Students create art with international influences

Emma Shock 

A&F Staff Writer

eshock@unca.edu

Stepping through the doors and ascending the stairs of Zeis Hall, the walls of the second-floor lobby hold the creations stemming from past visits abroad.

A small group of UNC Asheville students traveled to London, Paris and Berlin during the summer with faculty members Peter Kusek and Curt Cloninger of the new media department.

Students created artwork after the trip to display in an exhibition titled But First Some Rebellion on the second floor of Zeis Hall from Oct. 23 to Nov. 14.

Carter Kennedy, a sophomore new media student, said she got involved with the trip through the study abroad fair. She traveled around Italy and Greece before, but wanted to take the opportunity to visit countries in the northwestern part of Europe.

The abundance of posters and street art in London, Paris and Berlin inspired sophomore Carter Kennedy’s artwork, “Mind the Gap.” Illustration by Carter Kennedy.

“All of my art that I created as a result of the trip was inspired by the cities I visited,” Kennedy said. “Because of my interest in advertising, the abundance of posters and street art was the most influential. I was very interested in the cultural differences between the cities and that is what inspired my exhibition piece.”

Out of the cities the students visited, Kennedy said her favorite would have to be Berlin. It reminded her of a larger version of Asheville, quirky but still full of history.

Kennedy said since they stayed in what used to be East Berlin, their lodging used to be a communist building before being converted into a hostel. She found it interesting how Berlin’s history continued to impact everyday life in the city.

“My world outlook definitely changed after the trip,” Kennedy said. “My eyes opened to many different cultures and how they all can coincide peacefully. There are so many new media art forms that I wasn’t even aware of, especially in regard to interactivity and 3D printing.”

Lydia Gwaltney, a junior new media student, almost did not go on the trip, which would be her first experience abroad, but managed to gather the paperwork together in the last three weeks before the deadline. She said although every trip has its kinks, Kusek and Cloninger planned the trip well.

Gwaltney said many experiences made the trip memorable, including seeing a replica of Michelangelo’s David in London, drinking champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower and meeting amazing artists in Europe.  

“Of everything we saw in Europe, I think the graffiti was the most interesting to me,” Gwaltney said. “London has a skatepark covered in art and the other two cities have some amazingly intricate graffiti as well. In fact, a large portion of the Berlin Wall is covered by murals. It was an approach to art that felt like playing.”

Kusek said the trip developed from a desire to extend the classroom and facilitate the transformative experience of studying abroad.

“I knew from growing up in Germany that the experience of leaving our normal geography to become immersed in another culture, as outsiders, is transformative and recalibrates one’s brain, so I wanted to make this available to our students,” Kusek said. “I was confident that student work would be enriched following the experience.”

The department offered its first study abroad trip to Brussels and Amsterdam in 2016. Kusek said he and Cloninger noticed a difference in the classroom after the two trips.

Creative work lacks on many levels when students approach it only as an assignment, so the exhibition plays a necessary role in the whole experience. Kusek said he challenges students to not focus only on the grade, because aspiring to create work with a life beyond the classroom almost always results in something more interesting.

While Kusek and Cloninger designed the trip to be relevant to new media majors by focusing thematically on contemporary media arts, students from other majors have attended both trips to immerse themselves in these arts.

Kusek said he and the students organized the exhibition to share some fragments of their transformations through the trip with the community.

“I always put so much pressure on myself to do things perfectly and this was a nice reminder to play and let things flow,” Gwaltney said.

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