A major in art, whether it be studio or history, is often criticized as “useless” and “a waste of time” by academics, but the senior Studio Art and Art History majors are delving deeper into their field than most this week, as they tour the art world of New York City.
“The annual trip to New York for senior art majors is an integral part of the capstone experience,” said Ruth Kolarik in the trip manual. “The Art Department at Colorado College is a joint art history/art studio department both in name and spirit. This joint endeavor is an organized research trip designed to study original works of art and support thesis work.”
In conjunction with Kolarik, professors Scott Johnson, Kate Leonard, and Gale Murray facilitate this extended format field trip. The week in New York, which began Wednesday, is not all fun and games for participants. Majors have spent the first part of the block creating thesis work, and their time in New York will be included in their final thesis grade.
While touring the city, the majors are required to fulfill assignments, including an involved journal and sketchbook, all while experiencing and observing the art around them.
“The New York trip is an opportunity to hone your visual skills and verbal tools for responding to works of art. We encourage you to engage in careful and thoughtful close looking,” Kolarik wrote to students. “Art History and Studio students can benefit from looking at artworks together and exchanging points of view.”
Students must submit their daily journal, as well as present it to the art department. Doesn’t sound much like a useless waste of time now, does it?
Despite these rigorous obligations, many students are experiencing New York City for the first time, or at least the first time with a rich understanding of art practice and theory. The group is conveniently based in Midtown, with easy access to a number of museums and sights.
Also conveniently traveling by subway, the group will get to visit well known stops like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as those lesser known, like the Center for Alternative Photography, located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Students will also participate in special events organized just for them. Sean Weiss, a visiting professor in architecture at Colorado College, will lead the students in an architecture tour of Midtown Manhattan on Friday. Additionally, local artists will open their studios throughout the week to groups of majors to tour and gain inspiration.
Next Monday, students have the more unique opportunity to visit the Christo studio in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. “The artist isn’t from Colorado, but he’s trying to do a project over the Arkansas River,” said studio art major Lela Wulsin. “The cool thing is that we’re going to see his studio and talk to him there, instead of just seeing his work in the gallery space.”
This trip across the country is not only a unique privilege to Art majors, but a special gift from the Getty Trust, which was granted to the department in 1986, in honor of Harold E. Berg, a 1936 graduate.
“As a response to this gift, the department developed one of the most unusual undergraduate research opportunities in the country,” wrote Kolarik, “An intense experience of visits to museums, galleries and artists’ spaces in New York for senior majors together with art faculty and staff. The New York trip has taken place every year since 1986, and the Berg Endowment continues to underwrite the annual event.”
Following more than half a block of hard work, senior Art History major Grace Gahagan is ready to get her feet wet in some more experiential learning.
“I am most excited about being led through the different sectors of the art world by the professors and faculty who have spent their careers keeping up with these different areas,” she said. “I think it’s going to be truly inspiring to listen to and discuss with my favorite teachers about the range of different works.”
Maggie Deadrick, Life Editor