I tried to instagram this photo without making it look overtly instagrammed. Whoops. This is the Barn. There’s lots of classes here.
H4y d00dz. We had a couple questions specifically about psychology and visual arts floating around in the inbox, so I’m just going to make a nice, comprehensive post about both.
I’ll preface this all by saying that I haven’t taken many psych or viz. arts classes, myself - fortunately, though, I was able to get in contact with some other really cool Bennington students who didn’t mind giving me their perspectives. After a hopeful facebook message and a desperate text, respectively, Amanda M ‘12 and India K ‘12 came through in the clutch. Thanks, guys.
First off, here is a link to the Spring ‘12 curriculum - I think that one of the best ways to get a feel for either discipline is to take a look at a typical term and see what sort of classes are offered. Psych classes start on page 83, and Visual Arts classes start on page 86.
PSYCH@BENNINGTON: There are two main faculty members who sort of guide the psych program - David Anderegg, a psychoanalyst; and Ron Cohen, a social psychologist. Additionally, there are occasionally visiting faculty in psych (and any other discipline) who come and teach for a term or two and offer a new perspective. As you might have seen in the spring curriculum, we’ve currently got a visiting psych faculty who teaches more neuroscience-based courses, which is pretty neat.
Amanda M ‘12 had this to say: ”David, being a psychoanalyst, teaches things from a psychoanalytic perspective. For example, the classes I’ve taken with him have names like Normality and Abnormality; Developmental Psych; Psychology of Creativity; Women in Psychoanalysis; Behavioral Diversity; and Neuroethics (which was more often more philosophical than psychological).” Another option that Amanda mentioned to me was the ability to set up tutorial classes - technically, any discipline can do this, and it involves gathering a group of students who want to learn about a specific topic within a concentration. I’m totally making this up off the top of my head, but imagine something like ‘Psychology of Dictators;’ something oddly specific but (somehow) connected to your Plan. You’d pitch this idea to the relevant faculty member, and if you can all agree on a subject, courseload, and various other factors, it ends up being either a little mini-, 2-credit class or a normal 4-credit class, depending on what you negotiate. Tutorials are rare, but really cool when they do happen.
Amanda summarizes the two psych professors really well: “It’s sort of like, David teaches the clinical side of psychology - how people are different and when the differences become deficiencies; or how to classify and treat psychological idiosyncrasies. Ron, being a social psychologist, teaches the ways in which people are the same and respond to the world in recognizable patterns.”
Of course there’s always more than one way to peel the apple. You might want to combine your interest in psychology with, say, painting, and study art as trauma therapy. Or maybe you want to study how groups of people solve problems as they relate to puzzle construction - build a better Rubik’s Cube. Psychology can have a role to play in so many possible Plans - it’s up to you to figure out just if, where, and how, it might fit in.
VA@BENNINGTON: Visual Arts, as you might have guessed, is a pretty broad area of study. Sculpture, painting, printmaking, digital arts, etc. - not only is there a lot to choose from, but students have a lot of license to blur the lines between different mediums, which is really cool, but also confusing when uncultured folk like me try in vain to categorize them.
A couple hours ago, I texted India K ‘12, my go-to art student and bff: “hay gurl, i aint trinda cramp ur style, but i need sum totes sage advice bout vizarts at btown an i need it now!!11!” She responded, as she usually does, with some pearls of wisdom and a lot of valuable perspective.
“omg boiiiii u no im ur gurl!!! One thing I really like about VA here is that you’re always getting a lot of feedback from your peers and professors. We do almost all the project work for VA classes outside of class and then bring it in for critiques. I love the crits because I get to hear from everyone in the class. In assignment-based classes we have readings that we usually discuss as a class. A lot of times, they can end up fueling our projects and inspiring us. In higher-level courses what you do becomes more and more up to you as you build your own sort of repertoire.”
“In most of the classes we have prompted assignments for the first half of term and then for the second half we conduct our own self-driven projects. You’re required to think critically about your own work and dicuss the work of others. You do a lot of talking and writing. And VAPA is a bustling place: every night of the week people are preparing for weekly assignments in every medium.”
India also mentioned that a big part of being a VA student was doing work in more than one discipline: “you’re constantly pushed to try out new visual arts. I’m a photo student but I took a drawing class my Plan Committee thought I should have. And eventually I took installation and performance art to break out of the 2D spectrum. Technically you need VA classes in two different mediums to graduate as a VA concentration - but that’s not hard to do; it’s practically impossible to not learn something about your own style by expanding into new mediums.”
So, there you have it! The insider perspective on psychology and visual arts at Bennington. If you have any more specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask them! And huge thanks, once again to Amanda M ‘12 and India K ‘12 for sharing their expertise. You guys kick all the butts.