“My ideas were around collaboration,” says Amherst College second-year Jonathan Mark Jackson of his project for the Five College Advanced Studio course last fall. The course challenged students, three from each campus, to explore the many possibilities incorporating the principles of social practice in their art.
According to course instructor Amanda Herman, “social practice encompasses work as diverse as interventions, utopian proposals, guerrilla architecture, project-based community practice, art and activism, collaborations, social sculpture, interactive media and street performance.”
For Jackson, who said that he is accustomed to working alone, that meant pushing himself to work closely with others. “I wanted to do an exercise where I invited people in and have some dialogues about photography and about image making, about what interests them, as opposed to only sharing my own personal voice.” He assigned them to take portraits and self-portraits and hung their work in the show.
Other exhibits in the show explored racism, collections of community art and a piece that instructed viewers to literally tear it apart. Jenny Hersh, a UMass student whose project involved collecting and presenting DNA swabs from 90 different people, said working with a diverse selection of students was a highlight of the course. “It’s been phenomenal working with the other students at the five campuses and just engaging with the different student approaches.”
The Advanced Studio Course, with equal student representation from each campus, is just one of many examples of community within the consortium. Students come together in courses, affinity groups, sports and extracurriculars; faculty members find peers within academic programs, and administrators enjoy the professional development that comes from meeting with colleagues.