Unfortunately, during my drawing performance (I invited people to ask me anything and I drew a response for them which they could take home) earlier this month, no one asked me this question I was expecting to get, "Hi Roz! What are you gonna do while you're here at UMass?" This was my first very public moment as the artist in residence here, and I met a lot of people for the first time. I had all kinds of answers prepared, explaining the Center for Undisciplined Research, my interest in learning more about the water around here, exploring rock varieties of the area, eating ice cream from local creameries, clams, apple picking, experimental pedagogy, all the things I hope to do and may not do and wish I could do and know that I will do. Anyway, since I didn't get to answer this question then, I will use this web platform as a place to write it all out—to share plans, goals, hopes, visions, and ideas for things that this temporary Center might do over the next eight months.
Since most of you don't know me personally, I thought I would start by telling you a bit about myself and my work, and then, in another post coming soon, I'll outline all the things I've been doing in preparation for the Center launch since August 15th when I arrived here in Massachusetts (and then I'll give an update about where the Center is now).
My name is Roz Crews, and I'm an artist who grew up in Central Florida, attended college at New College of Florida in Sarasota where I studied anthropology and public archaeology, and received my MFA in Art and Social Practice from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. My preferred pronouns are she and her, and I prefer to be called "Roz" as opposed to "Rozalyn."
So far, education has been a huge part of my life, utilizing most of my time, energy, and enthusiasm for the majority of years, and it's something that I truly believe in. I've seen hundreds of people transform their beliefs, ideas, prejudices, and imaginations in the classroom—both as a fellow student and as a teacher, and to me, that (presently witnessing "learning") is the most magical thing I've seen in real life. All the schools I've attended have been quite liberal, all public, and yet always filled with various issues including but not limited to: systemic racism, classicism, elitism, inaccessibility, heteronormativity, a lack of trust in students and their intentions, teachers and administration who use fear and authority as tools of oppression and tools for enforcement of inconsequential rules. Without a doubt, and probably obvious given the subject of my work, I've had countless positive experiences within all of these institutions. Both my undergraduate college and the MFA program I attended were inspired by Black Mountain College, and of all the schools I've been to, these two produced the most positive experiences.
For the last three years, I've been thinking seriously about the best parts of my education, I've been daydreaming about how to be a better artist, a more serious observer, a more playful listener, a more thoughtful responder, and in my explorations, my practice as an artist shifted towards developing projects that expand how or what I think about education—also how I "practice education," as a teacher and as a student.
Some of those experiments are listed and briefly described below:
Sunday Painters Group
A weekly conceptual art assignment workshop led by a different participant every time, to teach the class you had to have been a student in the class at least one time. There were two full semesters plus about six special events where we were invited to organize a project for an institution. I co-organized this project with Spencer Byrne-Seres.
KSMoCA International Art Fair
This public, kid-sized art fair featured seventeen art institutions (commercial galleries, non-profits, alternative spaces, and museums) inside the cafeteria of a k-8 school in Portland, Oregon. We made the fair in collaboration with students ages 5-12 from the school and several Portland State University students who were enrolled in a community based learning class. I co-curated this project with Amanda Leigh Evans, and it was directed by Lisa Jarrett and Harrell Fletcher.
Can art inspire me to think critically about...?
A year long project working with non-art freshman students at Portland State University and Distinguished Socially-Engaged Art(ist) Educators of the Region to reflect on the role of art and art museums in society. We made a book as part of this project. This project and Student Research were both made as part of my three year artist residency at Portland State's Housing and Residence Life Department.
For a year, I worked with about twenty five freshman students at the Portland Art Museum's Northwest Collection to create a series of museum style panels featuring the student's research which were showcased during a public event in the residence halls where the students lived. Students gave tours of their installation and designed participatory activities to help the audience engage with the research they presented.
Community for Rent
This public sign project happened at Lewis and Clark College as part of their annual "art week" and it used the university's branding to critique its own capitalist values. I co-organized this project with Spencer Byrne-Seres.
Here I've listed just a few of the main examples directly related to pedagogy, but I think almost all of my work is about expanding the possibilities of where and how to access educational resources, usually with an emphasis on experiential learning. To read more about what I've done, you can click on the links above or visit rozcrews.info.
All of this is to say that the Center for Undisciplined Research is about investigating the boundaries of disciplinarity in higher education, and it considers artistic research as a medium through which strict rules can be negotiated and gray solutions can take precedent over the typical answer.
Welcome to the Center, and I look forward to learning and devising with you.