By Ben Kelley ’10 (Rinehart School of Sculpture M.F.A.)
The shops on campus afford students, faculty and staff with the
tools necessary to practice and discover new forms, material and
processes. However, these shops are more than just their tools.
These spaces are community microcosms vibrating with the
energy of students working, learning and creating. As hives of
activity they are also centers of distinct cultures.
The vernacular and etiquette in the Printmaking studio is unique compared to that of the Lazarus Center Wood Shop or to that of the Interdisciplinary Sculpture studio, though they all share a common value system, one that is built on knowledge, generosity and work.
The fluid movement of students between territories (traditional disciplines and individual shops) creates a dynamic exchange of ideas and knowledge. Community members in one territory (say, the ceramics studio) are sharing space, knowledge, tools and resources oriented to that discipline (clay/ceramic), while simultaneously cross pollinating other territories with their ideas, work and experiences.
In the woodshop, students may find themselves using technology that is thousands of years old — hand tools and processes rooted in ancient traditions of shaping and working the raw materials. Just a city block away, in Mt. Royal Station, a retired passenger train station over a century old and now home to the Interdisciplinary Sculpture, Fiber and Digital Fabrication studios, students use fabrication technologies just as old. They employ metal casting and traditional weaving, but also, in the same landscape, new digital technologies and equipment are in use.
The sharing of knowledge is strongly linked to making, and when we use our hands working with tools, we are activating the same region of our brain that is responsible for language, communication and storytelling.
As artists, our tools and materials shape our approach to thinking, problem solving and communicating. The deeper our understanding of the processes and the wider our skill sets become, the more versatile our languages grow, ultimately strengthening and advancing the state of our communities.
MICA students have a special opportunity to reach far into any or all of these areas, surrounded by fellow artists and designers with an extensive breadth of collective knowledge as well as tools and technologies that span the history of human activity. Everyday, students here are proving that a small spark of motivation or flash of an idea within these community spaces can explode into exciting creative research and exploration — culminating into powerful artmaking.
Ben Kelley ’10 (Rinehart School of Sculpture M.F.A.) is MICA’s director of fabrication studios. He is also a working sculptor whose work blends superior fabrication skills with a keen eye for unique and sometimes grisly found objects.