Written by Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times, June 15, 2017. Reprinted with permission.


OSU graduate Madelaine Corbin was in the Community Art Studio Class and participated in the Extension Reconsidered Creative Oregon series. Part of the groundwork for “The Mobile Color Laboratory” came from conversations Creative Coast activities in Newport and elsewhere with OSU Master Gardeners.


Madelaine Corbin stands next to her art project, the "Mobile Color Lab," in Fairbanks Hall at Oregon State University on June 7. Photo: Amanda Loman, Gazette-Times
Madelaine Corbin stands next to her art project “The Mobile Color Lab” in Fairbanks Hall at Oregon State University on June 7. Photo: Amanda Loman, Gazette-Times

As they are every year at this time [in June], the walls of Oregon State University’s Fairbanks Gallery are adorned with the thesis projects of graduating art majors.

But this year’s [2017] show has something different: Parked in the middle of the floor is a 4-by-8-foot flatbed utility trailer holding four galvanized planters filled with colorful flowers.

It’s the latest iteration of “The Mobile Color Laboratory: A Natural Pigment and Dye Garden,” an evolving project that has become something of an obsession for Madelaine Corbin, who will graduate from OSU on Saturday with a bachelor of fine arts degree.

Displayed in the midst of a gallery, it clearly appears to be a work of art — but its homely materials and functional design just as clearly mark it as part of the workaday world.

For Corbin, that’s kind of the point.

“The idea is really to try and experiment with community engagement, art and horticulture, see where those boundaries are (and) open up those boundaries between art and community and campus life,” she said. “That’s why it’s mobile, because it really exists in those in-between spaces.”

The project had its genesis when Corbin was working in OSU professor Mas Subramanian’s chemistry lab, where she was part of a team that found a way to synthesize a previously unknown blue pigment. Another source of inspiration came when she did a practicum with New York artist Mary Mattingly, who created an edible landscape on a barge that floated through the city’s waterways.

Corbin really liked the idea of taking art out of the gallery and bringing it to the people.

“I started looking at how people could inject color into their everyday lives,” said Corbin, a 2012 Corvallis High graduate. “My project is focused more on color and the origins of color and how we could grow our own.”

An earlier version of the project was built on a repurposed bicycle trailer.

For the current incarnation, Corbin assembled a trailer kit purchased at a local hardware store. She used recycled cedar boards and fence posts for the deck. The plants were grown from donated starts or seeds or bought with donated funds (a “license plate” on the back of the trailer lists the names of the donors). At some point, Corbin says, she may add some PVC hoops and plastic sheeting to turn the whole thing into a rolling greenhouse.

Madelaine Corbin's rolling garden, cum art project. Photo: Amanda Loman, Gazette-Times.
Madelaine Corbin’s rolling garden, cum art project called “The Mobile Color Laboratory: A Natural Pigment and Dye Garden.” Photo: Amanda Loman, Gazette-Times.

Both versions of “The Mobile Color Lab” are designed to be towed to various sites for art workshops. Corbin has also designed two companion pieces — a field guide to the plants in the lab and a workbook with space for notes, sketches, rubbings and so on — that can be ordered online.

At Corbin’s workshops, participants are encouraged to use plants from the rolling garden in a variety of ways. Some, such as marigolds, sunflowers and dahlias, can be simmered to produce dyes for tinting textiles. Basil is edible, echinacea and chamomile have medicinal properties, and still others — the pasqueflower plant, for instance — have elegantly filigreed leaves that can be pounded onto pretreated cloth in an ancient Japanese printmaking process.

“Part of why this is called a laboratory is because they’re total experiments,” Corbin said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen, and that’s really exciting to me.”

Of course, she could have done it the other way around by setting up workshops in a gallery or art studio and inviting people to attend. But Corbin really liked the idea of taking art out of the gallery and bringing it to the people.

“Sometimes the gallery can be intimidating, and this project really wants to be approachable,” she said.

“And the reversal of that is kind of the same question I have: Why, out in the world, do we not see more things as art? I just love that idea that you’re actually immersed in it all the time and you don’t have to go to a special place to see it.”

After graduation, Corbin will be showing a version of her “Mobile Color Laboratory” at the highly regarded Blackfish Gallery in Portland and starting a job as assistant to the director of Djerassi, a residential retreat for artists in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco.

She’s not sure what direction her own art will take next, but she intends to keep on questioning the assumptions that create artificial barriers between the art world and everyday life.

“That’s kind of the responsibility of an artist is to break out questions and think of them in different ways,” she said.

“I get that way every day. I have so many questions, and if the art is doing that for you, then, oh my God, it’s working!”

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

Written by Ann Marie Murphy —
Leaders of the units supporting SPARK, including University Outreach and Engagement, Colleges of Science, Education, Liberal Arts, Honors College and the OSU Library and Press.

