Spring 2020 Art & Society

Participants in the Spring 2020 Semester include:

The interdisciplinary Art & Society Course is central to the mission of the Siena Art Institute (“SART”), and is required for all students.

The course allows students to develop substantive projects to further their portfolio development, and to have numerous opportunities to interact with a diverse array of artists, to deepen their understanding of contemporary art practices, and the various roles that artists can play in a broader social context.

The students of the Spring 2020 semester are tenaciously working on their projects in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has required teachers and students alike to have to work from home.  Our blog feed is updated with the latest information about our ongoing work.

The course is divided into three project units: the Introductory Project Unit, the Mid-Term Project Unit, and the Final Project Unit. Through the progression of these projects, students are guided through the production of a strong personal body of work, fostering their ongoing portfolio development.

Students’ work on their individual artistic projects is augmented by an exploration of the city of Siena and its surrounding territory as a complex historical and social setting to which students are asked to respond artistically. A variety of activities, including collaborative projects, research, visits to cultural/artistic spaces, and other locations in the local area, presentations from guest artists and creative professionals, and discussions of assigned readings contribute inspiration and context for students’ projects.

In the Art and Society course this semester, we will be working together to explore and be inspired by our surroundings here in Tuscany, and to consider how the dynamics of intercultural dialogue can impact our contemporary art practices. You will be guided through a series of projects to foster your ongoing portfolio development, receiving feedback about your work from your classmates, teachers, and our visiting artists. Excursions as well as reference materials such as book excerpts and articles will further enhance the development of your artistic projects during the semester.

There is an organized calendar of group critiques and individual advising sessions, to ensure that students are receiving constructive feedback from a variety of perspectives about their developing artistic projects. In this intimate and rich setting, the feedback opportunity for the students is exceptional.

Formal group critiques are held during the intro unit, the mid-term and at the end of the semester, during which all students will be present to offer constructive criticism to students regarding their work.

The course includes discussion of career development, offering students guidance as they embark on their careers as emerging artists.

For the Spring 2020 semester, the projects of the Art & Society course aim to get beyond the “surface level” or touristic lense and interacting with various facets of the Sienese community.

Specific topics we will explore in our Spring 2020 projects include: 

  • Responding to Location 
  • Connecting Cultural Heritage to Contemporary Artistic Practice
  • Art as Social Criticism / Social Reflection / Social Metaphor
  • Art as Public Communication /  Entertainment, Propaganda, Advertising
  • Art as Community Galvanizer
  • The Diversity of Audiences  / Diversity of Viewpoints

How can your newfound surroundings in Siena and Tuscany serve as inspiration for the development of your own artistic projects?  In your decision to study at the Siena Art Institute, you are obviously interested in exploring new territories and being in contact with different cultures. We will be experiencing the history of Italy as well as its contemporary realities, and to use this inspiration to propel your ongoing artistic development.  Online platforms such as our course blog which we will create together open up additional venues to share your artistic creations with a broader audience, in addition to opportunities to share your work in-person, specifically during the Mid-Term Open Studio and the End-of-Semester Exhibition. 

This semester you find yourself in the middle of Tuscany, one of the world’s most celebrated territories. Often the standard images and ideas about Tuscany today remain at the level of stereotypes and superficial understandings, romantic touristic “postcard views” of the scenic landscape. During the Art & Society course this semester, you will come to a deeper understanding of this territory, its complex culture, diverse population, and multi-layered social dynamics. Our initial projects this semester will ask you to specifically respond to your newfound surroundings here, as a way to begin your artistic endeavors in response to the unique location in which you find yourself.

Being part of a diverse and multicultural group, we also will explore how the concept of “Cultural Intersections” relates to our increasingly global and intercultural contemporary society. Territorial borders may seem very permeable in today’s world, while at the same time the world is becoming increasingly fractured in relation into “interest groups,” with divisions based on political viewpoints, age, socio-economic status, and educational background. As your projects develop this semester, you will be encouraged to address some of these broader issues based on your experiences in the region of Siena as well as experiences from your personal backgrounds.

What artworks can you create as a response? To guide you in your artistic development, the Art & Society course in the Spring 2020 semester will be divided into three main project units:

Intro Unit:  Orientation and Disorientation: Exploring the City  (weeks 1-4)

Using our initial explorations of Siena & the surrounding territory to explore different ways of responding to our newfound surroundings in Tuscany, looking beyond a touristic appreciation of the region, we will explore how alternative paths, maps, and exploration of traditional and contemporary artistic and artisanal practices can become rich source material for artistic inspiration using our own perspectives.  Project assignments include the “Walk of Destiny” (week 1) and “Tempo Zulu” (week 2-3). 

Mid-Term Unit:  Connecting Past to Present  (weeks 4-11)

For your mid-term project, you are asked to develop an artistic project drawing upon your own background and your experiences in Siena and the surrounding territory, focusing on the theme of “Connecting Past to Present.”  A booklet project (weeks 4 & 5) will then expand into the development of your Mid-Term Project (weeks 6-11).  

Now that you have spend some time in the territory of Siena, you are neither a complete “insider” nor a complete “outsider.”  You have explored the local cultural history and contemporary realities, and have reflected on it from your own perspective. How can you now expand and deepen your personal artistic response?  Are there particular points of view or personal narratives that particularly spark your interest, connections between past and present that you are interested to engage with? 

Specific themes to consider in your Mid-Term Projects: cultural heritage, contemporary realities, multi-sensory materiality, alternative narratives, & site-specificity.  Although not required, the theme of local artisans and craftspeople for example may be of particular interest in students’ projects, bridging the arenas of traditional practices to contemporary realities. 

Final Projects:  Digging Deeper: Beyond the surface (weeks 11-16)

Culminating in the end-of-semester exhibition opening Saturday May 9, held at the Siena Art Institute, you will further expand upon your ongoing studio work for the creation of your end-of-semester project, digging deeper into themes that we have developed in the first half of the semester. Over mid-term break you will be asked to send us a written project proposal explaining your ideas for your final project, and through individual advising, thematic discussions, and group critiques, we will support you in the development of your final project work. The final exhibition will stay on view for one week and is free and open to the public.