Most classes concentrate on work done in the studio or in the classroom, but occasionally a faculty member will lead students out beyond the campus to explore opportunities and projects in the larger world. Here are a select few from recent years.

Lost River Missing Lake

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This class will explore specific ways to transform real-world research into multi-form artworks. The research at the core of the class will focus on the problems of water scarcity in Los Angeles and Mexico City, and will consider various histories, politics, technologies and plans. Mexico City is built on a dried out lake, back-filled and paved over. As the city grows, the water disappears and the city sinks; drinking water must be transported into the megapolis. Los Angeles in built on dry chaparral and is irrigated by a seasonal river and vast aqueduct system bringing water from the north. Both cities are huge and growing; neither is sustainable. Artists cannot solve these problems, but by understanding them and considering them together, artists may open a discussion that will lead to solutions.

This class will synchronize with a class being held at SOMA in Mexico City, and there will be a joint project at presented in Los Angeles in May.

In January 2018 the class visited Mexico City to connect with the SOMA class and explore some of the water related issues there.

L.A. Urbanscape and Public Persona

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Photo: CalArts School of Art, L.A. Urban Landscape class at Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, CA

L.A. Urbanscape and Public Persona are two courses that provide an opportunity for students to traverse the various neighborhoods that make up the vast urban topography of Los Angeles. Specific sites of historical significance/obscurity coexist with the constant restructuring of social and physical pathways between actual and mythical locations. The variance between actual urban space vs. imagined space is investigated via walking along/across invisible and blatant borders. Some course sessions involve extended walking tours while others will incorporate public transportation (buses, shuttles, light rail trains, and the subway available subway system). The notion of “public space” is set against a backdrop of privatization that oftentimes restricts and/or denies entry for people to view previously accessible sites that contain public art, notable architectural structures, locations of historical significance, or places where view can produce a transformative experience. The pervasive surveillance and crowd control systems are pointed out as are the ever-present cracks in the sidewalk. Relevant sensory information and important contemporary social cues are introduced by the urban environment and contextualized by the instructor during the weekly course sessions. By extending student learning and experience beyond the classroom, students improve their abilities to interact with unfamiliar terrain and to successfully adapt to an ever-changing environment. The synthesis of creative intellectual, and instinctual responsiveness to pre-existing physical and social structures allows for the development of an enhanced sense of student readiness and command of personal interaction with urban space.

Freeway Joyride

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Photo: CalArts School of Art, Freeway Joyride class at Vasquez Rocks in Santa Clarita, CA

Freeway Joyride is a course that involves driving personal automotive vehicles across the expanse of Los Angeles County including the inner city, desert areas, mountain and coastline communities. The course is designed to introduce students to experience the ready flow of traffic, unexpected detours, incalculable distance, extended duration of arrival timed to physical barriers and traffic jams. The various meeting points are not possible to reach from starting point via walking and/or public transportation. “Car Culture” is experienced while en route along streets, thoroughfares, highways, and freeways. Such notions as urban isolation and social dislocation are discussed and examined when students gather at preselected sparking lots across the map that has no center of gravity. Many lessons regarding space, social/cultural history, and changing demographics are incorporated into this course. Potholes, asphalt, missing freeway off-ramps, bridges, tunnels, cul-de-sacs, misspelled signage, and the absence of guardrails is integrated into ongoing discussion of self vs. constructed space. Students experience the subjective horizon from which to direct their creative drive while picking up speed or applying the brakes to avoid unnecessary cultural collisions.

Expansive Fields: The Ramble

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Photo: CalArts School of Art, Expansive Fields: The Ramble class at Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu, CA

During this course, we will explore the relationships between walking and drawing and painting. There can be a subtle balance between getting lost (in looking), and keeping your bearings in both your practice and on the trail. In this class, experimentation will be encouraged in order to gain familiarity with the physical properties of liquid media, dirt, and rocks. We will look closely at what constitutes these landscapes through readings on geology, natural patterns, and artists who implement critical wandering in their work (eg. Robert Smithson, Agnes Martin, Vija Celmins, and Michelangelo Antonioni). This technical and conceptual exploration will involve studio work, readings, image presentations, and, indeed, long walks in natural areas.

Public Projects Series: CalArts Design School/Program History Archive

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Photo: CalArts School of Art, Example from the CalArts Design School/Program History Archive, Graphic Design Public Projects Series class

For this Public Project, we will work as a team to build a virtual collection/archive of the CalArts Design School and Graphic Design Program before 1990. The outcome will be an online digital collection and archive that will include photos, articles, correspondence, student work, and School/Program promotions that will serve as prototype for Making History Initiative—a online platform/tool currently in development that will realize a national crowd-sourced, virtual graphic design history collection and archive.

Photo History in the Field

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Photo: Gloria Morgan, Tejon Indian Tribe, CalArts students and faculty members in discussion with Bill Gollnick, Tribal Administrator for the Tejon Indian Tribe at the Tejon Tribal Headquarters, Bakersfield, CA

Photo History in the Field brought a group of CalArts students into dialogue with members of the Tejon Indian Tribe of Southern California, one of the many neighboring indigenous communities upon whose ancestral lands CalArts sits. Studying the relationship between photography to Native histories and Indigenous artists, past and present, students were able to bring their knowhow to materials from the Tejon image archive.

This class is centered on an engagement with the photography archive of the Tejon Indian Tribe of Southern California. Taking our photo history and archive conversations out into the field, we will have the generous opportunity to engage with members of the Tejon Tribe and work with elements of their archive that need research, appraisal and organization. More than a mere grouping of images from the past, here we will consider the relationship of photographs to the making of history, memory, Identity, authorship and sovereignty. The semester will include both visits to the Tejon Tribal Headquarters in Bakersfield and in-class time on campus at CalArts. Transportation will be arranged for those without cars. Beginning with historical images that have recently been returned from the Smithsonian, First Nations histories of Southern California and the politics of ownership of indigenous materials, we will see where this work takes us, with the possibility of a collaborative project at the end.