Outreach and engagement work connects the university with communities to find ways to address wicked problems. By their nature, wicked problems are not easily solved. Making progress requires innovative thinking and different ways of looking at an issue. Many perspectives are necessary. Because people learn in different ways, conveying to stakeholders and community the work that needs to be done and the desired outcome in relevant and meaningful ways requires creativity and open minds.

“There is no one approach to solve the urgent problems of today and tomorrow. They demand the inspiration and genius of multiple disciplines and multiple perspectives. Collaboration across the arts and science directly advances [OSU’s] strategic goal to create transformative learning experiences for all Oregonians” (OSU SPARK initiative website).

University Outreach and Engagement is one of six units – along with the Colleges of Science, Education, Liberal Arts, Honors College, and the OSU Library and Press – supporting SPARK, a year-long collaborative initiative to celebrate arts and science. “Through SPARK, OSU hopes to elevate the relationship between the arts and science, their critical interplay with each other, and the rich partnerships and collaborations that make it possible.” Charles Robinson, who has a joint appointment with University Outreach and Engagement, College of Liberal Arts and Graduate School, is leading the SPARK initiative.

An approach to increase success with wicked problems might be “design thinking.” Ask, imagine, design, create, evaluate, refine, and share is the model. Sound familiar? This is art and science at work.  Watch this engaging design thinking video (below) created by OSU’s College of Education. Even though the video is focused on helping teachers help students be successful in the classroom, the approach is applicable in many aspects of outreach and engagement work. It is 17 minutes well spent.

Have you used design thinking in your outreach and engagement work? Do you think the design thinking model would work with community problem solving? Share your comments below.

See photos of SPARKS opening reception here.

Written by Charles Robinson, University Outreach and Engagement special initiatives, including Extension Reconsidered and Engagement Academy


IMG_1688Art 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.


13120028_10153347952102126_6875238460301234320_oOn 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.


Creative_Coast_ (5)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.


Creative_Coast_(14)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.

Written by Ann Marie Murphy for the fall edition of O&E —

Harpist in Hopkins forestThe Hopkins Demonstration Forest is a 140-acre, privately-owned forest and operating tree farm where family woodland owners and the public can learn about forest management. The forest is operated by Forests Forever, Inc., a nonprofit organization with the mission “to promote science-based education to enhance understanding of and appreciation for the complexities and benefits of woodland management.”


Although the forest is in Oregon City and part of the Portland metropolitan area, it is still a challenge to attract new audiences and a larger cross-section of society to experience and learn from the forest’s example of sustainable forestry.


In response, Hopkins Forest of Arts was launched in 2013 as a collaboration between Forests Forever, Inc., Three Rivers Artists Guild, and Oregon State University Extension Service. The event, led by OSU Extension faculty with the help of volunteers from both the arts and forestry communities, brings together music, environmental interests and art that is created from, in or about the forest—all while offering educational experiences about forest management.


FoA Forest Hall Gallery 2014In 2014, OSU Extension Forester Glenn Ahrens engaged faculty and students from OSU’s College of Liberal Arts to participate in the Forest of Arts event. The collaboration resulted in a “Creative Forest” program in 2015 that inspired five OSU Liberal Arts faculty and 36 OSU art and music students to think creatively about the forest and its meanings to the communities, families and people who live in and are supported by forests. Results can be seen in this video: https://vimeo.com/146518978.


Find out more about the Hopkins Demonstration Forest: www.demonstrationforest.org

Posted by Ann Marie Murphy —

To tinker is to study. To fail is to be human. To make is to empower.


OSU Extension Service is evolving as the world changes. The Division of Outreach and Engagement (O&E) is on the evolutionary frontline, thanks in part to Charles Robinson’s exploration of cross-college collaborations. One such collaboration explores how the “maker” culture can support OSU’s land grant mission. (You can learn more about another of his collaborations by reading the blog posted January 25  titled: Arts Engagement Inspires Innovative Partnerships.)


This year O&E is once again supporting a two-day maker celebration with a focus on education and engagement. Organized by The CO• (more about the organization in a moment), the event will take place Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9. Mark your calendars!


Last year, this free community event brought over 1,000 visitors (including more than 150 K-8 students) to OSU’s Corvallis campus and had more than 45 interactive exhibits, including robotics, 3D printing, costume design and laser etching. This year, as in the past, visitors will come for hands-on demonstrations and insightful discussions. Or, if you’re a maker, a tinkerer, an artist, a builder, an engineer, a craftsperson, a machinist, an innovator, etc., etc., you might like to share your craft with visitors and other makers. If so, here’s a link to exhibitor information. Or volunteer! Volunteers are needed on both days of the event.


“Maker” culture is a popular movement honoring craftsmanship and technology and the sharing of knowledge, skills and resources. The maker events offer the OSU community and the general public the opportunity to collaborate, innovate and create. It also provides a forum for research and teaching the value of hands-on learning in K-20 classrooms.


