Art at Cedar Point receives Rural Futures Institute grant

Art at Cedar Point receives Rural Futures Institute grant

calendar icon24 Jun 2016    

Cather Professor of Art Karen Kunc teaches a printmaking course during last summer's Art at Cedar Point.
Cather Professor of Art Karen Kunc teaches a printmaking course during last summer's Art at Cedar Point.
Lincoln, Neb.--The Department of Art and Art History’s Art at Cedar Point program has received a $19,340 Teaching and Engagement competitive award from the University of Nebraska’s Rural Futures Institute.

“I’m very excited,” said Cather Professor of Art Karen Kunc, who coordinates the Art at Cedar Point program. “I’m really pleased and honored to be in the group that the Rural Futures Institute has supported. It does mean a belief in our seriousness of purpose and in our potential.”

The University of Nebraska’s Rural Futures Institute mobilizes the diverse resources of the university and its partners to support rural communities and regions in building upon their unique strengths and assets to achieve their desired future results.  Their competitive awards program connects partners, campuses and communities and provides seed funding in the areas of either teaching and engagement or research and engagement.

Now in its third year, Art at Cedar Point has two initial components:  an undergraduate studio art course and an artist-in-residence program for arts and creative writing faculty at Nebraska universities and colleges and current Nebraska MFA students. Both the course and the residency take place each summer at UNL’s Cedar Point Biological Station near Ogallala, Nebraska.

The award from the Rural Futures Institute will allow the program to add a new service-learning component this summer. Working in partnership with the Ogallala Public School District, the newly hired position of Art at Cedar Point Coordinator, Amanda Breitbach, will work with four undergraduate art students to develop a summer art camp for area children to be taught at the Cedar Point Biological Station. Breitbach completed her MFA in photography in May.

“It’s a natural outgrowth of these courses that we have been teaching to have students who want to return and can be the teachers,” Kunc said. “Two of the four students this summer were there last summer with my course. They already have some ideas about the resources and what they can teach to those resources. It makes the cycle complete.”

Having a coordinator position will benefit the program since Breitbach can work on Art at Cedar Point more consistently.

“We’ve hired Amanda to be the coordinator,” Kunc said. “It’s a very part-time position, but she’s in the ideal situation to do this. She has been there, and she’s passionate about this as a topic.”

“And it’s a good opportunity for me, too,” Breitbach said. “I learn by building this program up and getting good experience from it. I’m passionate about rural places. I think the people in Ogallala are really excited about the focus we’re trying to bring as more of a community effort and less isolated where it’s just us out at the field station doing our own thing.”

There will be two camps this summer:  One for students entering 4th through 6th grades, and another for students entering 7th through 9th grades. The camp will run for three days with each age group meeting for half a day each day.

“The projects we are going to do will utilize the natural environment right around Cedar Point and incorporate natural methods,” Breitbach said.

For one activity, students will make gelatin plates and print with them, using leaves and flowers. They will make stencils and learn about leaf shapes as part of the project.

“Every activity will incorporate some scientific components, as well as art making skills,” Breitbach said.

For another project, students will study box turtles and the patterns on their shells and then draw sections of the shell patterns.

“There has been this long-running research project on box turtles at Cedar Point, so the students who have been out there wanted to do something with the turtles,” Breitbach said.

In addition to the camps, Art at Cedar Point is collaborating with the Nebraska Game and Parks and their Lake McConaughy Visitors’ Center on a speaker series. Nebraska State Poet Twyla Hansen will speak on Wednesday, June 29. Omaha artists Jess Benjamin and Susan Knight will speak on Wednesday, July 6. Both lectures begin at 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

“This gives us a chance to work together and do something that fits their mission and our mission at the same time,” Breitbach said.

The undergraduate class taught at Cedar Point is an upper level, 300-level course, which fulfills the university’s ACE 7 general education requirements.

“We thought that might help attract students who need upper level credits,” Kunc said. “And since there are no prerequisites, anybody can take it.”

Breitbach is teaching this summer’s class, titled “Photography: Responding to Landscape.”

 “Our class is focused very deeply on observation,” she said. “The first day, I’m not going to let them bring their cameras. We’re just going to go out, sit quietly and pay attention. I think that’s really valuable to just pay attention to the world around you, to notice things. That’s a really useful habit for any artist, but especially for photographers—to pay attention to light and to pay attention to color—and to just stop and see things. I hope they can get a lot out of it.”

There will also be four Nebraska artists participating in the artist-in-residence program at Cedar Point this summer.

“The other part that could develop with our Rural Futures grant support is developing the partnerships and getting sponsors,” Kunc said. “That helps with longevity and stature, and then we could potentially offer scholarships for artists to do the residencies or take the courses.”

Breitbach sees great potential for Art at Cedar Point to become more visible so more artists will want to participate.

“I think this grant is going to help us have a bigger profile and become more visible to the rest of the art department and to everybody else,” she said. “The more we do and the more positive buzz we have around this, the more people will be excited about it and see how they want to take part."

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