2013: A Year in Review

2013_in_review

January – May

For Art21 I covered New Frontier, an experiment in the Sundance Film Festival presentation, which is a social and creative space that showcases media installations, multimedia performances, transmedia experiences. New Frontier exhibits art pieces that look at the exploration of space, culture, and storytelling by using new technology. It overlaps with the work I do at Georgia Tech because of its experimental nature. My series of  posts include:

June – August

ferst

Sanford Biggers visting artist residency and performance.

Sanford Biggers, an artist with whom I discussed a possible STEM to STEAM collaboration, was invited by Georgia Tech’s Office of the Arts to exhibit his re-purposed quilts and to perform with his concept band Moon Medicine (in 2014). This happened just as STEAM education and arts-based learning was gaining momentum in the U. S. This development presented several opportunities to explore the intersection of contemporary art and crafts, culture and STEM fields. I covered three of Sanford’s exhibitions for Art21 and visited Sanford in his studio. The interdisciplinary nature of Sanford’s practice inspired my research.

Drew Charter School's Boon Boonyapat with Jack Rogers of the Office of the Arts and Sanford.

Drew Charter School’s Boon Boonyapat with Jack Rogers of the Office of the Arts and Sanford.

Art to STEAM Workshop at the High Museum of Art. Summer 2013. Photo by Nettrice Gaskins.

STEM to STEAM Workshop at the High Museum of Art. Summer 2013. Photo by Nettrice Gaskins.

A student uses the Virtual Bead Loom, a culturally situated design tool (CSDT). Photo by Nettrice Gaskins.

A student uses the Virtual Bead Loom, a culturally situated design tool (CSDT). Photo by Nettrice Gaskins.

I facilitated STEAM-related summer workshops at the High Museum of Art. These workshops introduced teachers and students to art and STEM concepts and gave student participants  access to existing Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs) developed by a team led by ethnomathematician Ron Eglash at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). CSDTs are a suite of computer software programs that focus on individual facets of African American, Native American or Latin American culture where math plays a role in design. Many of the artists whose works I reference in my research make use of cultural designs.

The SI ID staff didn't have a category for STEAM fellow.

The SI ID staff didn’t have a category for STEAM fellow.

Items from Smithsonian museums and CSDT across cultures based on a theme.

Items from Smithsonian museums (and a CSDT) across cultures based on a theme.

The Education and Access division at the Smithsonian invited me to explore their collections to demonstrate how these items relate to STEAM concepts. I visited all but one of the museums and research centers administered by the institution. My research created the groundwork for future projects such as a STEAM portal for the My SI website.

September – December

My advisor and I received a grant from the National Science Foundation to organize a unique workshop to explore how the intersection of culturally situated arts-based learning, informal science education, and digital media can be leveraged to create higher interest, motivation and learning in STEM among underrepresented ethnic groups. Research shows that exposure to art fosters critical thinking. Although researchers demonstrate how critical thinking benefits from high confidence, they are not certain about how much these benefits extend to other academic areas. My research aims to do this by merging STEM and  culturally situated arts-based learning.

Start screen for math simulation software based on Sanford Biggers' "Lotus".

Start screen for math simulation software based on Sanford Biggers’ “Lotus” (on the left).

RPI graduate student Libby Rodriguez worked with our mutual advisor Ron Eglash on a customized CSDT to allow 8th grade math students to simulate artwork by Sanford Biggers while learning standard geometry principles. I created a Teacher Resource Packet and observed 4th and 8th grade math classes to kick-off the STEAM activities for 2014. I completed an Art & Inquiry MOOC facilitated by the Museum of Modern Art (NYC). This course helped me create a  culturally situated arts-based STEM framework. In this model you can see how artists re-purpose or remix cultural heritage artifacts such as the star quilt design motif.

Concept map for STEAM learning project. Image by Nettrice Gaskins.

Concept map for STEAM learning project. Image by Nettrice Gaskins.

Saya Woolfalk. "Math simulation tool with set and costume," 2013. Courtesy the artist.

Saya Woolfalk. “Math simulation tool with set and costume,” 2013. Courtesy the artist.

Ron Eglash worked with artist Saya Woolfalk to simulate elements of her artwork for an multimedia installation in The Shadows Took Shape at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Sanford and Saya both have artwork in this exhibition. I attended the preview event for the show and pitched an idea for a panel discussion about afrofuturism and STEAM. I am planning to moderate the panel at the Studio Museum in Harlem in January 2014. I also visited Xenobia Bailey in her art studio. Xenobia, Sanford and several others will participate in the NSF-sponsored workshop and STEAM activities next year.

