Throughout the spring and the past few weeks of summer, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside my peers in the Creative Arts Fellowship and learn more about their passions, processes, and goals. It’s been incredibly inspiring and humbling to see everyone in their respective elements and be so genuine in their work. While our projects span a range of mediums, from painting to writing to game design, I have found that everyone has a very empathetic and human approach to how they conduct research. There are common themes of reclaiming and redefining, honoring and celebrating, that I feel are rooted in activism. For instance, Cheyenne’s project is on drug addiction in the Appalachian region, a place that is often overlooked but is one that she calls home. Seeing how she hopes to honor this region and its beauty while also investigating the realities of big pharma and other systems impacting drug use highlights the humanity and emotional aspects of this community that are so critical to change and collective healing.
Josh’s project features interactive fiction through the format of game design, and explores really interesting facets of storytelling and role-playing. I didn’t have much experience with gaming before, so I was surprised by how much I learned and was able to connect with his project. A lot of games traditionally focus on the player’s choices in regards to how this impacts the outcome of the game, but Josh challenges this norm, urging the players to instead redirect attention to character building, expressing their own selves through the story. Applied to a larger context, I think this brings really interesting insight on how we as a culture center larger consequence and outcome, in contrast to the more individual and humanistic views of narrative and personhood that Josh adopts.
For Sam’s project, she is researching the life and works of writer-activist James Baldwin, taking on the style and mode of his writings in her own to explore topics of representation and justice, and how the arts play into social progress. I learned a lot from Sam’s focus on Baldwin’s aesthetics–I think sometimes I underestimate the value and capability of aesthetic choices when trying to create meaningful work, and hearing Sam’s interest specifically in Baldwin’s writing style was really validating. It reminded me to allow myself to appreciate and explore seemingly more surface-level aspects of research. I’m personally drawn towards various Chinese visual traditions in film and writing, and reflecting on the power of sensory elements to our projects has been really informative. I think part of what makes creative research so powerful is the fact that the artistic aspects can draw people in and make them feel or think something even before fully being conscious of the meaning behind a piece of work. Different aesthetic choices can be signifiers of larger cultural values or gateways into deeper and more intricate topics that sometimes require that emotional or sensory element to convey or amplify meaning.
Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Creative Work
When it comes to creative work, collaboration is key. Great art needs to be aware of the diversity and depth of human experience, and is born out of this diversity and depth. In my studio classes, I have found critiques to be crucial to the creative process and improving my work. Even within these classes, the range of feedback and interpretations of artwork is tremendous and never fails to amaze me. In this interdisciplinary fellowship, the range of understandings and opinions is even larger, and gives even more opportunity for new ideas and perspectives. Many disciplines have their unique processes to conduct and think about research, and it’s easy to get pigeonholed into a very niche mindset or procedure. I think learning to transform and apply these across fields is really refreshing and thought-provoking since learning and creating never actually follows these standard frameworks we set for ourselves. Coming from different academic backgrounds can definitely hinder how we experience each other’s research, but can also allow us to gain new perspectives and explore facets of our work we typically might not consider. I am so grateful to have this fellowship and my cohort to learn more about different ways of working/seeing/thinking and to explore the possibilities of collaboration.
A skillset outside of my academic discipline I would like to become better at is writing. I’m really curious about narrative and language, and how words can build emotion and connection. It’s one of those things I have a ton of appreciation and admiration for but was just never able to do myself. I have started incorporating more text-based work in my own project and am also engaging with a lot of writing through poetry, so I think improving my own abilites with language would be a great asset.