Students embark on ‘bite-sized creative adventures’

Carlos Ortiz

Artist-in-Residence Priscilla Kar Yee Lo, right, guides Ysabel Heath, a first-year mechanical engineering student, through an ArtEx hot glass workshop. The students made paperweights.

The trial-and-error process of artisan crafts like throwing clay on a pottery wheel or carving a wood sculpture is something that students outside of RIT’s art and design programs may not be familiar with. Through a new program called RIT Art Experience (ArtEx), students from across the university can enjoy hands-on creative exploration with a variety of artistic media ranging from ceramics and wood to molten metal and glass.

Alli Halbert, a first-year game design and development student from Campbell, Calif., relished the opportunity to join the program.

“Even though I do my own forms of art, like drawing at home, I’ve always wanted to try more specialized types of art,” said Halbert. “Some media require specialized equipment like a pottery wheel or a blacksmithing forge, but I don’t have access to those things and can’t just go out and buy them. ArtEx was a really good opportunity to try these things out.”

The ArtEx program, offered by RIT’s College of Art and Design (CAD), carves out time and resources for students to follow their curiosity, try new things, and express themselves through hand-crafted creations. This is the first full academic year ArtEx is being offered, and there are roughly 200 students taking part in the program.

Robin Cass, director of creative engagement programs for CAD, explains that the workshops are akin to “bite-sized creative adventures” and bolster students’ confidence and critical-thinking skills in addition to being fun and exciting.

“ArtEx workshops offer students opportunities to tackle open-ended challenges that require divergent rather than convergent thinking. There is no ‘right’ answer when it comes to creativity; all options are open and valuable,” said Cass. “It’s been especially inspiring to hear students express wonder and excitement during their ArtEx events. These encounters can spark awe and open students’ minds to new possibilities.”

Halbert shared that participating in the ArtEx programming and working with her hands helps push her to think differently, refresh her brain power, and lean into the unknown.

“I get to try out something that I’ve never experienced before in an environment that I’ve never been in,” Halbert said. “We have a basic demonstration and can ask the instructor for help, but I’m not being told exactly what to do. It’s nice to figure it out with your own hands and with your own thought process.”

For students like Zoe Shearer, a first-year computer science student from Colorado Springs, Colo., a large part of ArtEx’s appeal is the flexibility and freedom it offers. Students can select what workshops they participate in and opt in at whatever level of participation works with them.

“It’s a nice feeling when you don’t have to worry about fitting a class somewhere in your schedule or spending a full semester focusing on just one subject,” Shearer said. “It’s a much different environment when there’s no required attendance, no formal assignments, or expectation to perform at a certain level. It’s easier to take my time and enjoy it.”

Participation in ArtEx is currently available for prospective incoming first-year students whose primary major is outside of CAD. The program consists of a series of workshops, artistic demonstrations, artist lectures, and off-campus field trips. After their first year, students can stay involved with ArtEx throughout their time at RIT.

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