The Project Zero Artist-in-Residence initiative piloted this year offers Arts in Education (AIE) master’s students a chance to spend a semester engaged in a Project Zero idea, theme, question, or research project through the creation of an artwork.
“Many students love the experience here, but miss the opportunity to draw on their arts practice,” explains Lecturer Shari Tishman, director of Project Zero (PZ). “This initiative is an opportunity to investigate ideas and create a new learning opportunity.”
AIE and PZ have long been considering how to connect students’ class time to their arts practice during their year at HGSE. Additionally, many students had been expressing interest in exploring PZ ideas in a more in-depth way. Now, with its first semester wrapping up, the Project Zero Artist-in-Residence program seems to have achieved both.
According to PZ assistant Jordy Oakland, all incoming AIE students from all walks of artistic life — painters, muralists, videographers, dancers, thespians, writers, sculptors, and DJs — were invited to apply to the residence last summer, submitting applications before the fall semester. Students were asked to submit “letters of intent” identifying the Project Zero theme, question, or idea they hoped to address. In addition, the proposal also included details about the medium used, a timeline for the advance of the project, names of Project Zero researchers to work with, and a culminating project.
Nearly half of the 48 incoming AIE students applied to be a resident.
Tishman admits it was quite a challenge to select the final students. In fact, they intended to only choose one or two, but received so many wonderful applications that they extended it to three students: Zoe Blatt, who creates large-scale knitted soft sculpture; Brendon Snyder, who’s working on a graphic novel about the theory of Multiple Intelligences; and Azucena Verdin, who focuses on a dance performance exploring interdisciplinary learning.
Throughout the spring semester, the selected students worked closely with PZ researchers to bring their visions to life.
“It’s been much more successful than we ever imagined,” Tishman says. “It feels natural to do and we can’t help but wonder how this might be applicable across the university. It strikes us as a rich model.”
Members of the HGSE and the community will have an opportunity to see the PZ AIR students’ works as part of Harvard ARTS FIRST Festival, a four-day celebration (April 25 – April 28) of the arts throughout Harvard University. On Saturday, April 27, Verdin and Blatt will be on site at the Gutman Library Lobby with their installations from noon to 2 p.m.
“People should come out and see these intricate, interesting, and heartfelt pieces,” says Oakland.
“These are good works of art that are accessible,” Tishman adds. “Even if you’ve never heard of PZ, I encourage all people to come out and experience this.”
Zoë Blatt, who creates paintings and knitted sculptures (visit her website at www.zoeblatt.com), installed an outdoor sculpture near the Peabody Terrace Children’s Center. Using concepts from Artful Thinking and Making Learning Visible, she documented a class of 4 and 5 year olds as they discovered, explored, and discussed what they were encountering.
“I intended to evoke preschoolers’ sense of curiosity, storytelling, and imaginative play,” Blatt says. I used fabric, knitted yarn, and craft supplies to construct brightly colored environments influenced by shapes and patterns in nature. Children are invited to physically interact with the work and put their own mark on the space, changing the appearance of the installation over time.”
Additionally, Blatt documented the same children as they made their own pieces of art in response to this experience. “This documentation will serve to inform my future work as I strive to make my installations more stimulating and engaging for young children,” she says.
Brendon Snyder, whose background is in editorial cartooning and illustration (as well as high school classroom English teaching and acoustic guitar performance), has created on a graphic novel exploring Professor Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences.
“I was especially drawn by the invitation to artistically engage with a Project Zero idea,” he says. “I [had] read Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind about 15 years earlier, and it had a profound impact on me and though I didn’t realize it then, it actually set me on my path to HGSE.”
Snyder has documented specific MI concepts in the novel, including the correlations between the intelligences and debates surrounding the theory — where it is found and absent, its impact, and its future. “I’ve been rediscovering this particular creative practice [cartoonism], doing a graphic narrative of Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences as a way for me to immerse myself in the theory and its implications,” he says. “Using art and humor, I hope to engage readers with some of Gardner’s ideas that I view as essential contributions to the dialogue around education.”
Azucena (Suzie) Verdin has choreographed and mounted a dance piece exploring the experience of the visuo-spatial learner. As a dance educator with a strong interest in movement literacy, she cast her piece with fellow HGSE students from a variety of programs and documented the ensemble-building and rehearsal processes using ideas from the Interdisciplinary and Making Learning Visible projects of PZ.
“We are quite comfortable discussing teaching and learning as it pertains to our brains, but quickly lose our ability to articulate how we feel, think, and discern information with our bodies,” she says. “The two (brain and body) are not disconnected as we once thought, and it is imperative, if we are serious about developing the whole student, that we as educators, learn the language of the body, of its movement potential, and how kinesthetic awareness informs how we make sense of the world from infancy to adulthood.”
Her piece will also be performed in its entirety at the Harvard Dance Center, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, at 2 p.m. on May 5. For more details, please visit the Interdisciplinary Movement Ensemble's site: http://pzidme.org/