Jan Term Students Explore the Intersection of Art and History

Gaels in the JanTerm course Creating Digital Narratives at the Intersection of Place, History, and Elizabeth James '21 Personal Experience learned how to look at everything from their daily lives with an artistic perspective. Through outings into their neighborhood, virtual visits to archives such as the Prelinger Library in San Francisco, and extensive journaling on their experiences, students dove into the world of intimate creative practice.  

The mixed-media course encouraged students to turn their discovered ideas into a final project of their own creation. Students had the option to express themselves any way they liked as long as they discussed perception, narrative, storytelling, and history. Some explored these ideas through cooking, collaging, video-making, and crafting. Regardless of how each student chose to express themselves, all combined their environment and personal life to create something that the rest of the class could relate to. The distance created by Zoom and online learning was no match for the intimacy this collaborative creative practice class generated.

Elizabeth James ’21 found that the course “changed the way I view humanity and how we have added value to the world. Art, people, and places are layered, but with time and effort, one is able to see how beautiful they all are.” 

Students began their creative practice with two solo outings into their neighborhoods.  These outings focussed on collecting physical materials, such as audio, pictures, field notes, and “found objects.” One activity modeled the creative practice of artist Nigel Poor by having students collect seven objects from their walk and create a collage from them. The outings also doubled as a way for students to collect experiences to discuss in their final project. Russell Peralta ’22 found that these outings “allowed me to recognize and think deeply about the details in my environment that often go overlooked.”

Students also learned about history through this engagement with their surroundings. Some delved deeper into the history of the Bay Area while others looked at the history of SMC. Whether they created a project on the history of their hometown or a local historical archive, students found new ways to explore the world around them from the safety of their homes.  Students left the class recognizing that history can be learned from art and its expression.  


Angelo Karam