Xenobia Bailey showed us one of her large scale crochet pieces inspired by John Coltrane.

Xenobia Bailey showed us one of her large scale crochet pieces inspired by John Coltrane.

I taught Constructing the Moving Image at Georgia Tech. The course is mainly for undergraduates in Computational Media. It deals with the vocabulary, concepts, tools, and processes explored in four-dimensional (4D) or time-based art and design – the art, history, technique, and technology of film/video, animation, and digital media.  This includes mobile AR and virtual 3D games. The undergraduates learned to theorize and imagine (speculate) how how objects exist and interact in virtual 3D space. They learned how to design a game from the ground up by working in teams, each with story, modeling, art, and scripting “experts” to create their own virtual 3D world.

Student Unity 3D project for Constructing the Moving Image.

Student Unity 3D project for Constructing the Moving Image.

Student Unity 3D project for Constructing the Moving Image.

Student Unity 3D project for Constructing the Moving Image.

I wrote Ghost Nature, Art and the Secret Realities of an Object-Oriented Universe, an essay for the Ghost Nature exhibition catalog. The artwork will be on view at Gallery 400 in Chicago, Ilinois and La Box in Bourges, France. My essay looks at how artists bend the rules of how we experience reality, create, and interact with objects in both physical and virtual spaces. This includes Jacolby Satterwhite who uses Maya 3D software to create 3D virtual environments as sites for his performances. Jacolby is also featured in an essay I wrote for a new publication about Afrofuturism 2.0. My essay is Afrofuturism on Web 3.0: Vernacular Cartography and Augmented Space.

Sebastian Alvarez. "Phototaxis (series)"; Berndnaut Smilde, "Nimbus", 2012; Katie Patterson. "100 Billion Suns," 2011; Jacolby Satterwhite. “Reifying Desire,” 2012; Storyboard P. "Black Magic," 2012. Courtesy Hyacide Magazine; Sanford Biggers. "Big Ass Bang!!," 2004.

Sebastian Alvarez. “Phototaxis (series)”; Berndnaut Smilde, “Nimbus”, 2012; Katie Patterson. “100 Billion Suns,” 2011; Jacolby Satterwhite. “Reifying Desire,” 2012; Storyboard P. “Black Magic,” 2012. Courtesy Hyacide Magazine; Sanford Biggers. “Big Ass Bang!!,” 2004.

I first learned about Smoke School of Art (SSA) after Studio Museum in Harlem’s Thelma Golden lectured at the High Museum of Art. I posted about a series of lectures by co-founder Christopher Hutchinson including  The Nostalgic Commodification of Black Art. SSA facilitates weekly discussions around Atlanta. I attended many of these throughout the summer and fall. I presented The Cyclical Nature of Black Art & Culture as part of the National Black Arts Festival convening.

Journal of the New Media Caucus cover for fall 2013.

Journal of the New Media Caucus cover for fall 2013.

My essay Advancing STEM Through Culturally Situated Arts-Based Learning (same name as the NSF workshop) was published in the Fall 2013 edition of Media-N. This issue covers the activities from ISEA2012 Machine Wilderness for which we were invited as visiting artists to facilitate a STEAM-related project with local youth. Many lessons learned there inspires my current research. This work includes mobile augmented reality (AR). I was invited by Americans for the Arts to talk about AR and art at the National Arts Marketing Project conference.

STEM to STEAM in Youth Media Arts.

STEM to STEAM in Youth Media Arts.

I joined a STEM to STEAM Youth Media Arts panel organized by the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC). The panel discussed ways that youth media organizations can promote their role in STEM education and innovation, while also maintaining their clear sense of purpose. I shared my research with attendees and gave an overview of STEAM to a different audience. I have been on the board of NAMAC for eight years and I have finally termed myself out. When I first joined the NAMAC board I was transitioning from running a multimedia center to teaching college level media and visual arts courses. I remained on the board for the first three years of my Ph.D. studies.

What I am most proud of is passing all of my exams and (finally) getting my proposal approved to obtain ABD (All But Dissertation) status. I even wrote two or three chapters worth of content for my dissertation. I am that much closer to a Ph.D. in Digital Media and I got there by digging my heels in, reaching out for help, and not giving up. Some of what you see here is groundwork for my dissertation Techno-Vernacular Creativity in Underrepresented Communities of Practice. Culture based art and technology is a subset of the types of projects that are created by artists from communities that are most often underrepresented in (or marginalized from) STEAM fields.

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