Class Spotlight: Artists and Writers in Collaboration

Photo courtesy of Leah Ash

Story by Culture Editor Leah Ash

Aquinas College offers many unique and fun classes, one of which just wrapped up as the third quad finished. This class was EH/AT 240: Artists and Writers in Collaboration, which is a class that invites English and Art students to work together to produce their work. 

The quad class was run by both Professor Chris LaPorte and Dr. Dan Mancilla.  Each class meeting had time spent both practicing art techniques and writing in class. 

“The title of the course is a good summary for what the class is all about,” said Mancilla. “It’s a collaborative effort to learn more about writing and visual art and to explore ways in which those art forms can intersect and create something new.”

One student who took the class was senior Meridian Pearson, who signed up for the class for a couple of reasons. “I love art and writing, and I have really enjoyed taking classes with both professors in the past (Dr. Mancilla and Chris Laporte). This was basically the class I had always been looking for!” said Pearson.

The class mainly focused on ekphrastic works, which is art created in response to another work of art. 

“Pairs worked on an ekphrastic project in which they responded to another work of art and then responded to the response,” said Mancilla. “As an example, one pair of students screened the film Tron and then wrote/painted their responses to the movie. Then the students switched mediums and the writer created visual art in response to the painting and the visual artist wrote a poem in response to the writer’s work.”

Photo courtesy of Leah Ash

Pearson worked on the project with freshman Tobe Porter. Their original inspirational art were their favorite concept albums, which they traded with each other. They ended up with a total of five pieces – three art projects by Porter and two poems by Pearson. 

The class was a fun experience for everyone. Mancilla’s favorite part of the class was “seeing the ideas the student pairs came up with change and develop with feedback from each other and from the rest of the class.”

Pearson said, “I loved that we practiced everything, regardless of if we were a writer or an artist. It helped us bond over the joys and struggles of each art form, plus it was fun!”

As the college switches over to the four credit model this fall, the return of the class is a little uncertain. However, there is plenty of hope to see a new iteration of this class in the coming years. 

“So much of the liberal arts experience and the Dominican tradition involves collaboration and dialogue. Artists and Writers epitomizes this spirit of collaboration,” said Mancilla. “As a four credit, semester-long course there might be an opportunity to focus the collaboration on a specific form, like comic books and graphic novels.”

And according to Pearson, if this class returns to Aquinas… “Seriously, take it. I am so unbelievably happy that I got this experience before graduating, and I made friends with people outside my major who love the same things that I do.”