Written by Charles Robinson, University Outreach and Engagement special initiatives, including Extension Reconsidered and Engagement Academy
Art has the ability to connect people, share knowledge and experiences, and serve communities. Teaching art at a land grant university means getting off campus, experiencing the landscape and connecting with Oregonians. And that is especially true for students participating in the Creative Coast as part of ART 406-Community Arts Studio.
In 2014 and 2015, Community Arts Studio students and others headed to the forest. In 2015 and 2016, ART 406 headed to the Oregon coast to take part in the State of the Coast conference and learn about the Marine Studies Initiative.
Creative Coast students from the OSU Art, Music and Theater programs visited Cape Perpetua over two Saturdays in the 2016 Spring term as part of the joint partnership between the College of Liberal Arts and the Division of University Outreach and Engagement. Engagement with Oregon’s people and landscape is a guiding principle of the College of Liberal Arts, and art is a powerful means to realize that educational and social purpose.
On the first Saturday, students learned the cultural history of Cape Perpetua from local historian Joanna Kittel. They also heard the poignant and tragic real-life story of Amanda, as told by Don “Doc” Slyter of Coos Bay, an elder of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indian Tribes. Amanda was a blind first-nations woman who was forced to walk over the rocky terrain of Cape Perpetua on her way to the sub-Alsea reservation at Yachats, where she later died. Mr. Slyter played a moving musical piece on his flute for the students, titled “Amanda.”
OSU Extension Service partners at Cape Perpetua and the U.S. Forest Service Rangers also aided students with their research by taking the students on natural history tours of the Cape Perpetua area. The tours enhanced the students’ understanding of the relationship the forest has to the ocean and allowed them to explore the tide pools.
Art student Auna Godinez responded to the story of Amanda and recreated part of the walk by walking 1.5 miles in bare feet to the Cape Perpetua lookout. Back on campus, she planned to create a painting of Doc Slyter playing his flute combined with a dream-like narrative-image of the story of Amanda.
Likewise, student Hanna Gallagher also responded to Doc’s story about the forced movement of the first nations people. She chose to respond by researching Native American basket weaving and, during her second visit to the coast, wove a basket from stalks of grass.
Video artists Courtney Kaneshiro, Courtney Mullis and Victoria Rivoire worked on a collaborative video project using editing techniques to weave together images of the ocean tide pools with images from the forest. They also created a unique soundscape to accompany the video.
Students in Anna Fidler’s foundation arts class chose to work with sea water to create dye-effects on fabric. Back on campus, they planned to add a crochet element to the artwork.
Reaching beyond the boundaries of the Corvallis campus provides vital inspiration for novel ways to integrate Oregon landscapes into student creative and community projects, and to provide guided access and practice for building the collaborative relationships so crucial to community work.
As Scott Reed, Vice Provost of University Outreach and Engagement points out with an observation by Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” The Creative Coast and courses like Community Arts Studio offer students an opportunity to see with new eyes and share their inspiration with others.