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Art Students Get Interdisciplinary in Israel

Trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Opens Eyes and Doors

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University students and faculty attended workshops at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design on their recent trip to Israel.

By Julia Gavin

On a recent trip to Israel, several art students explored the intersection of their studies and science and learned more about their global community. The visit to Shenkar College of Engineering and Design was the first international trip for many of the students, including painter Jessica Tawzcynski.

“I wanted to visit Israel but didn’t think it would happen while I was still in college,” says Tawzcynski, who attended printmaking and color theory classes with instructors and students from Shenkar during their visit to campus in the fall.  “I’ve never traveled outside of New England or been on a plane and the trip helped me open my eyes more to my surroundings, like seeing the clouds from above and seeing life in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”

When the Israeli artists visited, they offered classes for students, toured art and technology facilities and gave artists feedback from the Shenkar’s specialized design perspective. An Israeli graduate student, Oded Jacob, created an art installation with help from University artists that featured burning symbols on spikes across south campus, drawing several hundred spectators.

On their visit abroad, University students saw how closely Shenkar’s engineering and art departments work together, held an art show and toured the region.

“The departments have very nice facilities and use interesting technology, like a printer that works on fabric and plastic molds to make small pieces into flowing clothing,” says Eileen Ryan, a painter and sculptor. “They work well together and we really wanted to bring that relationship back with us.”

Prof. Stephen Mishol, who accompanied the students along with others from the department, says the timing is right to bring technology and art together on campus. He’s been working with plastics and engineering professors on interdisciplinary opportunities for all of their students and sees the partnership growing quickly. Students from both areas have worked together in classes like Artbotics and are excited to expand their work in other ways.

The projects they saw in Tel Aviv have the returning art students excited to incorporate technology, design and international concepts into their work. Tawzcynski was particularly struck by their visit to Jerusalem and has noticed the ancient city’s architecture influencing her paintings. After seeing nanotechnology used to create molds for pieces in textile design, Ryan began thinking of her art in new ways.

“I want to go to the engineering departments and learn more about their programs and equipment,” says Ryan. “If you can think it, you can do it.”

Opportunities for Students Across the World

Ryan’s attitude fits Mishol’s approach to broadening the art education offered by the University to incorporate more interdisciplinary and international opportunities.

“We’re looking to take advantage of University resources and stay in step with the school’s mission, and our students are interested in making things.They don’t want to be limited to a traditional fine arts education.” says Mishol. “These are opportunities we can offer as a large university, distinguishing us from other art departments in the region. We have the resources to allow big ideas.”

Mishol built the relationship with Shenkar’s design program after an international partnership was established between the school’s engineering departments. International experience isn’t new for the art department, evidenced by Prof. Arno Minkkinen’s Spirit Level class taking students to France and Mexico among other places, and other partnerships are in progress with more trips on the horizon. 

“Our students are excellent ambassadors for the University and I couldn’t be more pleased with our trip,” says Mishol. “We’re keeping up the partnership with Shenkar and have a joint show planned for the next academic year. This relationship will keep growing as we build more partnerships with artists across the globe to offer our students international opportunities.”