I recently returned from Paris, France doing an exploratory trip as part of the process of developing a study abroad program in 2013 for the School of Creative Arts. John Weigand (Architecture/Interior Design), Julia Guichard (Theatre), Harvey Thurmer (Music), and I (Art/Design) have written a sequence of three courses focusing on integrated arts and culture within the context of a particular urban setting. In this case – Paris.

The description for the sequence is as follows:

Students will travel domestically or abroad to a particular urban location(s) (e.g. New York, Paris, Milan, Prague, etc.) for an immersive thematic sequence focused on the global importance and impact of the integrated creative arts (e.g.: architecture, interior design, theatre, studio arts, graphic design, music, etc.). This intensive, experiential program will help a student from any major develop a general knowledge of cultural history, and an understanding of the theories and application of various forms of the creative arts. This sequence assumes no prior knowledge and is intended to make the creative arts interesting, accessible, and valuable for all majors. There are no prerequisites, but students need to have completed 30 hours, or have permission of the instructor. This will ensure that the sequence builds on the foundational liberal education knowledge gained in the first year. Instruction will be provided by a multi-disciplinary team of faculty from the School of Creative Arts.

The sequence begins with CFA 121: Introduction to the Integrated Arts and Culture. This course will focus on learning basic arts vocabulary, concepts and principles, with an emphasis on those words and ideas that are common to all the arts. (e.g.: syncopation, rhythm, pattern, etc.) This will give the students a shared vocabulary with which to move into more complex information and application. In the second course, CFA 221: Immersion in the Integrated Arts and Culture, students will learn more specifically about various forms of art, always emphasizing the connections between them. For instance, much of the class will be organized around case studies, such as the Opera House in Paris. Students will learn about how its architecture affects the theatrical and musical performances and/or how the graphic and interior decoration of the building is integrated with the architecture and enhances the theatrical performances. Learning would take place in the classroom, as well as in an experiential fashion through local expert speakers and field trips. The final course, CFA 321: Application in the Integrated Arts and Culture, will focus on both team-based and individual application of the knowledge and experiences gained from the first two courses. The team-based project will put students in multi-disciplinary groups of four-five that collaboratively research, write and present a particularly important urban site/environment that demonstrates arts integration. The individual project will be a blog where students chronicle their learning by answering specific research questions both visually and verbally.

The plan is to have each course team-taught by at least two faculty from different disciplinary perspectives (e.g.: Theatre and Design, Music and Architecture). The pilot team of faculty are Faimon, Weigand, Guichard and Thurmer, but we anticipate faculty from throughout the SCA will be involved in the coming years.

Each academic year, there will be an assigned committee of at least one faculty member from each of the four departments in the SCA to manage the sequence. The faculty on the committee will either be involved in teaching the sequence and/or will be the “international committee” representatives from each department. The group will meet several times a semester to discuss the curriculum and this sequence will be assessed (see below) once per year by this group. These discussions will ensure that the sequence is being implemented as planned, that courses are available to students, that there are faculty to participate into the future, and that improvements are continually made.