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Brown Arts Initiative hosts first Wintersession course in Los Angeles

Brown Arts Initiative Wintersession class brings together students, alum artists

Twelve students studying the arts moved beyond the classroom and into the studios, galleries and highways of Los Angeles during the two-week Brown Arts Initiative Wintersession course, “From Beginning to End: Process and Creation.”

In addition to attending discussions facilitated by Professors Wendy Edwards, chair of visual art and Butch Rovan, faculty director of the Brown Arts Initiative, students visited the studios and creative spaces of practicing artists. The seminar-style course represents the first time the BAI has hosted a course in the three years Wintersession has been offered.

Rovan said that the original idea for the class developed from conversations with alums living in Los Angeles. “Alumni really wanted to be in contact with Brown students. They wanted to help out,” Rovan said, adding that while bringing the alums to Providence was not a possibility, the advent of Wintersession in the last few years provided the opportunity to bring students to Los Angeles.

The class, housed in the studio of film and television director Davis Guggenheim ’86, gave way to expansive discussion that continued outside of the studio and around the city. Over the course of the program, about 20 alum artists invited students into their work spaces — including various personal studios, the Hockney Foundation, the LA Louver Gallery and Sony Pictures. The artists shared details about their artistic processes, along with pragmatic advice about embarking on a career in the arts.

Students in the course, who are practicing visual, musical and literary artists, worked toward a final forty-five minute presentation on a potential project of their own, after which a panel of alum gave feedback.

Edwards hopes the course allows for continuous dialogue between student and alum artists.“The alums are so generous when it comes to meeting Brown students,” she said, noting that their generosity was not limited to the students alone. “Everyone we talked to was engaged in social justice concerns and the community at large.”

The artists and industry professionals who spoke with the class included film and television producer Nina Jacobson ’87, painter Loren Holland ’02 and composer Gabe Sokoloff ’06. Eve O’Shea ’20, a visual artist in the class whose practice focuses on painting and printmaking, said that seeing the studios of other artists was one of her favorite parts of the course. Although the fields represented by these professionals varied, O’Shea still found common ground, noting that “there was a lot of discussion (about) the art world in general.” Even when the discussion turned to a specific kind of art, O’Shea said that “to talk to those people and see what they’re doing firsthand is super interesting.”

O’Shea added that alums could offer very specific advice in this conversation because of their similar backgrounds. “It was like meeting people you already know in some strange way, because they went to Brown,” she said.

Some alums were able to trace their intellectual paths back to the work they did during their time at the University. “A lot of alums talked about . . . the impact of the work that they started doing at Brown,” Edwards said, which often represented an artistic beginning “that remained a core part of the current work.”

Rovan emphasized the immersive nature of the constant discussion among both students and alums. Whether around a table, in a car or in a gallery, “the conversation kept going . . . about what it meant to be a creative artist today,” he said. “It was basically like a two-and-a-half-week seminar that never stopped.”


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