Exploring Identity and Place through the Arts

October 03, 2018 to February 03, 2019

In June, during UO Zero week, twenty university students studied abroad in a Global Education Oregon (GEO) program designed by Director of Education Lisa Abia-Smith at the site of her own study abroad university thirty years ago in Aix-en-Provence, France. This intensive program, which was specifically appealing to students of color with financial and time restraints, introduced the participants to Post-impressionists Cézanne and van Gogh as well as author James Baldwin and jazz musician and activist Nina Simone, all artists who retreated to the south of France during their lives. Provence offered each of them a momentary sanctuary, which they used to express their explorations of place, identity, and representation. Through travel as well as artistic appreciation and creation, our UO students, with little to no background in art, experienced a similar oasis in which they could artistically and historically reflect on autonomy, social construction, and power relations in their personal lives. We are deeply grateful to the many UO supporters who provided travel assistance to make this program a reality.

Students studied in Aix-en-Provence for the majority of the week and spent two days in Paris; their course addressed visual media and explored vehicles for creative expression from the standpoints of marginalization, isolation, and identity. Through excursions, they were introduced to art museums as centers for social learning and engagement. Participants used personal and artistic narrative to develop critical thinking, communication and visual literacy skills and were able to consider the idea that artistic creativity is sometimes the result of adversity. Selections of their work will be featured in the exhibition.