By Jonathan Edmondson
Arts & Entertainment Editor
During the summer, some students at the College choose to study in exotic locations around the world. Some choose internships in popular cities like New York and Philadelphia, and yet others spend the hazy months right here on campus.
Students are able to collaborate with professors on special projects through a program called MUSE (Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience).
Started by a professor or student interested in a specific project, MUSE is completed over two months during the summer. Projects are cross-disciplined, ranging from business to the arts.
This summer, professor of fine arts Gregory Thielker worked with junior visual arts major Jessica Cavanaugh and a senior visual arts and interactive multimedia double major Christina Behnan on a special project based on Thielker’s research in Afghanistan.
“I’ve been to Afghanistan several times, and we have been working to develop components of an exhibition that will be opening in October,” Thielker said. “In the process, I’ve been able to share the experience of working on site in Afghanistan and sharing with them the raw materials — interviews, documentaries, photography, video recordings and sketches — and then to translate that into a professional level exhibition.”
Thielker is no stranger to creating art based on his time in other countries. In 2010, he was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Award which allowed him to live and work in Delhi, India. Thielker emphasizes community and strives to portray different perspectives in his art pieces.
His project with MUSE students this summer was both challenging and rewarding for the artist.
“We had a very specific … major type of project which was this 35-foot panorama painting that nearly killed me,” Thielker said. “It made a lot of sense because this is a historic format and in a similar fashion to the diorama … there is usually a workshop of people, so it makes a lot of sense that it’s not a single person. I certainly envision us as a team (that) works together.”
As Thielker explained, the panorama is a view of a region in Afghanistan about 40 miles north of the city of Kabul where there is a major air hub. The community around Kabul has a history of warfare and conflict, so the art piece is an “unromantic view of a warzone, where it’s actually quite serene and peaceful, although there’s this history of violence and instability.”
The piece serves as a ground view for what one would see in the area, including mountains, the citadel, houses and agriculture in the valley.
Thielker, who had a wonderfully collaborative experience with his two students, hopes to send across a message with this project.
“We are using this a chance to kind of have a dialogue about what people see in Afghanistan,” Thielker said when discussing the goals of this piece. “A lot of times, when you think of Afghanistan, you think of pictures of these soldiers and oppressed women. I wanted to show that there was more to it than that and to use painting in this large format to help get that point across.”