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Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

VADA explores Bay Area art


Jennifer Liu / Thresher

By Hongtao Hu     2/27/24 10:30pm

While many Rice students spent their midterm recesses studying, visiting family or lazing about, juniors majoring in Visual and Dramatic Arts  — now simply Art —  had an excursion to California’s Bay Area, exploring their prospective futures in the visual world.

“[The trip] gives [the] department of art majors the opportunity to not only travel to another city, but to experience firsthand its vibrant artistic ecosystem anchored by visits to artists’ studios, galleries, museums and other spaces vital to supporting artists and their communities,” Kenneth Tam, an assistant professor in the department of art, wrote in an email to the Thresher. 

In preparation for this trip, students are required to take ARTS 387, a junior seminar focused on discussing artworks and artists in an academic setting. They then practice art criticism with the pieces they see in museums and galleries in San Francisco, including the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

For Camille Neal-Harris, the trip was a way for her to see artists in their natural environment. 

“As kids, a lot of people tell us about what the art world looks like, and we have these artists that we look up to like Renaissance artists and such,” Neal-Harris, a Will Rice College junior, said. “But we never actually know what goes into their practice, how they make their works, how they gain these connections — and then on the museum side, how they choose their artists, what types of things we need to do to make ourselves marketable.”

For Jenny Liu, a pre-med student double majoring in biosciences and art, the Headlands Center for the Arts widened her perspective on artist fellowships.

“[Visiting Headlands] was just a really cool experience overall because everyone there has very different disciplines in the arts, but they’re doing very different things, they’re able to grow with each other and do critiques with each other,” Liu, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. “It kind of shows the side of what it will look like if you were to do an artist fellowship.”

After she graduates, Liu said that she wants to take a gap year before entering medical school. The class trip, she said, presented the possibility of spending that year in an artists’ fellowship program. 

“[This trip] really [showed] the option and the flexibility of … [continuing] doing art in academia, which is something that I hadn’t thought about previously,” Liu said.

More than 20 students went on this trip and were divided into smaller groups. For both Neal-Harris and Liu, this familiarity, paired with daily discussions about art, helped them grow closer to their classmates. 

“I didn’t know who else was in our class because we all take the courses at different times,” Neal-Harris said. “It’s unlike [computer science] or [bioengineering majors] where we grow up together, meaning we know each other from the beginning [of college] and can watch each other progress.”

Student groups are currently creating an art piece inspired by works they saw on the trip. Neal-Harris’ group is creating a clay sculpture in response to Gabriel Chail’s towering anthropomorphized works of ceramic.

“It’s really cool because I focus in sculpture, and then there’s film students, painters, drawers, collage people, all different mediums are in this class,” Neal-Harris said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to make something larger than me.”

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