Laura Boles Faw is the recipient of the second SBC-VCCA Teaching Fellowship. The fellowship brings artists from VCCA to teach during the College’s three-week short terms, intensive and immersive academic experiences during which students take only one course at a time. Boles Faw will teach “Site Specific Art in the Sweet Briar Landscape” during the fall 2019 three-week session. Students in the course will study the history of land art, or earthworks, as it is sometimes known, and its political and ecological origins, as well as its evolution over the decades. Students will work with Boles Faw to create collaborative works with her as well as individual works.
“I am honored to be given the opportunity to engage with Sweet Briar students through the SBC-VCCA Teaching Fellowship and to work within the community of VCCA while in residence,” Boles Faw said. “I am excited to work with students to cultivate an expansive understanding of the history of land art while making work individually and collectively in relation to the sites, contexts, and the confluence of the natural and constructed environments that constitute Sweet Briar’s dynamic campus.”
Carrie Brown, director of the College’s Center for Creativity, Design and the Arts, through which the fellowships are administered, said Boles Faw’s application stood out from among a talented pool not only for her vision of the course but also for her teaching experience.
Boles Faw earned a B.A. in art history from Sewanee and an M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute, where she has served as a lecturer for many years, teaching both foundational and upper-level sculpture classes. Her work, exhibited across the country and overseas, includes drawings, sculptures, mixed-media installations, performances, photographs, projections and video installations, and she works both independently and collaboratively with other artists. Her teaching includes working with an all-girls high school and leading art experiences for people of all ages making ephemeral artworks in a eucalyptus grove within the Presidio in San Francisco. “I am extremely grateful for my liberal arts education and my studies within small institutions,” Boles Faw says. “These experiences inform my teaching and making practices. My personal work reflects a mash-up of art historical influence and contemporary concerns considered through a feminist lens.”
The first SBC-VCCA Teaching Fellowship took place this past spring, when three artists — a writer, a composer, and a conceptual artist — team-taught an interdisciplinary course in which students invented a fictional artist and then imagined a large-scale work by that artist along with collaborative “sound walks” to accompany audiences for these works. The course gave students an in-depth look at contemporary conceptual art, music, and literature, and also combined the teaching of drawing, writing, and sound recording techniques. Students were enthusiastic about what they learned. “I definitely learned to think outside the box in this class,” one said. “I learned to be more emotionally vulnerable and as a result more empathetic of others. This is something of great value that I’ll take from this course.” Said another: “I learned about so many different artists, writers and composers, and it was so much fun. I found artists that changed my view on the world.”
The SBC-VCCA Teaching Fellowships provide $5,000 to each Teaching Fellow as well as a four-week residency at VCCA. The Fellows Studio courses count toward the foundational arts component of Sweet Briar’s leadership core curriculum. The courses not only give students exposure to voices and experiences beyond the immediate campus community, but they also bring fresh eyes to bear on a familiar environment, helping students see their own world and experience in new ways. “In this way, Sweet Briar becomes part of the rich dialogue about creativity and art continually taking place at VCCA,” Brown says.
“We look forward to welcoming Laura Boles Faw into the community of writers, visual artists, and composers of talent and promise in residence during her SBC-VCCA Teaching Fellowship,” said VCCA Executive Director Joy Peterson Heyrman. “It’s exciting to think what she will bring forth with students engaging with the glorious natural environment of the Sweet Briar campus.”
VCCA is one of the country’s largest residential artists communities, hosting as many as 400 artists a year. VCCA Fellows include both emerging and established artists and have won honors ranging from MacArthur Fellowships and National Book Awards to Pulitzer Prizes and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. “As far as we know, Sweet Briar is the only liberal arts college with an international artists residency program on its campus,” said Brown. “Our partnership with VCCA, which allows us to bring artists into the classroom to offer unique courses, is one of the most distinctive features of our curriculum. The resources of VCCA help our students make connections into the world far beyond Sweet Briar, exposing them to a wide variety of artists and broadening their cultural and artistic horizons.”
In the 2019-2020 academic year, two Fellows Studio courses will be offered. Applications are being sought now for a two-artist team to co-teach “Experiments in Art and Technology,” a course intended to create further bridges between the arts and sciences, including the College’s Engineering program, one of only two ABET-accredited programs offered at women’s colleges in the U.S., in the spring 2020 term.