Centre Freshmen Complete Tough Assignment:
"Write a Sculpture"
RELEASED: Dec. 14, 2000
DANVILLE, KY -- More than 300 Centre College freshmen have a lot to celebrate this week. They have completed their first term of classes. Finished their first round of college exams. And conquered a unique first-year assignment that Centre Dean John Ward describes as "a challenge that sets them on the road to thinking, not just with their minds, but with their eyes, ears and hands."
The assignment, part of a humanities class required of all first-year students, has been nicknamed "write a sculpture." The students, after weeks of reading about Greek and Roman art, must visit a campus sculpture exhibit and meet the challenge of translating art into words. It's a complex exercise, says Ward, that requires students to push themselves in multiple ways. "This teaches students to see clearly and to think 'out of the box,' then to write about their own perceptions -- not just what they think the teacher thinks. They are training their eyes, and developing aesthetic appreciation."
As one freshman, Louisville resident Kim Curry, explains: "Our professor explained that we had to identify the theme the artist was trying to get across and then explain how the details of the sculpture -- lines, texture, and form -- presented the theme." Curry says that for someone like her, majoring in psychology instead of art, the assignment was both difficult and rewarding. "My studies have focused on science and math, where everything is oriented toward facts, so I was really challenged by the need for interpretation in this project. I was glad to have a reason to practice that skill, and the assignment also gave me a chance to explore art."
Maryanne Ward, a professor in the humanities program, says the assignment has multiple benefits. "Time and again, I've seen students build their vocabulary, increase their appreciation for precision, learn to see more clearly and critically. They can't turn in a paper that says, 'The statue was big and brown,' so they learn to look more carefully. Which lines are vertical? Which are diagonal? The students find they have to use a wide range of words and very precise adjectives to describe each work of art. In essence, they are building skills that will serve well in many other courses at Centre -- and in the workplace after they graduate."
One freshman, Jessie Menck of Omaha, Neb., understood the demanding nature of the assignment and turned to contemporary technology for support. "I have a digital camera and decided to photograph two of the sculptures from every possible angle," says Menck. "After loading the pictures on my computer, I added lines of my own -- yellow lines where the artist had kept things straight and blue lines where the artist had used curves." Menck's innovation gave her fresh insight into one of the pieces of art, a statue of Mercury, which inspired her entire assignment.
Menck and Curry say they enjoyed the assignment, a response that has been shared by many Centre students in the dozen years since the Humanities program was launched. "I often receive postcards," says Maryanne Ward, "from students who remember this assignment. They feel more confident about art, architecture, culture because of this project in their freshman year."
- end -
Public information coordinator: Patsi Barnes Trollinger