Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon Artists Working Across Disciplines and in The Community

02-25-2009

Carnegie Mellon Artists Working Across Disciplines and in The Community

The idea of an “interdisciplinary” arts education seems like a contradiction. Classical arts education comes from a tradition of intense conservatory study that explores creative production within a closed studio setting. However, today’s artists are challenging themselves more than ever, crossing disciplinary boundaries and influencing other sectors and industries with their creative skills.

Holland Cotter, the New York Times visual arts critic recently wrote that art can survive hard economic times, but higher education arts institutions must educate their students to work and think across disciplines if they want to ensure its continued prosperity in our nation.

Historically the College of Fine Arts has urged and supported cross-disciplinary education. In the School of Art, classes like “Concept Studio; Eco-Art” taught by Bob Bingham, “Making Connections: Individual Projects in the Community” taught by Joe Mannino, “Wanderlust — Artistic Perspectives on Mobility Still Time — Poetry and the Pictograph” and “Electronic and Time Based Art” connect artists with students, professionals and faculty working in other disciplines.

The School of Art also hosts an interdisciplinary grant awarded to students who create projects across disciplinary boundaries. Recently a project called Bus Stop Opera was awarded this grant and took students into bus terminals to perform, in libretto, conversations heard at bus stops around the region. The project combined drama, art and music while engaging the community in an innovative way- in the Bus Stop Opera, opera becomes public art.

Art students at Carnegie Mellon work with engineers, chemists and technologists on a continuous basis.  The College of Fine Arts has collaborated with the Mellon College of Science, the College of Humanities of Social Sciences and most recently the School of Computer Science to create bachelor degree programs that combine disciplines.  

Cotter takes this idea a step further and challenges art schools to place students in completely novel environments like hospitals and other traditionally non-arts sectors.  While this call for interdisciplinary action is important, Carnegie Mellon University is proud to be on the forefront of the kind of interdisciplinary education and practice Cotter talks about.

Eric Sloss