Critical Creative Citizens

Critical Creative Citizens

A two-part exhibition focusing on public engagement and community interaction through art and design


4 – 16 August 2014

1. Art in Schools Initiative / OPENING EVENT 7 AUGUST @ 16h00
An educational and research programme at Modderdam High School, 2011 – 2014.

2. Visual Art for Critical Citizenship / LATE OPENING EVENT 11 AUGUST @ 18h00
An exhibition of Visual Communication Design student work.

GUS is proud to present Critical Creative Citizens, a two-part exhibition featuring projects and initiatives of the Stellenbosch University Department of Visual Arts, on view between 4 – 16 August 2014.

The Art in Schools Initiative was launched in 2010 at Modderdam High School (Bonteheuwel, Cape Town) as a joint project of Stellenbosch University Department of Visual Arts (SU) and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), led by researchers and practitioners Prof David B. Smith, Dr Elmarie Constandius, Dr Roderick Sauls and Monique Biscombe. It is a four-year educational and research programme in which learners are introduced to Creative Learning Interventions, visual arts projects derived from the existing curriculum of prerequisite high-school courses (including Life Orientation, Maths and Languages). The project’s primary aim is two-fold: 1) to determine the impact of visual arts programming in schools, and 2) to determine whether teaching students creative thinking skills would increase general learning competency and enhance critical citizenship.

An important aspect of the programme is continuity over the period of the study, as the same group of learners have been exposed to the supplementary ‘creative learning’ component of their standard curriculum since 2011, when the programme began with a group of Grade 9 learners.  It will conclude this year with these same learners, who are now in Grade 12.

Another significant feature is that the learning experience is student-led, and it incorporates an international exchange opportunity for a student from NSCAD who partners with a Stellenbosch University student (Elsa Maritz in 2011, and Monique Biscombe from 2012-2014). Thus far, the programme has hosted seven NSCAD students, namely Emma May (2011), Alex Kilburn and Craig Budovitch (2012), Carrie Allison and Dylan Fish (2013) and Hillary Noddin and Holly McKinnon (2014).

According to the researchers, “[t]he program allows learners to work through issues on a visceral level, without explanation or the use of words, which the researchers argue is often difficult for students in socially and economically deprived contexts”. In so doing, the programme aims to encourage the critical citizenship capabilities of self-worth, tolerance and a democratic way of interacting with one another. For more information on this project, please contact Monique Biscombe:biscombemonique@gmail.com

Visual Art for Critical Citizenship features three projects by undergraduate Visual Communication Design (VCD) students, namely “Artistic citizenship: Design an event”, “20 Years of freedom and democracy in South Africa: Identity marks”, and “Retelling the histories of Ida’s Valley: Editorial design”.

“Artistic citizenship: Design an event” involves VCD3 students conceptualising, designing and executing an event centred on human rights in Ida’s Valley. Facilitated by Karolien Perold and Monique Biscombe, students tackled a variety of issues, including the right to freedom from hunger. Working with high school learners, students demonstrated to how to construct a bread oven from a steel drum in which to bake their own bread.

The impetus for “20 Years of freedom and democracy in South Africa: Identity marks” was a commission by the Centre for Inclusivity at SU, to create a series of visual identities for SU’s celebration of 20 years of democratic freedom. VCD2 students individually designed a range of logos, and thenworked collaboratively to construct ‘visual compositions’ of the South African national anthem. This component was facilitated by Perold, Anika van der Westhuijzen, and Francois Tredoux.

“Retelling the histories of Ida’s Valley: Editorial design” engages with local Stellenbosch community newspaper, Riviernuus. Facilitated by Perold, Biscombe, and Tredoux, VCD2 students collected information from Ida’s Valley organisations and BUSINESSESincluding M&O Crafters, Art’s Barber Shop, Rustenburg Superette, the VGK Brigade, as well as Feb’s Store, and produced innovative layout designs intended for publication in Riviernuus.

Karolien Perold cites Davide Nicoloni’s (2007:576) notion that visual practices are not comprised of linear processes. Rather, they should be seen as a “social and material choreography” which allows individuals the opportunity to immerse themselves in situations in which they would not have otherwise found themselves. It is also in this process where individuals are able to facilitate an “understanding [of] the interconnections of people, things and discourses” (Nicoloni 2007:576).

The potential of the visual arts as a critical dialogic tool underpins all three projects, which operate amidst the embedded differences and divides of the past which constitute our everyday social realities in Stellenbosch. Harnessing the specific potential and power of the visual arts – which is to allow for the co-existence of diverse ideas – leads to imaginative new meanings being negotiated, represented, and experienced in a combination of cognitive, affective, and physical ways.

This exhibition hopes to demonstrate the potential of visual art as a medium for social transformation within local, everyday contexts. For more information on these projects, please email karolienperold@gmail.com.

Past GUS exhibitions and information about current and collateral exhibitions and events is available on the GUS Facebook page. You can also follow GUS on Twitter at @GUS_Gallery

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