Every wonder what happens at the Broad Art Museum during the spring? One event for both Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing, and English graduate students is the Broad Art Museum Writing Residency here on campus. This program underwent its first year spring 2014, and was a great success. The residency involved both workshops and a final symposium at the end of the residency where the residents spoke of their experiences.
The 2014 residents were a combination of graduate students from the English and WRAC departments. These students were Laura McGrath, Steven Ambrose, Shewonda Leger, Rebecca Hayes, Elizabeth Floyd and Anna Green.
The director of the residency, Tammy Fortin, described The Broad Art Museum Writing Residency at Michigan State University having one simple purpose: to offer writers a chance to explore their own creative process through visual art. As a writer, Tammy often looks to the visual culture as a way to create multiple layers of meaning, associations and references in her work. The integration of visual art into writing is a natural union and the result of this program. Six graduate students, called residents as part of the program, were selected through an application process. Each month the residents were asked to respond to a piece of art in the Broad galleries using five-core themes: appropriation (using someone else’s work for your own purposes), redaction (deleting, obscuring, removing, and moving a piece from its original form), translation (translating words across multiple languages), transcription (transcribing speech into the written word), and constraint (the restriction of certain things or to impose a pattern). In doing this, they were then instructed to pick one art piece in the Broad as well as a corresponding theme(s) to create a new style of presentation that was more performance than lecture.
MSU Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing MA student Shewonda Leger said the following about her personal experience at the Broad Museum.
This fellowship has offered me ways to fuse conceptual, creative, and professional writing together and break the norms of writing. Overall, “Conceptual writing” has helped me engage in a provocative dialogue with the field of contemporary art, producing new insights into the meaning of both literature, literacy, professional writing and art. I usually visited the museum several times before choosing a work. Color and creativity is what usually catches my attention first, and then the structure of my poem/performance is developed. Overall, this was a great learning experience, anyone interested in jolting his or her creativity and writing The Broad Art Museum Residency would be a great option.
Anna Green PhD student, studying Feminism occurring within Modernist Literature particularly in the deployment of avant-garde vocabularies for the assertion of the woman artist, explained the following about her residency experience.
My overall experience with the Broad residency was positive; I enjoyed working with graduate students from the WRAC department and enjoyed the opportunity to integrate an element of creativity with my scholarly activity. Take aways: I think I came away feeling that I really pushed myself to experiment with different performances that made me feel uncomfortable. I began with a kind of pedagogical performance– a role that I’m familiar with and one in which I feel comfortable– and ended with a collaborative manifesto, which challenged me to integrate my ideas with Steven’s and also took on a much more controversial tone.
Michigan State University MA student, studying 20th century literature with an emphasis in British modernism and post-modernism, Elizabeth Floyd said the following about her residency with the Broad Museum.
This experience was a great way to combine my creative interests with my scholarly ones. I have written poetry for many years, so I greatly appreciate the ability to have a creative outlet for new work, in which I was pushed to think about presentation and content in a new way. As for my scholarly work, I am interested in the intersection of art and literature and this was a great way to explore that more. I’m used to presenting in front of an academic audience, so this experience made me think about different aspects of presentation. I also liked being able to pursue a conversation in regards to a certain artwork. I tried really hard to take a non-critical lens in my approach to choosing work. A lot of the pieces were not ones I’d necessarily write on as a scholar and instead were the ones that made the biggest impact on my when first viewing them. For example, I really like the Lebbeus Woods exhibit and I was fascinated by the model of his Light Pavilion. While this isn’t the most impressive work in the exhibit, it was one I was drawn to for it’s application of design and functionality. I usually visited the museum several times before choosing a work and then thought about the structure of my poem/performance. From there I filled in the content, trying to draw from sources around me.
These raving testaments speak to positive influence of the residency program on the students involved, however, they do not mention the program’s impact on the surrounding community itself. The final projects of the residency consisted of four live readings in response to artworks from January 2014 – April 2014. Community members were encouraged to attend and learn not only about art and writing but also about the five themes the residents incorporated into their exceptionally moving presentations.
The following video contains clips from the live readings as well as further explanation of the program from its directors.
This program is one of the first of its kind and is making waves in the Professional Writing, English, and Studio Art spheres. The Broad program encourages its residents to use the museum as a laboratory for exploring their own questions, and rather than coming up with answers, to conjure up more and more questions. Ultimately, establishing a new and unique space for connecting ideas.
For more details and information on 2015 residency, please contact Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of English at CAL, Judith Stoddart: email@example.com.
For more info on the residency itself as well as the digital archives for the 2014 residency, check out the Broad Blog.
For more details on last year’s residents and their projects go to the Broad Tumblr.
The Broad Art Museum Writing Residency will happen again this upcoming Spring 2015. Look out for future readings/performances from a new set of graduate students.