Taft-Nicholson Center Undergraduate Residency Course

May 14 2017

Kim Martinez, Associate Professor of Painting, has arranged a ten-day intensive course for her students to develop new ways of representing and experiencing the natural environment. Twelve students in the University of Utah Department of Art and Art History are getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this summer to study their craft in the beautiful and unique landscape of the U’s Taft-Nicholson Center in Centennial Valley, Montana. The course includes transportation to Montana, rustic dorm-style housing, as well as three meals a day all funded through a grant secured by Professor Martinez. The application process for the residency course was competitive and required a letter of recommendation from a faculty member. This is the first, and potentially only semester this course will be taught, presenting a unique experience for students to combine art practices with environmental studies.

The residency program focuses on engaging with the environment through sight, smell, sound, and touch in a way that is impossible in the studio classroom. The multidisciplinary course includes lectures from environmental conservation and geology specialists, painting experiments with the biological processes of trees, drawing with natural materials like charcoal, and exploring disruptive environments.

“The landscape is a well-suited vehicle for expressive symbolism, metaphors, and allegorical strategies that stimulate and create an expansive mindset to develop an aesthetically diverse pictorial vocabulary,” Professor Martinez observes, while discussing the class structure.

Through these various projects in secluded surroundings Professor Martinez hopes students will discover new research topics and art-making methods that will have a lasting impact on their creative studio practices.

Professor Martinez believes that putting students in a new and remote natural environment will help students expand their visual dialogue.

“My past teaching experience includes an undergraduate residency combining Art [and] Science courses at the University of Utah Rio Mesa Center where students overwhelmingly identified the need for additional immersion experiential learning experiences outside the classroom,” explains Professor Martinez. “The Taft-Nicholson Center’s diverse environment and facilities make it an ideal location for my inclusive landscape curriculum.”

The Taft-Nicholson Center is an official extension of the University of Utah campus with an emphasis on bringing together the humanities and sciences.  The protected environment of the Greater Yellowstone area boasts intact ecological systems, expansive wetlands and various plant and animal species. Participants who engage with this fragile ecosystem will learn about the challenges of protecting this environment and improve their environmental literacy.

The Taft-Nicholson Center Residency course will take place July 6-17, 2017. There will be student art show at the end of the semester, September 6th and closes on the 22nd, which will document the students’ experiences and share what they learned during their time in Montana. For more information about the Taft-Nicholson Center Residency course, contact Professor Kim Martinez.