Pilot Program Brings Working Artists to the Classroom

During the Fall II session, the Artist in Residence pilot program was held as part of the Arts in New York City course. Coordinated by Assistant Professor of English Lori Ungemah, three different artists were hired to lead three sections of this class. The program’s goal was for students to learn directly from artists about their art form, practice, and lives as working artists living in New York City. These sessions served as a complement to outside visits to museums, galleries and other artistic venues around New York City.  Students worked collaboratively with these artists to create art, whether visual art, a dance piece, or a theatrical performance, and to learn directly from them about their art form and practice. The artists in residence for January and February 2014 included dancer Peter Kyle, visual artist Vandana Jain and actor Clay Drinko.


Actor Clay Drinko with students.

Peter Kyle’s classes explored topics such as movement in space, what is dance, words associated with dance, and the body as a system that works together. Mr. Kyle had the students do various movements with the intention of having them pay closer attention to the other bodies around them in space. He also led exercises that asked students to ‘sense’ one other without directly looking at one another. By the third class the students were very comfortable in moving their bodies. One student noted after her three sessions that Peter “…taught me that the body is more than just a vessel for our being, it can be used as an instrument and a tool for art, which is a beautiful thing that I wish I had realized sooner.”

M9459a6df9e00789efbc7697825b198a1Visual artist Vandana Jain first discussed her development as an artist with students by showing slides of her work. She often incorporates corporate logos in her compositions in imaginative ways. She also discussed how her work has evolved over the years while defining art terms for students. Students participated in a group project for the second and third classes. They researched company logos online and printed them to create original compositions on card stock using glue sticks, tape, pencils and markers. Students then displayed their work as part of a gallery walk, providing feedback to one another’s compositions by using the artistic vocabulary they learned during the first class.  “I have a positive feeling of trying designs now after a week with you,” commented one student about working with Ms. Jain.

Students became immersed in the world of improvisation acting with Clay Drinko, who guided students through a variety of improv-related exercises, such as the clap game, name game and story game to encourage them to relax and become less self-conscious. During the second class, students played several improv games. “1 Word Story”, for example, asked students standing around the room to say one word after another to make a story. This game reinforced the importance of ideas and how creativity can be culled from a group’s collective thinking. During the third class, Mr. Drinko had students engage in additional improv exercises to test their creativity and spontaneity. Students also had the opportunity to test their improv abilities by working on monologues. Many important life lessons can be applied to improvizational acting, such as team building. “I think my favorite part of improv is not being able to be wrong, who wouldn’t love a class like that! It was really cool to see some of the more shy students blurting out answers and really interacting with the rest of Md1a64aa96caace028c45553f75c403cbthe class,” exclaimed one student.

Having three different artists in class for one week allowed students to experience art as active participants. They became comfortable opening to express themselves more freely, share ideas and evaluate one another’s ideas. “The program was successful in ways beyond what I had anticipated. I figured the students would enjoy working with an artist, and they did, much more than I thought they would. They felt important and all of their feedback asked for more time, if not one-on-one meetings, with the artists. Additionally, the students enjoyed the break in “study” for “practice.” Lastly, the students clearly saw how many elements of making art transferred to the elements of what it takes to be a successful student: practice, openness, positivity, creativity,” commented Professor Ungemah. Given the success of the pilot program, Guttman Community College hopes to acquire funding for working artists to be part of each section of The Arts in New York City in the future.

About the Artists in Residence:

Peter Kyle is a modern dancer, choreographer and teacher and serves as Artistic Director of Peter Kyle Dance. A highly regarded educator, he was selected to join the Fulbright Specialists Roster in 2011, through which he will continue to seek out projects with institutional partners across the globe. In addition he teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, Marymount Manhattan Colleg e, HB Studio, the Nikolais/Louis Summer Intensive, the annual Slow Tempo workshop at Bearnstow, and he conducts residencies and workshops internationally.

Vandana Jain served as the visual artist in residence. She studied art at New York University, and textiles at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her Recent awards include the 2008 LMCC Workspace Residency, the 2007 Emerging Artists’ Fellowship at Socrates Sculpture Park and the 2003 Artists in the Marketplace program. She has shown her work at a variety of venues locally and internationally, including Toronto Free Gallery, Canada; the Queens Museum, New York; ABC No Rio, New York; Momenta, New York; the Soap Factory, Minnesota; and Grey Noise Gallery, Lahore, Pakistan. She also recently participated in the 798 Biennale in Beijing, China.

Clay Drinko has appeared in films such as “Dirty Laundry,” “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same,” “The Ski Trip,” “Asylum,” and “One Third.” He has also appeared on “Law and Order” and in Robyn’s music video “Dream On.” His commercial work includes ads for Sportsnet Central, MTV, VH1, Spike TV, Virgin Mobile, and Ford.

Visit Lori Ungemah’s ePortfolio to view more photos and learn about other improv exercises the students engaged in.