Department of Art and Art History launches Art at Cedar Point class and residency

Cedar Point Biological Station
Cedar Point Biological Station

Department of Art and Art History launches Art at Cedar Point class and residency

calendar icon18 Nov 2013    

Students will have the opportunity to take an art class at Cedar Point Biological Station near Ogallala, Neb., during the summer. They are also coordinating an artist in residence program.
Students will have the opportunity to take an art class at Cedar Point Biological Station near Ogallala, Neb., during the summer. They are also coordinating an artist in residence program.
The Department of Art and Art History has announced an opportunity for students to take an art class at Cedar Point Biological Station near Ogallala, Neb., during the summer. They are also coordinating an artist in residence program at Cedar Point. Both will begin next summer.

Photography 161 (Photography for Non-majors) will be offered next summer at Cedar Point, and a new course titled “Art at Cedar Point” is in the curriculum approval process for future semesters and will allow a variety of mediums to be offered. Next summer’s course will include instruction in digital photography with an emphasis on seeing photographically.

“Photography seemed like the natural beginning and interest,” said Cather Professor of Art Karen Kunc, who is coordinating the Department of Art and Art History’s participation in the program. “It’s the perfect way to get a sense of place out there, and many people want to learn how to use their cameras.”

Jon Garbisch, the Associate Director of Cedar Point Biological Station, said the photography course should have broad appeal.

“I challenge you to line up all 40-50 students out there in any given week, and I bet you 99 percent will have a camera in their pocket,” he said. “What are they doing in their time off or when they’re hiking up the canyon? They’re taking photos of everything.”

The course will enroll 12-16 students, and students do not have to be majoring in art to participate. In addition, the field school designation means less fees for the course.

An enrollment deposit of $375 is being accepted beginning in November and locks in your spot in the course. The deposit covers room and board and is non-refundable. The total costs for the course include the $375 room and board (deposit) plus tuition (3 cr.) and a special course fee of $50. 

In future summers, other mediums may be offered.

“Certainly there’s been interest among the faculty, especially in sculpture and printmaking,” Kunc said. “Painting seems natural if it’s on-site natural landscape, watercolor or portable media that can be done on-site. We just need the right creative artists who are adaptable to a space, who can bring their materials and would enjoy the camaraderie that is part of the atmosphere there.”

In addition, the Department of Art and Art History is offering a one- or two-week residency open for arts and creative writing faculty at Nebraska colleges and universities, as well as current Nebraska Master of Fine Arts students. The cost is $230 per person per week for room and board. Applications are due Jan. 20, 2014.

“I think if we can make this opportunity for the artists and creative writers in the state to take a turn out there and just work independently and enjoy the facilities and environment, it would give participants concentration for their work.”

Cedar Point Biological Station is a University of Nebraska field research facility and experimental classroom located near Lake McConaughy and Ogallala, Neb. The station is in the heart of the western high plains, near the juncture of tall grass an short prairie grass, on the south edge of the Sandhills and in the North Platte River valley.

Garbisch said the University has been offering courses there since 1975.

“Biologists have used it as a combination of an experiential classroom and as a research site,” he said. “You sign up for a class. You come out there and live for three weeks. And you basically eat, sleep and breathe the topic. It’s all about that residential, community learning experience where you are completely immersed.”

Kunc said she has not been to Cedar Point, but remembers hearing about it when she attended UNL and her sisters spent time there.

“It’s legendary. I’ve been envious all these years,” Kunc said. “I remember hearing about it when I was a student and hearing how much my sisters loved the experience, so in my mind, it’s a mythical place.”

When Garbisch approached the Department of Art and Art History with the idea do something there, Kunc said it seemed like a good fit.

“It just seems like a natural fit to do something out there,” she said. “Many of us are eager to immerse ourselves into the landscape and in the unique setting of this place, which has been established for 40 years.”

It also presents an opportunity to bring scientists and artists closer together.

“Certainly there have been lots of discussions over the years in various arenas of the similarity between arts and sciences and how we both have our motivation for research, and our processes have similar language actually,” Kunc said. “Here’s a really good place where this could happen, and it’s a real tangible possibility for that kind of encouragement of collaborative knowledge and sharing of information about each other’s fields.”

Garbisch said something happens when you mix students from a variety of majors.

“Just having a class full of students who are not biologists out there really changes the flavor of the facility,” he said. “It’s hard to describe what shifts when you add different students to the mix, but they’re all very engaged.”

The courses offered could address common issues, such as environmental change, immersion awareness of the space and community engagement, as well as interpreting scientific facts in a visual or artistic way.

“Those overarching assignments would be ones where I ask the participants in art to partner with a scientist in residence there and learn about their research and then do some interpretive visual play that maybe helps give some logistic sense and visual graphic impact to some of the details the artist is learning from the scientist,” Kunc said. “Not to serve them by making charts and graphics, but to use that information as a spinning off point.”

Garbisch said art is always a part of natural history.

“I’ve had the good fortune to have classes that were field based, where we had to do a tremendous amount of sketching as part of the note collection process,” he said. “It always fascinated me that really good illustrations would take a dozen real specimens and then create a single illustration that would look like all of them and none of them at the same time. But what was on the sketch pad was something that anybody could look at and identify all the features and say, yes, I have one of these.”

Students will benefit from the concentrated course.

“They won’t have any other distractions and that can really foster how they learn to research and their visual voice,” Kunc said. “They’ll have great models of other researchers around. That kind of enthusiasm for students wading in mucky pools that the artist may not have to do, but to see the scientist doing that and be so passionate about what they’re finding on a microscopic level would be a really valuable thing for our students to see. And then they put that kind of attention to their own projects and their own work.”

The scientists can also learn from the artists.

“I think we have lots of education that can be done about the seriousness of art and how we can serve as the model for the scientists to understand,” Kunc said. “We can demonstrate how visual artists go about having drive and also play that makes the invention and the ‘aha’ moment occur.”

For more information on the Photography 161 course or the artist in residence program, including application details and deadlines, please visit: