The Fellows Studio

Among the Center’s goals is to introduce students to artists from around the world working on projects of every scale and purpose, to use the College’s beautiful, pastoral campus as a landscape for inspiration, and to reshape the traditional relationship between academia and the arts. Among the Center’s signature projects are The Fellows Studio courses offered during the fall and spring three-week terms.

These exciting, interdisciplinary and immersive classes are taught by Fellows from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, one of the nation’s largest residential artists’ communities, located at Mount San Angelo, a stone’s throw from the College’s main campus. VCCA hosts over 400 Fellows a year: artists with honors ranging from MacArthur Fellowships and National Book Awards to Pulitzer Prizes and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. VCCA Fellows, who include visual artists, writers and composers, bring to campus a vibrant creative presence.

Applications to teach The Fellows Studio courses, which cover a range of topics and disciplines, are sought from individuals and collaborative teams of artists across the country and around the world. Every faculty member teaching in the arts at the College is an accomplished practicing artist, but the opportunity to work with VCCA Fellows dramatically expands the kind of experiences students have in the classroom. Not only are students exposed to new voices in the arts, thereby enlarging and enriching the academic community at Sweet Briar, they also have the opportunity to participate in an experience of learning about and making art that is unique. They collaborate with each other and with distinguished visiting artists. Experimentation, innovation and discovery are all part of the experience.

Learn About Our Recent VCCA Teaching Fellows

Spring 2020: Experiments in Art and Technology

Sweet Briar is one of only two women’s colleges in the country to offer an ABET-accredited engineering program, offering elective courses in environmental, mechanical, and electrical engineering. That distinction, along with the College’s long-standing commitment to arts education and practice, underlies this course. Team-taught by a pair of artists from different disciplines, this course covered the ways in which artists, scientists, and engineers have used technology to create innovative works of art across the mediums. It explored the forerunners of the movement and introduced students to iconic examples of early collaborations, such as those between artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman and engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer. Students became familiar with the social and political questions and concerns resonating within the intersection of art and technology and explored the divides and bridges between man and machine. The course included both the study and practice of art, and the guest artist instructors worked with students to create individual and collaborative works of art.

Fall 2019: Site Specific Art in the Sweet Briar Landscape

This course covered the origins and development of land art or earth art—also known as earthworks—a movement that emerged in response to growing ecological concerns and in protest against the commercialization of art. In addition to exploring the perception of the poetic in natural or everyday landscapes, phenomena and materials, the course included both a study of land art and hands-on experience working in this genre. Covered in the course were iconic works such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Alan Sonfist’s Time Landscape, and Andy Goldworthy’s Storm King Wall. The guest artist instructor for the class worked with students to create site-specific temporary works of art on Sweet Briar’s campus, perhaps in conversation with the burgeoning farm enterprises. Read more.

Spring 2019: A Multiplicity of Narratives: The Immersive Art of Identity

A cross-genre team of artists—a composer, a writer, and a conceptual artist—created this interdisciplinary course. At the heart of great art is empathy: the ability of the artist to imagine herself in another perspective, whether a piece of herself or someone else. This course cultivated that skill through an immersive exercise in narrative development, merging concepts of visual art, literature and sound art to explore voice, point of view and identity. Students imagined large-scale, site-specific and immersive artworks—but these works were not their own. Instead, students were asked to use literary concepts to imagine the fictional artists behind these works and to understand these artists as a literary writer would understand her characters. Then, listening being fundamental to empathy, students helped these fictional artists collaborate on a work of sound art in the form of a sound walk, a sonic construction that also served as a walking tour of the site-specific artworks as imagined on Sweet Briar’s campus. This required them to explore identity from both individual and collective standpoints, using engagement with sound as a focal point. The course combined the progressive sketching and design planning of visual artistry, the narrative development and world-building of the literary arts and the emotional resonance and abstract thinking of sound art, each discipline supporting the others to create deeper, richer work. We encouraged students to expand beyond their own lived experiences and create work from a more imaginative place where a multitude of voices reside. Read more.

“The Sweet Briar art resources and facilities are extensive: given the ample spaces and venues available on campus, course proposals should be ambitious. The potential for ambitious projects at SBC is extraordinary. The Center for Creativity, Design, and the Arts hosts you with motherly devotion: maneuvering through the logistics of holding a course on campus for you so that you can focus on in-class teaching and developing the passions of your students.”  – Shea Hembrey

“The Fellows Course was a one-of-a-kind experience for an artist: to develop your dream class, teach it to enthusiastic and intelligent students, and then spend time with your own craft in the serenity of VCCA. Carrie was a wonderful shepherd and facilitator and took great care of us guest instructors, from tech support to facilities assistance. I am grateful for the opportunity and the additional gift of time to tend to my writing.” – Courtney Ballestier

“Collaboratively developing and teaching the Fellows Course has been a delight. Working with such thoughtful and engaged students, in Sweet Briar’s incredible facilities, with such enthusiastic institutional support was an ideal situation. The opportunity to be a part of the VCCA community during this time was even more ideal and turned working on the Fellows Course into a deeply creative, immersive experience that I am very grateful to have been a part of.” – Aaron Wyanski