A new addition to the annual event is the Friday “STEM to STEAM” symposium featuring Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and five other noteworthy panelists. The free event will be held in the Learning Innovation Center, Room 100, from 4 to 6 p.m. It’s an opportunity to bring together the makers of policies and the makers of objects to examine the challenges and rewards of integrating the Arts – the “A” – into STEM education. More about the panelists can be found at The CO•’s website.


On Saturday, kids and adults alike will enjoy the maker fair with more than 40 exhibitors offering hands-on learning experiences, including an interactive session on making skateboards. The maker fair will be held in the MU ballroom and Student Experience Center plaza.


Co logoThe CO• is an OSU campus-Corvallis community collaboration that brings together makers from across campus, Corvallis, and the whole state of Oregon to celebrate and share their methods for hands-on learning. From the creative problem-solving skills so crucial to education in the 21st century to the benefits of quick prototyping tools needed to drive an innovative economy, every discipline and every individual has something to learn and something to teach.


“The CO• is also is a concept,” said Charles Robinson, a director of The CO• who also works on special initiatives for O&E, College of Liberal Arts and the Graduate School. “The CO• is the start of a larger conversation around the educational, socioeconomic and cultural benefits of hands-on learning. It’s a gateway for anyone in the Willamette Valley who is interested in learning more about the power of making.”


Do you have a maker talent? Share it with us! (In case you’re shy about sharing, I make mosaic art and stupendous banana bread!)


Because it is humbling and astounding at the same time, I wanted to share The CO•’s Manifesto with you. It will give you a better sense of what’s to come at the April event – and beyond.

The CO• Manifesto

At The CO• we believe that hands-on, creative exploration helps encourage risk taking, cement learning, boost self-confidence, connect individuals and communities, and serve as a guide for understanding our individual and collective place in the world. As a space and a concept, The CO• makes the room necessary for the uncertainty and experimentation of the learning process. This process has many labels such as making, tinkering, exploring, creating, hacking, building, and prototyping. It occurs across various mediums—digital, technological, industrial, domestic, analog, and artistic. However, neither the label nor the tool is the most critical piece of this innovation equation. Rather, it is the time allotted for discovery, the self-directed time spent thinking critically and honing hands-on problem-solving skills, which cultivates innovation. Trying, failing, and trying again is a fundamental component of learning. At The CO• we advocate for an equitable distribution of time devoted to making, tinkering, creating, building, hacking, sharing, questioning, and connecting. We champion the liminal space where such exploration resides and the critical discourse that follows. We must ensure that all engaged in this creative process work through prejudice. Experimentation must be open to all regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, abilities, age, geography, education level, and discipline.


Sponsor and partners for the event include:

The College of Liberal Arts

The Division of Outreach and Engagement

The Valley Library

The OSU Foundation

The College of Forestry

The Corvallis Benton County Public Library


Oregon State University Advantage

Oregon State ADVANCE

Students learn how art can work hand-in-hand with Oregon communities

The mission of OSU Extension Service essentially is to understand the needs of Oregon communities then develop collaborative partnerships to find ways to solve community challenges with research-based solutions. Historically, much of the outreach has been based in agriculture, but that has been changing. This blog introduces you to Extension Reconsidered.


photoExtension Reconsidered (ExtRe), an Outreach and Engagement initiative introduced at OSU in 2014, addresses community needs via the arts, humanities, design and humanitarian engineering. By working with new and traditional partners, ExtRe explores the ways in which the OSU Extension Service can evolve to best support the people of Oregon.


2015-11-20 10.35.14In fall 2015, the Art 406 course was offered for the first time. The course — a partnership between OSU Extension and the College of Liberal Arts — teaches both arts engagement methods and studio art techniques in a single class. The course is designed as a collaborative arts experience that engages and supports OSU arts students, Tillamook High School students and the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum.


2015-11-20 17.53.25The innovative course involved mentoring partnerships between the OSU and Tillamook students and culminated in a joint art exhibit curated by all the students at the Pioneer Museum. Coastal identities experienced as residents of Tillamook and the Oregon Coast emerged as themes in many of the high school students’ art pieces.


In tune with OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative, the OSU students built on a tradition of arts involvement in coastal discussions. They took part in the State of the Coast conference, which brings together communities of people that live, work or study the Oregon coast. Through their participation as artists, resulting work and subsequent inspiration, the OSU students contribute to the evolving understanding of Oregon’s coastal environment.


OSU plans to offer Art 406 again in spring 2016.


2015-11-20 13.32.44To learn more about the innovative approach Extension Reconsidered takes to engage and serve the needs of communities, talk with Charles Robinson. We’ll be hearing more from him as we approach the dates of the maker fair in April. Charles works with the College of Liberal Arts, the Division of Outreach & Engagement, the Graduate School and The CO.