Art is a discipline that I have always connected with, in its many forms, from photography to sculpture. I am drawn to art as an interdisciplinary field that helped me connect and understand the world, I live in. As an undergraduate at South Carolina State University, I studied both fine arts and biology, often intertwining the two. While these disciplines might differ, I found myself interested in the interrelationship between proportions and images. My mentors when I was an undergraduate encouraged me to push the boundaries in order to create imagery that could intersect across different mediums and disciplines. They also stressed how the history of art is crucial in the understanding of the process, medium, and my ability to conceptualize my place in the field of art. I want to share this same strong foundation and art historical context with my own students.
In pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University, I became enamored by the realms of experimental documentary work, such as sound installations, experimental film and photography, and the reach of documentary work. I have also engaged in the work of Teju Cole, Walker Evans, and Frantz Fanon, just to name a few. While at Duke, I completed the Certificate in College Teaching program, where I participated in teaching observation programs as well as enrolled in courses on contemporary issues surrounding diversity in the classroom.
While attending graduate school I was afforded the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for two courses. In Beverly McIver’s Intermediate Painting courses, I worked individually with students, offering demonstrations for assignments and facilitating class critiques. While in this role, I created a rigorous, but supportive learning environment that would challenge my students. For example, before students were able to begin projects, they were asked to create multiple sketches and preform color theory exercises in order to familiarize themselves with painting techniques. Prior to these exercises, students were able to watch tutorials conducted by the professor to see first-hand demonstrations. My goal is to ensure students have the critical skills to make artwork while also being able to explain their work. I encourage my students to express themselves by focusing on issues that compel them to create art through stylized techniques.
In Chris Sims’s Traditions in Documentary Studies course, I led weekly discussion sessions and worked individually with students to conceptualize ideas for their assignments. In this course, students were given a variety of documentary texts, podcasts, and film material and were asked to write journal entries in response to these pieces. In the weekly discussions, I presented a variety of activities related to the assigned discussion materials. For example, I would start the class off with a free write, encouraging creativity and ideas for students that would later be useful during the remainder of the class. Another example that students responded to were paired discussion breakouts. During these discussions, I observed that students were open to sharing and expanding ideas with each other that sometimes intertwined previous discussions.
During both courses, I noticed that when the instructor introduced their own work students were extremely responsive and I found this to be a great way to have useful discussions. Both courses incorporated critiques that allow students to better understand their work and others. They develop the skills needed to articulate their ideas. From students taking an introductory course or having an extensive background in the arts, I was able to see the diversity in Duke students and their ability, to adapt in the classroom. I believe it is important for me to expand my teaching, in the same manner, I expand my artistic endeavors. Being able to incorporate an environment where students feel comfortable and are able to articulate their thoughts verbally and also on paper is something, I will resonate in my teaching career. It is my goal for my students to recognize the potential art has in their daily lives.