Pilot labs will link together several groups of courses in the 2015 spring and fall semesters. Students in these lab courses will use the knowledge they gain in the classroom to initiate projects that are collaborative, experiential, experimental, and publicly engaging.

Two of the labs are specific to the local Albion community, whereas the other two explore broader themes that are applicable to a larger audience. President Mauri Ditzler sees the creation of these labs as an opportunity to highlight the potential within our arts and humanities departments. “More broadly, the lab model will cultivate a sense of shared purpose and a deeper understanding of the value of the arts and humanities in our community, in America and throughout the world,” says Ditzler.

What exactly does an arts and humanities lab look like?

The Spring 2015 pilot labs listed below provide a better understanding of this important initiative.

Creating Sustainable Communities

Students will embark on field trips and participate in guest lectures in an attempt to understand the different types of sustainable communities that exist. After exploring different types of sustainable communities, students will determine how these models can be applied to the local Albion community, while also examining how the arts and humanities play a role in that vision.

Participating Classes: Art 346, Color Photography; Anthropology 271, Nature and Society: An Introduction to Ecological Anthropology; Philosophy 301, Environmental Ethics; and Art History 315, Earth Art and the Environment.

Race and Representation

Participants will analyze the various forms of racism, the power that is gained from it, and the strategies used to resist it. While studying the broader subject of racism, students will narrow their focus by evaluating a set of lithographs and documenting their historical relevance within the context of racism. They will use the information they collect to develop an online art gallery and participate in a joint symposium.

Participating Classes: English 151, Introduction to Literary Study: Literature of the American South; English 351, Four American Poets; History 289, Curating Controversy: Creating a Digital Exhibit of Racist Images; History 243, African American History from 1865-2015; and Ethnic Studies 270, Hip Hop and Social Change.

Albion Accelerator: A Space for Creative Innovation and Collaboration

Students will be provided with the opportunity to brainstorm the creation of a multi-use "maker space" in downtown Albion. By conducting a feasibility study, students will determine what would be necessary to establish facility that promotes making, thinking, writing, and collaborating. The Albion Accelerator will foster interaction among community members, Albion College students and faculty, and recent graduates. Students will work on creating a facility that caters to the needs and interests of the people of Albion while adapting to the ever-changing needs of the community.

Participating Classes: Art 361, Advanced Ceramics; Art History 317, Art and Theory; and Economics and Management 305, Women in Business and Leadership.

Encountering Food

Students will encounter food that is local and global, and contemporary and ancient through a series of projects and field trips.Students will meet in small groups to share and exchange ideas based upon what aspect of food they're studying and how it has enhanced their cultural awareness. The lab will end with a community dinner that is researched, prepared, and served by participating students. Attendees will be entertained with music and reflections describing each student’s unique food encounters.

Participating Classes: English 389, Wild Things: The Literature of Wilderness and the Wild, Anthropology 240, Ancient Civilizations, French 330, French Louisiana: Cajun and Creole Experiences, Music 132, Briton Singers.