LEAP into Action – An Opportunity to Shake Things Up

Posted: December 1, 2022

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts in which past LEAP Action Grant recipients report on their projects.
Ana Pozzi Harris is Senior Lecturer of Art History in the Department of Visual Arts and recipient of a 2022 LEAP into Action grant. Her project is entitled "The Hispanic and Latino/a Connection: real-world experiential learning for UNG art students and high school students in North Georgia."

Applying for the LEAP into Action grant put me out of my comfort zone, and in a good way. After successfully teaching ART 3570: Mexican and U.S. Latino Art for the first time in spring 2021 (in an online format), I could have just repeated the same course—without the pressure to write new lectures, new assignments, and new assessments, or the need to search for new readings and examples. The first class was, after all, a solid achievement, as revealed not only by the course evaluations but also by the quality and originality of the work the students produced. And yet… I felt I wanted to experiment a bit more and, more importantly, to challenge all students to use their skills in a real-world situation—to make the "high-impact practices" of experience with diversity/global learning and collaborative projects available to all. I saw the requirement of the grant—that all students enrolled in the course should benefit from the funded project—as an opportunity to shake things up.

Ana Pozzi Harris

The first core objective of my project is to challenge UNG students to apply skills they have acquired both in life and in other art and writing courses to a multi-pronged team project: the creation of an art exhibition. Putting on an art exhibition is a complex endeavor that requires ample planning. Potential participating artists need to be engaged; a process to collect their submissions needs to be established; a creative and compelling concept, which is necessary to make sense of the variety of submissions, must be developed; a catalog has to be written and produced; the exhibition needs to be publicized; the artworks must be creatively installed; and a reception event must be planned and successfully executed.

Now, I have carried out all of these steps by myself many times. But I knew that if I requested funds from a LEAP grant, all twenty students must actively participate in this complex, multi-pronged, public pursuit. Do you hear me screaming yet? So much can go wrong. Personalities can clash. Perhaps not everyone will pull their weight. Deliveries may be late. Things can break. In fact, everything can go wrong.

Despite all these apprehensions, I applied for the grant and got it. Starting next week, twenty students and I will embark on an unprecedented adventure. The question is, why? Why go to all this trouble?

I seriously believe in community engagement, which is the second core objective of my project. The exhibition that my students are going to organize will feature artworks created by high school students from eight schools in nearby counties (Lumpkin, Hall, and Forsyth). Out of the twenty enrolled UNG students, seven are Hispanic/Latino. It is very likely that a significant proportion of the high school students to be featured in our exhibition will be Hispanic/Latino as well. Like my students, many will be sons and daughters of immigrants and first-generation college attendees. For many, this will be a significant opportunity—perhaps even their first—to proudly (and reflectively) share their multicultural voices through art.

My ultimate goal is for the students to create community through this experience—for all of them to have an opportunity to affirm their shared culture and experiences, to hone their skills, and to develop their ambitions. That is why I took on the challenge to shake things up. I am grateful for the opportunity to do it and for LEAP into Action, which supports projects like mine.

Learn more about the project

This project engages two high-impact practices, as defined by AAC&U: collaborative assignments and projects and diversity/global learning.

Collaborative Assignments and Projects – To create the art exhibition in Spring 2023, UNG students will assume different roles: eight art educators, two or three writers, two compilers/copy editors, two or three graphic designers, two exhibition designers, and two event organizers. Students with the same roles will work collaboratively, but each role cluster will work independently, with deadlines to submit products.

The UNG students will organize an exhibition with high school students. The project starts with eight student art educators going to high schools in Lumpkin, Hall, and Forsyth counties to teach a lesson on Hispanic/Latino art history. At the end of the lesson, the art educators will invite the high schoolers to submit works to an exhibition themed around Hispanic/Latino culture. The compilers/copy editors will then create a system to receive, compile, organize, and edit the preliminary entries submitted by the high schoolers. These preliminary entries will consist of a sketch, a description of the work, an artist statement, and biographical information. With that preliminary information, the writers will create a concept for the exhibition and write the catalog essays, as well as all the texts to be included in the exhibition space. Then the compilers/copyeditors will edit and proofread. Meanwhile, the graphic designers will design the catalog (as a website), the publicity items, and all the other materials for the exhibition space. After the high schoolers bring their final works to the gallery, the exhibition designers will design the space to reflect the exhibition concept and will install the works. Finally, the event organizers will organize the reception, ensuring that all aspects of the event are properly planned, and they will act as MCs.

The goal of the project is that students will apply their different skills and trainings to a new, complex, collaborative, real-world project. The UNG students will apply knowledge and skills learned in prior courses at UNG, while the high school students will apply what they have learned in art classes.

Diversity/Global Learning – The project will encourage students from different backgrounds and cultures to interact with one another in an environment of collaboration and mutual respect. The project will engage students who are Hispanic/Latino, students who grew up in Latin America, and students from other backgrounds. Through their interactions, both the UNG and the high school students will recognize the value of their own cultures and of others, fostering an appreciation of diversity and of global learning.

Be sure to attend the art exhibition reception:
Thursday, April 6, 2023, 5:00-6:30 pm
Student Gallery, Arts & Technology Building, room 1905
UNG Gainesville campus

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